Samhain Ritual to
Jack O’ the Lantern

and Will O’ the Wisp

Weather beautiful, in the 60s, sunny. Doors and windows open. Dedicants came early to set up altars specific to the kindreds. Our neighbor came over to say that we could use his driveway if we needed more parking, a nice thought, and a nice omen too. We took advantage of his hospitality. House begins to fill up.

We had the pre-ritual briefing a half hour late, and went over the songs. Rachel dressed as an elf with pointy ears and arrows, Chuck E. as the prehistoric “Iceman,” Carol as a witch (so what’s a costume?), Deb as a nature spirit, Josh a mad pharmacist (so what’s a costume?) and Ed as a 19th century explorer. Very jumpy, unruly energy, lots of heckling. House was full of Jack and Will energy.

Outsiders altar set up with candles and photos of Outsiders, cauldron and stuff. Images of Nature Spirits collected on the Natures Spirits altar along with leaves, rocks, stuffed animals, feathers and such. Goddesses and Gods altar was set up with a myriad of Goddesses and Gods. Ancestors altar had photos and mementos of beloved dead. All of the altars had piles of gilded joss paper for messages to the kindreds or outsiders. The messages would be sent at dawn, each with a bit of gold.

We had 41 people at the ritual; only 3 who’d never been to a GOG ADF ritual.
Greg started us off with a chime. Norma announced why we were there. Francesca, ADF’s roving Northeast Region Representative led us in honoring the Earth Mother (ending to a chorus of Bíodh sé). Norma led us in a meditation that calmed the energy a bit, and got us somewhat grounded.

The hoary old explorer (me) wandered out with maps, telescope and surveyor’s compass to determine our horizontal directions. We found monsters in every direction (Jersey Devil, Kraken, swamp monsters, the elusive Pennsylvania Squonk, axehandle hounds, birds that fly backwards, Jesse Helms, a blue ox named “babe”); we were surrounded. But this is where the treasure lies: the center of all worlds.

Xuk and Lassie and Timmy invoked the well. See Xuk’s story “The Well.” Very well done.

Pat had to follow this up to invoke the sacred fire, but he did an admirable job, talking about fire’s destructive capabilities and fire’s more comfortable capacities—although it did seem that Pat got more enthusiastic over the destructive qualities.

Nora deftly knitted the well and fire together into the sacred tree: scary bare branches rustling in the wind, leaves like flames at the top falling to decay like ancestors at the bottom.

Then Erica invoked Manannan Mac Lir, outsider himself in many ways, and with his help we formally opened the gates.

Justin took an offering to the outsiders, reminding us that in some places and some times we’re all outsiders. Jesse Helms was mentioned again. We waited for Justin to come back. After a while we started singing the “Jeopardy” song. We sent Vigile out to rescue Justin, who insisted he was “hanging out at the altar with his friends.” He told Vigile the offering had been accepted, and we moved on....

Betty invoked Brigid, Her fire and Her hearth, and thanked Her for Her help. Norma led us in “Fire Us Up” and an offering was made to Brigid.

Jenniforensic less invoked the ancestors than pointed them out. She reminded us that they’re not “gone” and we’re not “calling them back”—they’re there all the time, we just have to see them and recognize them and listen to them. She’s right. We named our ancestors, and sang the Ancestors Song.

Deb, in her leopard ears, invoked the nature spirits; the oogly outsider spirits as well as the ones we’re more comfortable with. We called our spirits and sang “Fur and Feather.”

Josh invoked the Goddesses and Gods—and talked about what a God fears, what scares the Gods. People mentioned several things: Ragnarok, Cthulu, the abyss, neglect... Jesse Helms was mentioned a third time. And if the Gods didn’t know fear, how could we? We called our Goddesses and Gods and sang “Hail All the Gods.”

Norma (whom Hillary designated “the orange part of Halloween”) and Peg (“the black part of Halloween”) began their invocations by teaching us a quick, simple drum rhythm. The drum said “come to us” and we answered “come to us” back. Norma and her creepy little homemade Jack puppet invoked Jack O’ the Lantern, Jack Everyman, Jack of the Beanstalk fame, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick, Jack Flash, Jack Frost... and in the midst of the drumming Peg came out invoking Will O’ The Wisp, strange light, wispy spirit... and things got really strange and I don’t remember what else was said....

The drumming and invoking continued to a fast creshendo and peaked as we went over the edge.

Erica regrouped our brains for the praise offering.

At the Samhain planning meeting we discussed praise at length—that is, we discussed the length of the praise. We discussed how the energy raised tends to waver or fall during the lengthy praise period, no matter how cool the praises were for the human folks listening. We also took a fresh look at the purpose of praise and the whole concept of making sacrifice and offering to the Gods and how it’s gotten corrupted in ritual. Nej’s joking suggestion was picked up by Erica and Josh and we decided to offer up all our praise in one big auto-de-fe (act of faith). This kept the praise offerings from being a bardic stage. If people wanted to re-enact their praises later for the human audience—we’re here all night, as they say, try the macaroni. Norma and Peg were against this idea, but were voted down by the Dedicants.

So, Erica gave us all a silent minute to get ready, and we began our praise offerings, simultaneously. Surprisingly, from where I was, it sounded really good. People who were too shy to offer praise in previous rituals were saying things and singing and making noise, others were meditating, and still others were lending their tambourines and drums and voices to other people’s praise. It was not a cacophony; it was more like an avant-garde opera—think of Richard Forman, Robert Wilson or John Cage. Or William Burroughs and Bryon Gysin. And, somehow, Norma’s clear “Bonny Bedlam Boys” sailed over the top of it all.
We wound down and did a brief group praise: the Addams Family theme song.
The asynchronous concurrent praise offerings were successful, even Norma and Peg agreed later, and especially appropriate for this ritual. We drummed some more, and then Erica took our omen from a pile of words contributed by grove members that were written on pieces of paper shaped like pumpkins. She took an omen from each kindred, the outsiders, Brigid, Manannan, and Jack and Will. The eight words were: subway, truthfulness, shiny, the, love, silence, not, cantankerous. Erica interpreted them:
Upon the shiny subway / cantankerous men rode in silence. / Not love, but truthfulness / are the words given to us.

We agreed that Erica’s interpretation made sense, and was specific to the occasion. We discussed it briefly as Norma consecrated the Waters of Life. We recited the Catechism of the Waters (with hand gestures) and Beheld the Waters. Some folks passed water, and others held their water. Soon, we were all holding our water.*
We drank. We each chose a cookie with a rune on the bottom. We each chose a Jack-o-scope and a keyring with a pumpkin or cat bell. We continued eating food and drinking drink, and continued with our vigil into the night.
At midnight, we performed a traditional Kali puja. The Divinijam started later, with tarot readings, discussions of different cards and decks, and rune readings. Eight of us stayed up the night, and twelve of us gathered in the morning to send messages up to the kindreds and outsiders and Jack and Will and close the gates and end the rite. As we asked Manannan to close the gates, a flock of seagulls appeared overhead and a lone crow cawed.

Grinning Wolf and Mari told us a great story about riding a 12-foot broomstick in the Pagan Parade and then winding up on the Parkway riding the broom at 45 mph. Melissa spotted something that came in and crouched in a corner near the ceiling. Weird psychic breezes. Around 5am the back door slammed open and shut for no reason, and there was nobody there. We could all see it from the kitchen. As the ancestor’s altar was deconsecrated the next day, something blew through that scared the guinea pig. Had a dream that one post of the grape arbor was broken, but the rest were still standing and I was by the little fence in the back yard talking to our neighbor, who was laughing, and said, “You should see what they did to Citicorp—and they cut all the power lines to the city!” This is the kind of energy we were working with: the Psychic Anarchists Party. I took a photo of the Jack O’ Lanterns in the garden the morning after the ritual, and when I developed the photos I discovered that Will O’ the Wisp had gotten into the picture, too. In both photos, there’s a strange sheet of red/orange light in front of the pumpkins! See the photos on our website. Scary when what you invoke not only shows up, but hangs around to get their picture taken! SEE PHOTOS - CLICK HERE

Many thanks to our kitchen goddesses: Nej, Nora, Maria Raven. Also, many thanks to the early-morning clean-up crew: Maria Raven, Betty, Nej, Francesca, Nora. And thanks to our Willow Priests and Priestesses: Brenda, Chuck E., Deb Sandrock. Our warrior escort: Chris. Our guardian: Deb Sandrock. Our metaprompter: Greg. Our raffle girl: Brenda (Norma’s painted skull brought in enough for the web site and PO box) and thanks to all who contributed to the raffle. Thanks to everyone who brought food and drink, and everyone else who helped out: I could probably name every person who came to this ritual! These things are very much a group effort, and Norma and I would like to thank all who make our indoor rituals easy on us and easy on the house.

—Edwin Chapman, Scribe