Samhain – A Solitary Ritual

Samhain – A Solitary Ritual October 26, 2014

Holidays and holy days are better with friends and family. But many Pagans maintain solitary practices. Even if you work with a group, sometimes you can’t be with them for one reason or another. And sometimes your group meets on a convenient day but you feel the need to celebrate on the exact day. Whatever the reason, many Pagans will be celebrating Samhain by themselves.

Of all the sabbats or high days on the Wheel of the Year, Samhain is perhaps the most conducive to solitary observances. While there are some ritual activities you simply can’t do by yourself, there’s one thing you can do better by yourself than in a group – listening. And while listening is an appropriate activity at any time, it’s especially important in this season.

This ritual is Wiccanish in its structure, but invokes and honors land spirits, ancestors, and Gods in a polytheist approach. That’s not likely to satisfy either Gardnerians or Reconstructionists, but it works for me. It invites and honors Morrigan in Her role as Chooser of the Slain. You are, of course, free to invite another deity instead, but if you do, please give some thought to Who and why.

Setup

This ritual can be done outdoors or indoors. It should be done at night, at a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. If background noise is a problem, play music just loud enough to cover it. I prefer classical music for this purpose, but any instrumental music will do.

Set a main altar in the center of your space with three candles, a starter candle, matches or lighter, a bell, a wand or athame, incense, bread, red wine, and an offering bowl. Set candles in the four directions. In the northwest, set two additional candles about two feet apart. Depending on the ambient light and your night vision, you may need a reading candle. Or just memorize the elements – it’s short and the exact wording isn’t critical.

You’ll be sitting quietly for part of the ritual – if you can’t sit comfortably on the floor or ground, place a chair at the northwest corner of the main altar facing outward.

Samhain solitary 01Preparation

Do whatever gets you in a ritual frame of mind. Take a bath, listen to music, wash your hands, change your clothes. I rarely “robe up” for solitary ritual, but I do like to wear some of my Pagan jewelry.

Light the starter candle and the incense, and do a final check to make sure everything is in place.

Opening

Approach the altar and pause for a moment of silent meditation. Ground and center using whatever method you find most effective. Then ring the bell three times.

Say “I come to this place and this time to celebrate the holy day of Samhain.”

Pick up the wand or athame, or if you prefer, just use your index finger. Move to the East, pause, then slowly walk the circle clockwise, drawing the circle as you go. See the circle rising in deep blue light. Make a complete circle, and see the ends joining together.

When you return to the East, set down the wand or athame and light the quarter candle. Say “Spirits of the East, Spirits of Air, I call to you. Come into this circle, I ask, and share your wisdom. On this sacred night of Samhain, welcome Air!

Move clockwise to the South. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the South, Spirits of Fire, I call to you. Come into this circle, I ask, and share your inspiration. On this sacred night of Samhain, welcome Fire!

Move clockwise to the West. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the West, Spirits of Water, I call to you. Come into this circle, I ask, and share your love. On this sacred night of Samhain, welcome Water!

Move clockwise to the North. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the North, Spirits of Earth, I call to you. Come into this circle, I ask, and share your stability. On this sacred night of Samhain, welcome Earth!

Move clockwise back to the East, then return to the main altar.

Invocations

Light the first candle on the altar and say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, you who were here long before me, I invite you into this circle. Join this celebration of Samhain, I ask, and accept this offering of food and drink, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the bread and wine in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the wine into the offering bowl.

“Land spirits – hail and welcome!”

Light the second candle on the altar and say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, you whose child I am and on whose foundations I build, because of you I have life. Join this circle, I ask, and add your blessings to this rite. Accept this offering of food and drink, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the bread and wine in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the wine into the offering bowl.

“Blessed ancestors – hail and welcome!”

Light the third candle on the altar and say “Morrigan, Battle Goddess, Lady of Sovereignty; You are the Chooser of the Slain and the Queen of Phantoms. In this life You teach us to reclaim our sovereignty and to protect our tribe, and for this I thank You.

It was at Samhain when You joined with the Dagda at the Bed of the Couple and planned the overthrown of your oppressors. I ask Your presence and Your blessings as I celebrate Samhain once again. Please accept this offering of food and drink, given in hospitality and in love.”

Raise the bread and wine in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the wine into the offering bowl.

“Morrigan – hail and welcome!”

Samhain solitary 02Main Working

Light the two candles in the northwest, then sit in the center of your space with your back to the main altar, facing northwest. Don’t look directly at the candles – look at the space between them. Let your focus fade.

Now, in your mind’s eye, see mists beginning to rise from the ground. See them rising and rolling, obscuring everything outside your circle. You can’t even see the circle itself anymore, but you know it’s there – you can feel it. You can barely see the quarter candles in the west and north, but the two candles in the northwest still glow brightly.

Listen with more than your ears, see with more than your eyes, feel with more than your skin. Listen with the very essence of your being.

Do you sense the presence of an ancestor? Perhaps this is an ancestor you knew in life. Perhaps this is an ancestor you know only from pictures and stories. Perhaps this is an ancestor from further back who you do not know at all.

Greet your ancestor. Because of them, you live. Because of you, they live on. Thank them for their life and their legacy.

Listen. The urge to speak is great, but the need to listen is greater. Listen. What do they say?

When the time feels right, get up and move to the altar. Pick up the bread and offer it to your ancestor. Crumble a bit in the offering bowl, then eat a bit yourself. Pick up the wine and offer it to your ancestor. Pour a bit in the offering bowl, then drink a sip yourself. Enjoy sharing the meal with your ancestor.

Return to your seat. Listen.

Say farewell to your ancestor. Thank them for visiting with you once again. Listen, and sense their departure.

Now see the mists beginning to recede and fade. See your surroundings once again, and see your circle still there, still glowing brightly.

Get up, extinguish the two candles in the northwest, and return to the main altar. Pause for a moment to appreciate what you have experienced, but do not attempt to analyze or interpret it – there will be plenty of time for that when the ritual is over. If necessary, ground and center again.

Farewells

Say “Morrigan, Chooser of the Slain, I thank You for your presence and Your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.

Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.

Say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.

Closing

Say “Spirits of the North, West, South, and East, Spirits of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.

Pick up the wand or athame, or if you prefer, just use your index finger. Move to the East, pause, then slowly walk the circle counterclockwise, pulling up the circle as you go. See the last of your circle disappear as you return to the East.

Ring the bell three times.

Say “This rite of Samhain is complete. Hail and farewell.”

Afterward

Take a breath. Turn on some music, or if you were playing background music, change to something lively and vocal. Drink some water. Turn on the lights. Do something to reorient yourself in the ordinary world.

Extinguish the candles and the incense, then begin to pick up and put away.

Dispose of the offerings in an appropriate manner. I prefer to deposit them outdoors in an inconspicuous place where they’ll be eaten by wild creatures. Depending on where you are, you may need to do something else.

You may wish to write about your experience in your journal, particularly if your experience was strong. Focus on recording the experience, not on your interpretation of the experience. You have the rest of your life to figure out what it all means, but you have only a short time before your recollection of the events begins to fade.

* * * * * * * * *

What do you do if you can’t sense anyone? Perhaps you aren’t in the proper frame of mind to sense the presence of an ancestor. Or perhaps, for whatever reason, no one shows up.

Do the ritual anyway. Perhaps someone is there and you just can’t see or hear or feel them. Even if they’re not, it is always good to honor the ancestors. You may wish to make ancestor devotions a more frequent spiritual practice in the future.

May your Samhain be blessed, and may your connections with your ancestors be strengthened in the year to come!

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