Based on Ancient timing, you can do this rite anytime between now and Martinmas.
What do we want out of ritual? This question is wholly important to understanding how to write rituals that work for many people. Just like in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there is always a sweet spot. Rituals that are too tedious or too boring fall outside of that. Asking this question is how we target this magical zone of complexity which we deem ‘just right’. While what follows may seem like a lot, it really isn’t when you get it into familiarity.
So what do we want out of ritual? We want to feel spiritual, or in the case of atheists, we want the psychological changes that ritual induces. We want to express our beliefs or ideals or both. We want to do acts of worship similar to ancient peoples we identify with that I call ‘deep ancestors’. We want to maintain relationships and bonds we have with people and with otherworldly beings. In this way, our rites are not dissimilar from a marriage ceremony.
We also want to make a living tradition and make a tradition living. The two are not the same. The first is supporting the tradition from outside of it. The latter is to become the tradition itself after it is supported. We also want to affirm our worldviews when performing a ritual. We might want to mitigate any chaos coming our way. We might want to mitigate order that becomes strangling and stagnate. And finally, we might want protection from ill spirits, mortal or immortal, or from the envy of another.
One of the most successful ways to gain control of our inner stuffs this is through meditation. Regular meditation practices, in my opinion, less alters the overall self and instead bring the overall self under conscious control. Simply speaking, if you don’t feel spiritual enough, meditate regularly. Do what it takes. If you must listen to a certain spooky or enchanted soundtrack, if you must drum, if you must listen to quotes of wisdom from tomes of old, get into a blissful trance, one where the hairs on your neck are stood straight up.
Once achieved, you are put in the right mindset to perform the ritual. For this reason, we always do a kind of two powers, fire and water, Samos and Giamos type of meditation to connect with what we perceive are the most impersonal yet dominant forces in the cosmos: Sky current and Earth current.
We often use religious ceremonies to express certain beliefs, to raise certain ideals, or to re-join with mythic time. When we come together in a group, for example, that space and time is the capstone to the pyramid of our beliefs. It represents the pinnacle of our ideals such as virtue and honor. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an excuse to get over-reverent, over-zealous, or too serious. Never do that. How about we just stick to expressing our beliefs and ideals, the things that are most important to us.
One of the best ways to do this is through litany and prayer. The way we make offering expresses our belief in a greater gift-cycle that common to all the pagan religions of all Indo-European speaking peoples. We may use prayers and offerings, apart or together to worship and express beliefs about specific gods. I believe my poetry comes directly from Brighid. I’m working on being a better lens through which her light shines, but my poems come to me fully formed, they just don’t show themselves all to me, and I have to do some uncovering. Simply talking to our ancestors expresses a belief that they are with us or can hear us, or maybe even that talking about them heals us.
Maintain Relationships & Bargains
Samhain is the original date for paying rents and profits. Sometimes we make oaths to spirits and sometimes we only have tacit contracts with spirits. Either way, there are times when we keep bargains and renew contracts. If we have gods whom we call patron deities, they are those with which we have reciprocal patronage/clientage contracts. Samhain is the best time to make good on all these bargains. If not Samhain, the other harvests celebrations you may do are good as well.
Making a Living Tradition
This really is about study and preparedness. Lots of diaspora and maybe even native Gaelic people have grown up with the stories and myths of the gods, but its good to brush up on them and dig into them in order to be able to retell them to ourselves or others. If you want to see yourself as a witch/cunning person or a druid/lore keeper, then learning the stories and being able to tell them isn’t just for bards, but for everyone.
Living a Made Tradition
Once you’ve told a story a few times you may gain the confidence to use it in the ceremony. You may even be able to shift focus from knowing the story to performing the story well. This goes for prayers, written or spontaneous, and poems too.
Honor the Near Ancestors
Deep ancestors are well and good, but it’s our nearest honorable ancestors that should have our focus. If you’re adopted, your culturally near ancestors are your adoptive relatives who have passed on. You can also look to your role models in the absence of any real relatives. Real is a feeling, and we can cultivate feelings, this is what ritual does.
I do not care to honor my ancestors in the abusive ways they held dear. In fact, my journey to the realms of the dead, and the journies of those who have had both brain-trauma induced and entheogen induced dissolutions of self and journies to the otherworld involved quite a bit of reception of wisdom and insight. Frankly put, the dead experience otherworldly revelations upon dying. At the moment of death, all the great mysteries are revealed to you, there’s nothing left but to look at your behavior in light of it.
So I know that my near ancestors no longer have an issue with things like the way I practice religion. I think honoring the wishes of the dead with regard to how we remember them is not something my belief system allows for. Those wishes were made in a mortal state, but my grandparents are not in a mortal coil anymore, their mind is one unclouded by the inchinn cúil, or rear brain, called the brain of forgetting in folklore. This is the part of you that clouds you from your past lives, your previous visits to Teach Duinn in the realm of the dead. There, there is only bliss and sustenance. There, the ancestors who suffered are made whole.
Affirm the World
We do a ritual to reiterate our mythical worldview. While we can maintain a realist worldview, overlaying a mythical one on top of the real worldview re-enchants our lives. A simple forest romanticized into an ecosystem of spirits who can be friends or foes brings a little awe into our lives. To continually overlay that in cycles is to make what I call mythical living possible. Such enchantments in our psyche are necessary for combating nihilistic worldviews and the depression they cause by oversimplifying things until they have no meaning left.
We mitigate chaos, and we dismantle order. We do these things when needed. Again there is a sweet spot with all things, and too much chaos can turn our situations from opportunity and surprise into uncertain problems. Too much order can turn our stability into stagnation and equilibrium. We perform offerings and rites to reset the dynamics. We perform rites to open or close the system to order and chaos, to Samos and Giamos.
The primary way we mitigate these forces is to extinguish and relight our hearths or home fires/lamps from a central sacral fire.
And finally, we to things that offer protection. Any magical item that gives you extra luck or power from an external source is called a talisman. But any magical item that protects or keeps your existing luck or dharma is called an amulet. Most people assume amulets are necklaces, they can be and are very much so in movies, but that’s not all they are. Horseshoes buried at the corners of your home to protect your luck from malicious spirits are also amulets. I like to use this method of magical protection, encircle your home three times with smoke and fire while saying charms at Samhain.
I also like to say charms asking for the help of deities. Using my own personal power and calling upon the power of otherworldly beings supports the spell from two angles.
A Solitary Samhain Rite
I put this together from my own personal practice and the practice of my grove.
What you’re going to need:
- Read all these steps before beginning.
- A musical signal such as a chime, a bell, a song on your phone(turn ringtones off), a horn, or drum for a musical signal.
- A fire, a candle, burning coal, a burning incense stick, an led candle(last resort).
- Offering to Ogma.
- Holy water, that you’ve collected or made.
- Juniper sprigs.
- Grain for the land goddess.
- Beer and bread for the Heroes and Ancestors
- Oil for the fire.
- Silver or coin for the well.
- Whiskey for Brid
- Honey and Butter for the spirits.
- Mead for the gods, and for the blessing. Can use other things, see that section.
Play the musical signal to mark the beginning of sacred time.
Walk around the space you’ve set aside for this clockwise. Put the representation of fire in the center. If performing this rite at your hearth, walk around in front of it or around the building.
O Holy Ones, the land upholds me, the sea surrounds me, while the sky embraces me. And I stand in the center as a living fire. Let my work be done in beauty and truth. Bíodh sé amhlaidh! (prn. beog shay owlee, means so be it)
Samos & Giamos, Fire & Water, Order & Chaos
Breath deep. Envision from your feet roots growing into the earth. Digging past layers of clay, veins of quartz, past underground rivers, your roots break open into a deep well below the foundation of all being. Your roots drink up the waters of Segais and you feel nourished.
Your boughs and branches grow upward toward the spinning wheels of ordered fire in the heavens. Starlight from the poll star falls on your leaves and it makes a chill down your spine. Light pulses down from the polestar into you and down into the well below the earth. With each heartbeat the pulse grows and grows, time stops and speeds up. You see sun and moon traveling across the sky from east to west, you see the wheel of stars above whirling, and you see the water become cloud become storm and lightning on the horizon. When you’ve had your fill of these powers, allow your gaze to return to the circle.
Call for Inspiration
Ask for inspiration from Ogma, Champion and Poet of the Gods saying:
Oghma, shining faced wordsmith,
Collect the staves of Knowledge,
And let the cords of Eloquence burn,
In the fire of my head.
Bíodh sé amhlaidh! (beog shay owlee)
Offer juniper to Oghma in the fire.
Suffumigate the space with sprigs of juniper and asperge the space with holy water. Afterward, say:
By the might of the water and the light of the fire, this grove is made whole and holy!
(optional) This grove/home is made whole and holy. This grove/home is made whole and holy!
Offer to the Land
Give grain to the local land goddess saying.
Oh beloved mother below,
From whose fertile womb,
The yellow corn springs,
Bearer of my life,
Accept my offering!
Offer to the Unseelie
You who dwell within the outer dark,
And who stands against the gods,
You who are cruel of heart,
And dim of mind,
Take this offering and trouble not my rite.
Abide in peace!
Litany of Purpose
I have come here to revere the cosmos and celebrate the cycles of sun, moon, and earth. I have come to honor my ancestors, the goodly inclined spirits of this world and of others, and to honor the chief gods of the cosmos, the Tuatha Dé(prn. TOOaha day). I have come to share in hospitality with the cosmos and to make a sacrifice. Though I do not expect, I give so that I might receive the benefits of alliances with the gods.
Today I honor Morrigan and the Dagda, Cailleach and Donn. But on this Oenach(EYnock), we hold the ancestors most dear.
Making Holy the Hallows
O sacred fire that consumes and transforms, sacrificed and sacrificer, let holy flame warm my spirit and my life.
O Sacred fire, burn within me.
(optional Irish) A thine naofa, is isteach mise (prn. Ah hina neefa, ish ishtock mish uh, trns. O sacred fire, be within me).
Anoint the fire with oil, butter or ghee.
(optional) Over Water
O sacred waters of Segais(shay-gish) that flow and swirl beneath all being, let me know the elder depths within myself.
O Sacred Well, flow within me.
(optional Irish) A thobar naofa, ruith isteach mise (prn. Ah huber neefa, rwih ishtock mish uh, trns. O sacred well, flow within me).
Drop silver or coin into the well.
(optional) Over Tree
O tribal tree that stands at the center of land, sky and sea. Let me be deepened in your depths, raised to your heights. And strengthened in your strength.
O Sacred Tree, grow within me.
(optional Irish) A crann naofa, a fas isteach mise (prn. Ah crawn neefa, ah fawsh ishtock mish uh, trns. O sacred tree, grow within me).
Suffumigate the tree with the remaining juniper.
Opening the Ways
O Brighid, goddess of our gates, I walk on your path.
A Bhrighid, a bhandia ár ngeataí, siúl mé ar do bhealach.
(uh vreej, ah WAN-jee-uh awr NGAT-ee, SHOOL may air duh VA-lukh)
Keep the fire and dwell with in the well. Keep the forge and look after quench waters of the well as we open the ways between worlds.
Let the ways be open!
O Manannan, O lord of our gates, I walk on your path.
A Manannán*, a thiarna ár ngeataí, siúl mé ar do bhealach.
(uh Mana-NAWN, ah HERE-nuh awr NGAT-ee, SHOOL may air duh VA-lukh)
Keep the fire and dwell with in the well. Keep the forge and look after quench waters of the well as we open ways between worlds.
Let the ways be open!
Offer whiskey or similar to the fire and well.
Inviting Otherworldly Beings
I call out first and closest, to the ancestors of my blood and those of my heart. I call out the ancestors we all share and the heroes of legend. I call out to the ancestors whose bones lie in this land. I call out to the ancestors of blood, heart, stone, and bone and offer you welcome. I call you as my kin, meet me at the boundary, and accept my offering!
Offer beer and bread to the ancestors.
I call out to the spirits of this world and of others. I call out to my allies of fur and feather, of scale or skin, spirits without and spirits within. I call out to the goodly inclined of the gentry of this land. I call out of the spirits of land and home, of sea and sky to offer you welcome. I call you as my kin, meet me at the boundary, and accept my offering!
Offer honey and butter to the spirits.
I call out to my gods. To my patrons(if any). And I call out to the Tuatha Dé.
To Airmed, Miach, and Dian Cecht.
To Luchta, Credne, and Lugh.
To Nuada, Anand, Badb, and Macha.
To Bríd, I call to offer you welcome.
I call to you as kin to join me in my magic, meat us at the boundary.
Offer mead to the fire for the gods.
Deity of Honor, Deity of the Occasion
Red Woman, Red-eared heifer, Macha-Horsewoman, Anu, Badb, I call to you. Phantom Queen and Daughter’s of Ernmas. I call to you!
I call to you as my kin, accept my offering!
Offer Morrigan meat, bread, beer, and/or mead.
Red One of Great Knowledge, Horseman-Greatfather, Ferr Ben Mach, The Good God, One of three gods of skill.
I call to you!
I call to you as my kin, accept my offering!
Offer Dagda stew, bread, beer, and or mead.
Give praise to your gods. If you are a solitary who has yet to do many praise offerings, here are some below from another article. Also see my prayer article.
Prayer of Sacrifice
You can adlib a prayer of sacrifice. It should include the main intention is to give to the beings with which you are sharing hospitality, in hopes to form working alliances with these cosmic beings. Your prayer may include something like this:
I have come to the sacred center after I have established it. I have pinched the worlds together and have invited spirits, my ancestors and their gods. We have come to a place that is nowhere else, at a time that is nowhen else.
Listen now at this place of gods, of dead, and of sidhe. I give so that I might receive, though I do not expect. Let my voice arise on the fire, let my voice resound in the deep, may the spirits accept my offerings, they are the elder ways I keep.
Accept my Sacrifice!
Here is where you show the ancestors the place you’ve set for them and the food you’ve made to leave out for them. You ask them to sit at this place so that you can entertain them throughout the night by telling stories and singing folk songs. Tell or read to them tales like Teague O’Kane or Echra Nerai. When you go to bed, sing the parting glass or the quiet joys of brotherhood.
Cast the ogham saying:
Far-flung fews fill a future fated foreseen,
Favorable Fírinne forgoes fights of foeman’s fury.
Foretell of fool’s failure, foretell of false fame, foretell of flawless flourish, or foretell of fair game.
Speak an interpretation.
Calling for and hallowing the Mead
Hold up a quaich, bowl, horn, or cup.
O spirits, give me the waters. O ancestors give me the waters. Oh shining gods, give me the waters!
Pour mead into a quaich, bowl, or cup.
May the Gods and ancestors bless this cup.
Irish: Go raibh beannachtaí na ndéithe agus na sinsear ar cuppon seo.
(guh row BAN-ukh-tee nuh NAY-heh AW-guss nuh SHIN-shur air cuppon shuh)
Affirming the Blessing
Behold, Uisce Beatha(OOSH-ka BAH-ha), the waters of life!
Drink the mead and concentrate on how your body feels the fire water. Use another wine if you have to, or diluted whiskey. If you’re recovering, just use water.
Perform rites of magic, oaths, votive offerings, healing
Perform the charm of protection from A Circle of Stones by Erynn Rowan Laurie, with audio:
“Go gcosnaí na tinte fhaire Theamhair muid trínár n-oibre
Go ndó na tinte rabhaidh Theamhair agus go dtreoraí iad muid tríd na scáileanna
Go lasa na tinte ceannasach Theamhair ionainn, agus go gceanglaí iad muid leis na déithe.
Let the watch-fires of Tara guard us in our work
Let the signal-fires of Tara burn to guide us through the shadows
Let the sovereign fires of Tara spark within and link us to the Gods.
approximate pronunciation (for Conamara modern Irish):
go GOSS-nee na CHIN-cha AHR-a HEH-wer mwidge TREE-nar NIGH-breh
go no na CHIN-cha RAW-a HEH-wer AH-gus go DROR-ee EE-ud mwidge treedj na SCALL-a-na
go LAH-sa na CHIN-cha CYAHN-a-sakh HEH-wer IN-an, AH-gus go GYAN-glee EE-ud mwidge lesh na JAY-ha”
Extinguish and relight your entire hearth using coal or fire from a central group fire. If you have none, kindle one outside. If you can’t do that, envision your fire connecting to one of the four perpetual flames that ADF maintains.
Additionally, here is where you make new contracts with gods or spirits, or honor and make good on the old ones.
Close the ways
Wave your hand over the flame.
Let the fire be but flame.
Wave your hand over the water.
Let the well be but water.
Wave your hand over the tree.
Let all be as it was before, let the ways be closed!
Thanks be to the gods, the dead, and the sidhe, Bíodh sé amhlaidh!
Circumambulation and signal.
Walkabout space sunwise(clockwise) three times. Play again your musical signal to mark the ending of sacred time.