For those of you who — like our merry band — celebrate Hallowstide after October 31st, below is one way we’ve worked it with good results. It’s actually from last year’s ritual done for the book club group, hence the ceremonial wordings. As always, change it up to suit yourself, speaking from your own heart.
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Set up your altar with a skull, or representation of a skull. We used a pottery skull with old skeleton keys crossed in front of it, as crossed bones, or “feet.”
Light candle beside skull, saying
.From this fire, exorcised unto our need, spring forth now the Cunning Fire, which sits between the horns of our god. Be Thou a lamp to light our ways, and a beacon to call forth our Beloved Dead this night. .
Knock three times, then say:
.By my Will I shape this throne And call our Dead upon this Bone Come ye in my Master’s Name Until I send Thee back again
Breathe life into skull, until you feel it stir and waken.
All stand in circle around altar. Take up a red thread. Each person ties knots into their thread, in the fashion of a snaim. More about this another time, but for now — Don’t touch the thread with either forefinger at any point during the process. Bring the thread to your forehead while concentrating on your intent, then down in front of you to tie the knots, then to your lips to whisper the name of one of your Beloved Dead, or to send a general call to the Ancestors.
Tread the Mill, stepping sideways and moving widdershins. Pass thread deasil. Whisper names of Beloved Dead, interspersed with “One by one and all together.”* Keep steps slow, but allow chant to increase in volume and/or speed.
When the Mill reaches its natural conclusion, one at a time, each person takes a thread up to the altar. Offers a sign of love or respect (usually kissing the “feet”), then places bead end of thread into eye socket of skull, holding the other end. Commune.
Remove thread, take up candle and pass around head 3x, to “take in” the cunning fire. Rejoin circle.
When all have communed, perform a housle**:
.For our Ancestors, our Gods and ourselves, we do this. . (((Knock 3 times))) Here is bread, the life of the Earth,
Blessed to give us life and strength.
I consecrate it in the name of the Witch Father With my left hand I bless it (mark it with goosefoot)
With my left hand I shall eat it. . (((Knock 3 times))) Here is wine, filling the cup with abundance
I consecrate it in the name of the Witch Mother
With my left hand I lift it,
With my left hand I shall drink it. . Holding the cup in your left hand still, bring it near your lips, and say . I drink this cup in the Witch Mother’s name: She shall gather me home again.
Then drink a little. Everyone who shares from the cup should say the same, holding the cup with their left hand, before they drink. After everyone has shared from the cup, everyone should eat a piece of the bread- tear or cut it apart, making enough pieces for everyone. As you bring the piece of bread, held with your left hand, near your lips, you should say:
. I eat this bread in the Witch Father’s name, that I might have of his cunning fire
Make an offering of bread and wine into a bowl.
Make subsequent toasts spontaneously from the heart.
Make the final round in silence.
Pass the bowl around for each to anoint their forehead with mixture in offering bowl.
While this happens, one of your number says:
.As some is taken, so is this given
By the sons and daughters of the family of the Old Faith
I give it to the Ground
I give it to the Pale People below
That above and below will become one
For what is taken is truly given
And what is given is truly taken
The day and night are wed
As the living and the dead.
Here is shown a mystery. .
Close the Skull, saying:
.In my Master’s Name, I bid you depart to your proper place, and be there love between us ever more. So mote it be!
Silently, each person takes up a candle from around the circle or on the altar. One of your number takes up the offering bowl and starts a procession to a quiet place outside. This could be a place where 3 trails meet, or any place you find good for leaving offerings. In our case, our Magister is at the end of the procession, because the “Devil takes the hindmost.”
Pour your offerings onto the ground, “To our Beloved Dead”
Leave your candles burning by offering.
Turn and walk away, without looking back.
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May you and the Ancestors be blessed!
*Peter Paddon uses this phrase, and I like how it works.