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
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, were 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
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
Betty invoked Brigid with Sues help: Betty played tambourine and Sue
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
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... Jennes lovely soprano, Mishas
deep baritone, Xuks throatsinging, people wailing.... I looked up
and you could see the air vibrating. The keening was beautiful and holy,
and I dont 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. Thats
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 youre challenged, dont
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 wed 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 worlds 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 Id carved last Samhain for our Jack
o Lantern and Will o the Wisp ritual- the same mummified pumpkin
that wouldnt 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
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.