Samhain 2003 Ritual Report
by Edwin Chapman

44 attended Grove of the Other Gods, ADF, Samhain of Silence and Whispers. This year we especially honored our beloved Ancestors and Cerridwen, Celtic Goddess of Death and Transformation. We performed the ritual with very few words- no whole sentences, mostly silent invocations- and kept the cauldron stirring throughout the rite. The ritual was timed with the eclipse of the moon, and we went outside immediately afterwards to see it reach totality and start our bonefire and send our praises up. 12 people stayed for the vigil until dawn on Sun's Day. Our omens, ogham carved in apples: Fir, Holly and Elder.

What can you say about a nearly silent ritual? Norma started the ritual by holding up a sign that Akasha Deb made filled with pictures of Gods and Goddesses that said “We are Here to Honor the Gods.” She motioned Misha to honor the Earth Mother. He gestured, intoned “Earth” and showed us our small clay Venus in its dirt bowl on the bilé, then passed around a bowl of small stones and local dirt.

Norma drummed a heartbeat meditation. I did the horizontal directions after Norma threw her hands up in the air and looked around, confused. I started with a star chart, and worked my way down to a map of New Brunswick. Then I spiralled us into the room.
Norma held up the Well icon, the first of many icons that our planning crew created, and Akasha Deb invoked the well. She opened up her arms, she beat the floor. We all beat the floor. Monika, formerly of Three Cranes Grove in Ohio (sorry guys, we’re keeping her!), invoked fire with fiery gestures and a candle. She lit our bilé fire. Patrick invoked the world tree, standing tall and strong and leaving beautiful branches and leaves on the floor.

Norma held up a triskele icon, and Manannan came and we opened the gates with arm-spreading motions culminating in a loud clap. Then she took the Outsiders’ offering outside, whistling “Bedlam Boys” the whole way.

Betty invoked Brigid with Sue’s help: Betty played tambourine and Sue danced.
Jim and Brenda ushered in our Ancestors, quietly calling the names of the dead. Each of us whispered the names we wished to remember for this ritual.

Nora started birdwhistling and hissing. The Nature Spirits joined us mewing, howling, ribbetting, growling, buzzing....

Joanne invoked the Goddesses and Gods with a dramatic enactment of the Gods healing someone (Misha), the Gods inspiring someone (Marc), and the Gods taking someone in death and giving them rebirth (Monika). All of this was spontaneous and unrehearsed, and Joanne looked ethereal and otherworldly.

All through the ritual, from the Earth Mother on, Jenne, as Ceridwen, directed that the cauldron be kept stirred. Erzulie stirred first, until Ceridwen had Maggie relieve her. After a while, Ceridwen pointed to Robin Renee, who stirred the cauldron until the end. With each invocation, from Earth Mother on, another ingredient was added to the cauldron (juice, honey...). We had everyone use a mudra-like gesture for “accept our offering.”
Jenne invoked Ceridwen very simply and gracefully. In her first ritual as our official Grove Bard, she insisted on going without saying a word, invoking without singing.

Then Maria Raven invoked the Ancestors, our second Ancestors invocation. She fell in front of Norma and sobbed, and that got Norma crying. Other people started crying and keening... Jenne’s lovely soprano, Misha’s deep baritone, Xuk’s throatsinging, people wailing.... I looked up and you could see the air vibrating. The keening was beautiful and holy, and I don’t know how long it lasted.

We came down from that by placing our written praise offerings in baskets to go in the bonefire later.

Then I dumped 20 apple slices into the cauldron (which Robin was still steadfastly stirring). Norma pulled out three: Ailm, Fir: long sight; Tinne, Holly: best in fight, victories; Ruiz, Elder: gateway to the otherworlds. That’s all I said. Later, when people asked for a more in-depth interpretation, I told them that Fir, coming up first, meant a longterm omen- a year, rather than weeks or months. Holly meant that we had the tools we needed for whatever battles or challenges that might confront us in the year, and Elder meant help from the otherworlds. Overall: If you’re challenged, don’t be afraid to fight for what you need to fight for.

We did our usual Waters of Life pantomime- only this time without words- and we drank from the cauldron after it was blessed. It was sweet, but a bit bland, an omen in itself.
Norma held up the icons again, in reverse order, as we thanked those we invited. She ended the rite by speaking: “This rite is ended.”

The gates stayed open until dawn. We distributed black and orange plastic skulls on ribbon that we’d gotten at the dollar store (skulls are a dollar a dozen) that were about the size of walnuts. We filled each one with a piece of candy and a tarot card from the world’s tiniest tarot. So, everyone got a trick and a treat, and that encouraged conversation to start as people went around getting opinions about their omens.

Outside- we watched the eclipse of the moon, in progress throughout the ritual. It was almost at totality now, and most of us stood outside in the cold and watched it. It was lovely. At one point someone remarked that it looked like a grinning skull, and the striated clouds under it looked like ribs. I started the bonefire- people added bones- and we offered up our praise on gold and silver joss paper.

Then I brought out the pumpkin I’d carved last Samhain for our “Jack o’ Lantern and Will o’ the Wisp ritual- the same mummified pumpkin that wouldn’t die that we crowned with flowers on Beltane. He had survived outside through snowstorms, through the spring, and into the summer. The rain and wind of the fall was not kind to Jack though, and now he was brittle and dry and in three pieces. The pieces went into the fire. The larger bit caught readily; someone mentioned that our Jack looked like a fiery bird, and we all thought, yup, a phoenix. This turned out to be prophetic: Jack would be a lot harder to kill than that.

We watched the eclipse. Pat and I kept the fire going until dawn. Nora and Betty did a great job organizing the kitchen stuff, and Nora and Maria Raven also stayed until dawn and did a lot of the clean up work. We had a lot of food to be coordinated, heated, brought out- a lot of entrees. The food kept us going all night. The back yard looked beautiful and glimmery- all the Altars and candles and the Dumb Supper Table. People went out alone or in groups all night to worship, sit at the Dumb Supper Table, or watch the eclipse, or later the full moon. The Kali puja, after midnight, was well attended with lots of drumming. 12 of us stayed for the vigil, talking until dawn.

As dawn began to lighten the sky, we took down the altars in the backyard. Everyone left at dawn but Maria Raven, and Monika, who was sleeping upstairs. The churchbells began to ring, and I thought of that scene at the end of the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence in Fantasia: Dawn is rising, the churchbells are ringing, and all the witches and happy demon revelers are hurrying home.


Welcome to Grove of the Other Gods 14th Annual Samhain Ritual and Vigil
Because this Ritual will be almost completely silent, we thought we'd provide a sort of Cliff Notes version of the ritual so you'll be sure to know what's going on!

We Druid folk are a chatty lot. We like to talk and talk and sometimes we build walls around ourselves with our words: walls between ourselves and the world and walls between ourselves and our Gods.

The point of this ritual is to pull the fancy language out from under us and see if we can't get closer to the essence of the things we're invoking. This could work really well and it might not work at all - you can be the judge of that later. It's certain though, that it's always good to test ourselves and push our limits for the Gods.

In this Samhain of Silence and Whispers the folks who are invoking will use movement, pictures, non-verbal sounds and the occasional single spoken word to get their point across. Please respond the same way. From the moment of the opening chime we ask that you do not speak in whole sentences. For optimal ritual experience (and if you're very brave), you might try thinking in pictures and single words, too. The Gods will appreciate your effort.

We will use hand gestures for "accept our offering," "Let the Gates Be Open," the catechism of the Waters and "we thank you."

PRAISE and Omen Skull After the ritual please place your Praise in the basket on the altar and take a little plastic omen skull as this year's takeaway. Each skull contains a tiny tarot card and a piece of candy. This is your personal omen for the coming year. If you like it you might consider eating the candy to ingest the omen. If you don't like it you might consider throwing the candy away or burying it to (try to) negate the omen. If you're sure you got someone else's omen or you want to trade with someone you're welcome to. Your omen is what you make it.

LUNAR ECLIPSE While we burn the Praise Offerings in the Bonefire outside we will hopefully be able to see the lunar eclipse that's taking place tonight. In ancient times people would make noise to try to frighten the shadow away from the moon. We may well reenact that folk custom tonight!


The Grove would like to thank
all the folks who contributed to our raffle, and thank Norma for creating yet another collectible Samhain skull. We raised $78, just $2 short of paying for our website and domain name for the year! Pat and Maggie won the collectible skull. Thanks to Misha for running off the programs. Thanks to our planning crew: Ed, Norma, Deb, Erzulie, Misha, Maria Raven, Betty. Thanks to Patrick for the huge industrial coffeemaker for the vigil, and all the cups and filters and coffee. Thanks to Erica for her generous financial donation for the ritual and for the RUPSA Samhain workshop. Thanks to Deb and Josh for working as Willows, and Deb and Ed for working as Greeters. Thank you Xuk for your kitchen. Thanks to Maria Raven for setting up our outside Ancestors Altar, Betty for the outside Gods and Goddesses Altar, Josh for the outside Nature Spirits Altar, Norma for setting up the outside Outsiders Altar and Deb for setting up the lovely Dumb Supper Table. And, many, many thanks to our kitchen witches, people who stayed to clean up, and all those who participated in this unusual ritual!