A Samhain Ritual With the Dread Lord of Shadows

A Samhain Ritual With the Dread Lord of Shadows October 13, 2014

In 2012 I shared a Samhain Ritual I created for a local public circle. It’s one of my proudest moments but it has a few problems, the biggest one being that it’s designed for a large hall and a lot of people. Most people don’t get to rent a Masonic Hall at Samhain, and even fewer do ritual with a 100 friends. Some of this ritual was inspired by my 2012 rite, but large parts of it are different too. Instead of drawing down Goddess and God this ritual just draws down the God. There are other differences too. I think I originally wrote it with the intention of creating a stripped-down version of my 2012 Samhain, instead it evolved into something different.

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I’m a British Trad Witch and even when working with my more eclectic coven I tend to stick to a specific script and pattern of doing things. Because of that, the majority of the rituals I share on line are all similarly structured and use many of the same beats. This particularly ritual is designed for between eight and twenty people and requires the use of a room and a hallway (at least that’s how we set it up). It’s another ritual I’m intensely proud of, and if you use it (or even parts of it) in your own rites the honor will be all mine.

Happy Samhain!

Items Needed:
-Usual altar items
-Pomegranate, bowl for the seeds
-Tokens (we used a variety of charged stones)
-Cakes and Ale (at Samhain we use Pumpkin Cider and bread)

Ritual Cleansing
In my circle we cleanse with a pitcher and water. Other circles wave incense and splash salted water at everyone. Use whatever technique works for your circle.

Opening Chant

This is our usual opening chant, though we tend to sing it at a faster clip. As far as I know it was originally written by Selena Fox back in about 1980 or so.

IMG_1932Statement of Intent
High Priest: “We gather here tonight to celebrate the passing of the Old Year and to welcome in the new. We are here to celebrate Samhain, the final harvest, that time when the veil between the world’s is at its thinnest and those that have departed this world may return to it once more. So mote it be.”

Blessing the Elements
High Priest: “I exorcise thee o Creature of Water and cast out from thee all impurities and uncleanliness. In the names of the Lord and Lady, so mote it be.”

In most Witch traditions it’s customary to set the water and salt being purified upon a pentacle. In this instance, the High Priest would place the bowl of water on the pentacle, and then remove it. The High Priestess does the same with the bowl of salt.

High Priestess: “Blessings be upon thee O Creature of Salt; let all malignity and hindrance be cast from thee, and let all good enter within. Wherefore do I bless thee and consecrate thee in the names of Lord and Lady. So mote it be.”

The Priestess then takes her athame and places it in the salt removing three measures of “earth” and placing it in the water.

High Priestess: “Thrice measured, thrice taken, thrice given. So mote it be!”

Salted water is set aside. The High Priest takes an unlit candle and lights it either with a candle already burning on the altar or a lighter/matches. He places the candle (in a candle holder) on the pentacle.


High Priest: “Blessings upon thee O Creature of Fire, let all malignity and hindrance be cast from thee, and let all good enter within. Wherefore do I bless thee and consecrate thee in the names of Lord and Lady. So mote it be.”

The High Priestess then takes the incense and sets it upon the pentacle.

High Priestess: “Blessings be upon thee O Creature of Air, let all malignity and hindrance be cast from thee and let all good enter within. Wherefore do I bless thee and consecrate thee in the names of the Lord and Lady. So mote it be.”

Priestess lights incense with the Fire candle and the incense is then walked around the circle deosil. High Priest picks up the salted water and follows the High Priestess sprinkling the water around the perimeter of the circle. For me the incense and salted water are about cleansing the circle, not so much the participants. With that in mind I tend to fling the salted water into every corner of my ritual room.

castingthecircleIMG_1949Casting the Circle
To cast the circle, start in the East, and proceed deosil three times while saying:

“I conjure thee oh circle of power, that thou may be a meeting place of love and joy and truth and as a shield against all wickedness and evil. Thou art a boundary between the world of mortals and the realms of the mighty ones; and an entry way to the realm of spirit. Wherefore do I bless thee and consecrate thee in the names of the Lord and the Lady. The circle is cast, so mote it be!”

Calling the Watchtowers

East: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East, ye Powers of Air; Spirits of Clear Will and Knowledge, I do summon, stir, and call you up, to witness our rites and to guard our Circle.

(invoking pentagram is drawn)

Hail and welcome.” (Coveners repeat “Hail and welcome.”)

South: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South, ye Powers of Fire; Spirits of Illumination and Desire, I do summon, stir, and call you up, to witness our rites and to guard our Circle.

(invoking pentagram is drawn)

Hail and welcome.” (Coveners repeat “Hail and welcome.”)

callingquartersIMG_1959West: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West, ye Powers of Water; Spirits of Death and Initiation, I do summon, stir, and call you up to witness our rites and to guard our Circle.

(invoking pentagram is drawn)

Hail and welcome.” (Coveners repeat “Hail and welcome.”)

North: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North, ye Powers of Earth, Spirits of Mountain and Plains, I do summon, stir, and call you up to witness our rites and to guard our Circle.

(invoking pentagram is drawn)

Hail and welcome.” (Coveners repeat “Hail and welcome.”)

Call to the God
High Priest: “I call to the Great God, Lord of the Underworld, the Horned One, Master of the Great Hunt. We ask you to be with us tonight and join us in our circle. Help us to understand the mysteries of the Underworld, help us to reunite with loved ones who are now a part of your realm. Give us the courage to face the coming of the year, and help us to learn the lessons we received in the last turn of the Wheel. Hail and Welcome!!”

callingtheladyIMG_1981Call to the Goddess
High Priestess: “We call to you Great Goddess, Eternal Lady, Mistress of the Moon. Join us Great Crone as we celebrate the passing of the Old Year and the coming of the New. Great Lady, smile down upon us, illuminate us with your wisdom and grace. Allow us to feel the touch of those who have left us. Stir our souls with passion and fire as we gather here tonight to celebrate the sacred Samhain festival. Hail and Welcome.”

(In our circle my wife tends to do the calls to the Goddess while I do the calls to the God. That’s just how we do things. The High Priestess can call the God if she wants, or two High Priestesses can call the God and the Goddess, or two High Priests. Why I’m saying here is that it doesn’t matter who calls who.)

Rite of Persephone
High Priestess: “Tonight we seek the Summerlands and to commune with our beloved dead. At Samhain, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, the spirits of the departed gather around us once more. On All Hallow’s there is sorrow, but there is also joy. Sorrow in death, but joy in reunion, no matter how brief. To touch those who have gone before we must eat of the fruit that lies between the realms.”

High Priestess picks up pomegranate and holds it up over her head.

“Behold the fruit of life!”

Now the athame is picked up and the fruit is cut in half while saying:

“And now behold the seeds of death!”

The High Priestess and Priest remove several seeds and place them on a dish.

“On this night of Samhain I mark the passing of the Sun King through the sunset to be reborn in the land of the young. I mark also the passing of all who have gone before, and who will go after.”

High Priestess places a seed upon the tongue of the High Priest.

High Priest: “O Gracious Goddess, Eternal Mother, you who gives birth to the fallen, teach us all to know that in the time of the greatest darkness there is the greatest light.”

High Priest places a seed upon the tongue of the Priestess.

High Priestess: “Now I bid you all to taste the seeds of death so that we may know the Dark Goddess and begin our journey to the Summerlands.”

Dish with seeds is silently passed around the circle. When the dish is handed to the first covener the Priestess or Priest should nod in greeting, indicating quiet.

Charge of the Goddess of Death
High Priest: “Now listen to the words of the Great Mother, the Lady of Death, who was once called Diana, Hecate, Kali, Ariadne, Persephone and by many other names.”

High Priestess: “I am she who is feared, yet she who would bring comfort. I am the end of all things and the beginning of all else. I would give you peace, freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before you. My gifts are rarely sought, yet freely I offer them. I am she who embraces every woman and every man. None shall escape my touch, but fear it not, for I hold the Cauldron of Life within my hands, the power of immortality for all those that would be reborn in your world.”

“I am feared, yet I am the balance in this world without end. Without me thou would not live again. I am the end of suffering, the release from all pain. I gather the spirits who have left your world and offer them a place in it once more. I am the mystery of the end, and the wonder of beginnings.”

“And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire. Blessed Be.”

(My “Charge of the Goddess of Death” uses bits of my 2012 Samhain Ritual and parts of Doreen Valiente’s traditional “Charge of the Goddess,” especially the last paragraph.)

crowningthedarkgod

Drawing Down the God
High Priestess stands before the High Priest. She looks him square in the eye and he raises his hands above his head to draw forth the power of the god. Priestess raises her hands as well and says:

“Dread Lord of Shadows, God of Death, Giver of Life, open wide I pray thee, the Gate through which we all must pass. Let our dear ones who have gone before return to us this night to share their love and wisdom. And when our time comes, as it must, O thou Comforter, Counselor, Giver of Peace and Rest; we will enter your realms gladly and unafraid. For we know that when rested and refreshed among our dear ones, we will be reborn by your grace and the grace of Me who art Queen of the Dead and the Great Mother of us all. Let it be in the same place and the same time as our beloved ones, and may we meet, and know, and remember, and love them again. Descend O Lover and Loved into this thy servant and priest.”

“Blessed be thy feet, that have brought the to the old ways.” (kisses feet)
“Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar.” (kisses knee)
“Blessed be thy phallus, without which we would not be.” (kisses phallus)
“Blessed be thy heart, formed in strength.” (kisses breasts)
“Blessed be thy lips, that shall under the sacred names.” (kisses lips)

“I Invoke and beseech Thee, O Father of us all, Dread Lord of Shadows, God of Death and Giver of Life. By seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit, by Life and Love, do I invoke Thee to descend into the body of thy servant and Priest.”

Arrival of the God
High Priestess: “Let all come forward now and show proper respect and reverence for He who is the Dread Lord of Shadows, God of Death, Giver of life.”

(High Priestess bows to the God, and coveners repeat, everyone coming up to where he stands in circle. Alternately the God may choose to walk around and greet each covener individually, when one draws down deity anything can happen.)

Charge of the God of Death (in case the God doesn’t fully show up.)
“I stand at the end of all things, and the beginning of all that is new. I take, and I give. I am the spark of life and he who extinguishes all. I stand with you in this journey and will walk with you upon the next. I am he who gives release from pain and brings to you all that is pleasurable. My touch is feared yet my hand is readily grasped. I rend, I rip, I tear. I love, I lift, I embrace.”

(If a drawing down is successful The God may choose to address the coven. If it’s not successful the High Priest can read this short “Charge of the God of Death.” I’ve also seen fully drawn down deities prefer to read whatever “Charge” has been prepared for them. My “Death Charge” uses a few bits of Crowley’s “Hymn to Pan” but most of it is from my pen/keyboard.)

The Gates of Death
High Priest: “I go now with the power of the Dread Lord of Shadows to open the portal to the Summerlands so that we might all experience reunion with those who have gone before. My Priestess will lead you when each of you are ready.”

IMG_1918Priest goes to open the portal. In our case the portal is located at the end of our hallway. There is a curtain in front of it so that people may commune with their loved ones privately. Throughout the ritual the Priest stands just outside this curtain. The portal area is set up with a small table containing pictures of loved ones and candles. There is a basket there to place letters to the beloved dead. When each covener leaves the Priest hands them a token taken from a bag and selected by The God-in other words the Priest should rely on divine intuition when picking the token. Some of this explained better below.

After the Priest leaves the Priestess addresses the coven:

“There are always so many things we wish to say when reuniting with those that have gone before us, but words often fail us. Our speech is replaced by tears; our emotions over-powering nearly all else. Before we stand before the veil, I ask that you take a moment to write a few words to your beloved dead. Tell them that you love them, that you miss them, and that a part of them lives upon this world, because nothing and no one is truly gone if they are but remembered.”

“When you are done writing down those things within your heart you wish to share, roll up your letter and tie it up with string. Before finishing you may wish to reflect upon those you have lost, or to look upon them on our northern altar. When I see that you are ready I shall lead you to the portal and our Dread Lord of Shadows.”

Hopefully the reflection and letter writing stops a mad dash to the door and to the God, and that the one on one time at the portal is allowed to proceed smoothly, without a line of people forming for the High Priestess to attend to.

“Before reunion with your beloved death you may be challenged by the God at the outside of the veil. Remember always our pass word: ‘in perfect love and perfect trust,’ and if he were to ask a question of your heart, remember to always reply true.”

Slowly then, all the coveners write letters to their dead and then approach the God and the portal. When all who seek reunion have journeyed; the High Priestess indicates to the Priest that it is time to return to the coven. Before making his way back into the circle he must close the portal and bid farewell to the spirits who remain.

“I now close this entry way from the land and realm of spirit. What was torn asunder is once more whole. So I say this in the names of the The Lord and Lady. So mote it be!”

after the portalIMG_1999The High Priestess leads the Priest back to the circle.

High Priestess: “Well have you done our servant and Priest. You have opened the door to the Summerlands and led our journey this Samhain night. With the portal now closed we welcome you back to us.”

Priestess kisses Priest upon the lips.

High Priestess: “While Samhain is a time to reunite with those that we have lost, it also allows us to look inward and to find the things there worth celebrating. The fields may lie fallow, but the touch of the Lord and Lady are always with us. The heart quickens, the pulse races and we celebrate what it means to be alive. While we have journeyed to the edge of the soul’s rest, that rest is not yet for us. Even in the time of the greatest darkness, there is also the time of greatest light.

Blessed Be!”

The Great Rite/Cakes and Ale
High Priestess: “The days grow shorter, the night grow colder, but the gods have not forgotten us. Life is ever present, even when the darkness grows.”

High Priest: “Life is more than a gift, it is a promise. All that dies shall be reborn.”

High Priestess: “We now celebrate the most ancient of magics, the magic of joining.”

High Priest: “The athame is to the Lord”

High Priestess: “As the cup is to the Lady.”

Both: “United in Life and abundance. Blessed Be!”

greatrite9High Priestess: “We now shall bless this bread and this drink as it was done in days of old, when Pagans and Witches were forced to hide their art.”

High Priest: “In the names of the Lord and Lady we bless these cakes.”

High Priestess Touches athame to either the cakes or the plate they are being served upon.

High Priestess: “In the names of the Lord and Lady we bless this drink.”

High Priest touches his athame to the top of the cup. Cakes and drink are now passed around the circle.

Goodbye to the Gods and the Beloved Dead

High Priestess: We thank the Lady, the Great Mother, the Eternal Crone for being with us tonight in our circle. Remind us of your beauty and your love in the days ahead. Help us to find the strength to honor you as much in the darkness as we do in the light. Hail and farewell!

High Priest: We thank The Horned One, Dread Lord of Shadows, God of Birth and Death for being with us tonight in our circle. We thank you for opening your realm to us. As death comes to our lands, help us to remember that you are a god of beginnings as well as endings. The Wheel turns and as you sink down into the shadows we say to you Hail and farewell!

High Priestess: Dearest Ancestors, those who have departed this world, thank you for joining us this night. Let us never forget what you mean to us as you retreat once more into the veil that seperates the two worlds. Hail and farewell!

Dismissing the Watchtowers
(Just like the beginning calls to the Watchtowers, but in reverse order and with the banish pentagram made before saying “Hail and farewell.”)

North: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North, ye Powers of Earth,, Spirits of Mountain and Plains, you have joined us in our rites and have guarded our circle well. We thank you for joining us this sacred night. Hail and farewell!”

(Participants repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

West: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West, ye Powers of Water; Spirits of Death and Initiation, you have joined us in our rites and have guarded our circle well. We thank you for joining us this sacred night. Hail and farewell!“

(Participants repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

South: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South, ye Powers of Fire; Spirits of Illumination and Desire, you have joined us in our rites and have guarded our circle well. We thank you for joining us this sacred night. Hail and farewell!”

(Participants repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

East: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East, ye Powers of Air; Spirits of Clear Will and Knowledge, you have joined us in our rites and have guarded our circle well. We thank you for joining us this sacred night. Hail and farewell!”

(Participants repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

merrypartTaking Down the Circle
The circle is taken down by walking widdershins around it three times with sword outstretched.

“I conjured thee oh circle of power as a meeting place to shield us against all wickedness and evil. Thou has served us well, and now we undo this boundary between the world of mortal and those of the mighty ones. We seal forth the entry way from the realm of spirit. All will now be as it once was, and what was once here has been dismissed in the names of the Lord and the Lady. So mote it be!”

Closing
“Another year has passed us and another year full of promise and hope stands before us. With the blessings of the Lord and Lady, the love of those around us, and the memories of those who have left us, we go from this sacred place knowing of the bounty yet to come in our lives. Merry, merry part, and merry meet again! And may the gods preserve The Craft!”

Photo Credits
Yes, the people in these pictures might look familiar. I’m in some of these, and the woman I’m kissing is my wife. Jenya Beachy who writes here at Patheos is in some of them too as is Angus McMahan who should write here more. I love both of those people. The photographs were taken by Michael Baxter, mostly known for his bellydance photography (my wife the bellydancer knew of him before we even moved out here).


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