A Samhain Rite

A Samhain Rite October 30, 2016

He stood alone at midnight among the tall oak trees. The last of the dying leaves had fallen and the bare skeletal branches creaked overhead. All around him, the forest was alive with dancing shadows summoned forth from the fire blazing within a large cauldron. It was the night of Samhain and the atmosphere was pulsing with magic as the veil between worlds reached its thinnest.

The Witch moved around the cauldron to face the north and raised the Stang aloft: “Black Spirits who reside in the north, primal powers of the frigid winter winds, I summon and call thee forth to attend this Witch’s rite.” Next, moving to the east he intoned: “Red Spirits who reside in the east, primal powers of the dying summer sun, I summon and call thee forth to attend this Witch’s rite.” Then to the south he called: “Green spirits who reside in the south, primal powers of the ancient burial mounds, I summon and call thee forth to attend this Witch’s rite.” And finally facing the west: “Blue spirits who reside in the west, primal powers of the bitter sea, I summon and call thee forth to attend this Witch’s rite.”

Returning once again to the north, he lifted the Stang one last time before thrusting it into the ground. Between the tines he placed a lit black candle, the symbol of Witch Father’s cosmic flame. From somewhere in the distance a dog began to howl, its haunting call echoing through the trees. A shiver rolled down his spine and out through his rib-cage, a sure sign the Old One was near.

(Photo by author)

From a small earthen bowl, he grabbed a handful of fragrant herbs. Wormwood, Vervain, Rosemary, and Mullein. This mixture was cast into the fire which responded by crackling and spitting glowing orange sparks up into the darkness. With a deep inhale, he breathed in the heady smoke. Exhaling, he lifted his face and hands to the sky:

“Devil hear me on this Hallow’s night,

Come to the circle of this Witch’s rite,

Master of death and ruler of bones,

Answer the prayer which I intone:

Turn the key and open the door,

To let those through who’ve passed before,

Beloved ancestors come back to me,

From the land beyond the sea,

Follow the cauldron’s burning light,

Visit with me this Hallow’s Night”

The wind whipped up, wailing through the trees and sending fallen leaves into a spiraling frenzy. The cauldron’s flame danced wildly, shooting upwards towards the sky. The howling of dogs grew louder and closer. The Witch remained firm in his stance, focused in his task. The forest was coming alive with the presence of the Witch’s ancestral spirits whose ghostly grey forms began to materialize between the trees. He smiled at the sight of his long departed loved ones. Drawn by the firelight, they glided closer, forming a circle around the cauldron. All at once, the wind died down and again the forest was silent and still.

He took a moment to survey all those who were present in the circle. Some spirits he recognized immediately, while others were ancient and only vaguely familiar. Yet, he could feel a strong bond between them all, a deep rooted connection that defied space and time. Each member played an important part in the history of the family, and it was a night to honor their memories.

The Witch picked up a large chalice, filled with a deep crimson wine which had been infused with secret herbs and consecrated in the Devil’s name. He smiled once more at his ancestors then held the cup aloft:

“Oh ancestors of old, I give a toast to thee,

I revel and rejoice in your memory,

I drink to you from this poisoned glass,

The dark draught of the Witches’ Mass,

And then we shall dance the circle round,

Ghosts and fairies from the ancient mound

Until the morning sun rises again in the east,

We sing and we make merry at the Sabbat feast”

He brought the chalice to his lips and took a drink, the bitter wine flowing down his throat and infusing the bloodstream with its potent magic.

(Photo by author)

Dum, dum, dum, a drumbeat sounded. Dum, dum, dum, slowly the circle started rotating counterclockwise in response to the beat. Dum, dum, dum, the Witch began to sing:

“Cummer gae ye afore, cummer gae ye,

Gin ye winna gae afore, cummer let me,

Ring-a-ring-a-widdershins,

Linkin’ lythly widdershins,

Cummers carline, crone, and queyn,

Roun’ gae we!”

The circle moved faster, it’s momentum gaining in tandem with the Witch’s words. His blood began to quicken and the primordial power stirred within.

 “Cummer gae ye afore, cumme gae ye,

Gin ye winna gae afore, cummer let me,

Ring-a-ring-a-widdershins,

Loupin’ lichtly widdershins,

Kilted coats and fleein hair,

Three times three!”

The Witch and the ghosts were now circling with great speed and frenzy. His vision blurred as ecstatic joy set in, power bursting from his body in waves. The song grew louder and louder, the intensity of the words increasing.

“Cummer gae ye afore, cummer gae ye,

Gin ye winna gae afore, cummer let me,

Ring-a-ring-a-widdershins,

Whirlin’ skirlin’ widdershins,

And deil take the hinnermaist,

Whae’er she be!”

With the last word the atmosphere snapped. The power was released like a cannon, sending the Witch tumbling to the ground. His eyes rolled to the back of his head and he fell into a deep slumber among a soft bed of dead fall leaves. His spirit was lifted from his physical body and, along with the ghosts of his ancestors, flew off into the night sky.

(Photo by author)

When he awoke, the sun was beginning to rise, its first rays shining through the trees. The fire in the cauldron had gone out, the embers still emitting small puffs of smoke. The Witch stretched his limbs and sat up, smiling as he tried to recall the events of the night before. Although the memory was already fading he remembered the feelings of dancing, singing, feasting, and flying with his beloved dead.

The forest felt different than it had the night before. The birds chirped merrily from their perches high above yet the hushed stillness of Winter had arrived and was already casting its sleepy shroud over the land. He got up from the ground and shook the leaves from his cloak.

In silence he walked around the perimeter of the space, stopping here and there to bid farewell to the spirits of the land and the four directions. In the north he pulled the Stang from the ground, reverently acknowledging the Old One. Finally, standing in the center, the Witch said his parting words to his ancestors.

“Until we meet again, I bid thee hail and farewell.”

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