Spiraling Into The Center

Spiraling Into The Center October 6, 2015

We normally write about daily rituals and devotional practices, the kind we all can do if we are so called. Today, however, we’re going to focus on one of the largest, longest running public rituals we know of or have ever had the pleasure to participate in – Reclaiming’s 36th Annual Spiral Dance. The intention for this year’s Spiral Dance is “Rooted in the Wisdom of the Old Ones, we Re-member our place in the Timeless Dance and step into Action once more.'”

The Spiral Dance began in 1979 as a way to celebrate and promote the release of Starhawk’s ubiquitous and influential book of the same name. This Samhain gathering has grown from just a handful of Reclaiming witches that were part of the original Reclaiming Collective to a stadium-sized ritual with (more often than not) fifty ritualists, a hundred or so volunteers and a thousand or more attendees. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to be in the presence of a thousand pagans, witches and seekers all assembled to pay homage to their own Beloved Dead and the Mighty Dead of the Craft. The two of us are truly blessed to have been invited to hold roles in this year’s ritual. We’ll be invoking and honoring The Might Dead of the Craft.

Picture Courtesy of Michael Rauner
Picture Courtesy of Michael Rauner

Without giving away too much of the magic, the basic premise of the ritual is to gather and honor our lost beloveds and meet with them as the veil thins. The names of those beloved ones that have passed since last Samhain are called out during the ritual and they are invited as treasured guests. Hundreds of names are read somberly. Every so often a bell chimes and the phrase “what is remembered lives” swirls about the place.

The Spiral Dance is more than just a dance though. It’s a 36 year old  spell and that’s an important piece of the magic to remember. Witches gather together with an intention. We focus our thoughts and energies on the pressing issues of the day. We ritualize making a world that is different, equitable, clean, free with resources and access for all. It’s a place for activists and world changers to replenish themselves and find allies to support them in the work for the coming year.

The ritual is punctuated by beautiful music some of which has been sung for all thirty-six years. As an innovative tradition, the music is never quite the same twice, but the chorus holds over certain pieces from year to year. And there are altars everywhere. Altars created for Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Altars created calling for an end to police violence. Altars celebrating the lives of trans people taken far too soon by murder or suicide. Altars lamenting the desecration of First Nations lands. Altars to deities. Altars for our Beloved Dead. Altars for our Mighty Dead. Altars everywhere.

And then, of course, there is the Spiral Dance itself. There is something wonderfully disorienting about looking into the eyes of each person as one whirls around in a giant double spiral. The singing, the repetition of the song “Let it begin with each step we take. Let it begin with each change we make. Let it begin with reach chain we break. Let it begin every time we awake” is simply glorious.There is an indescribable, palpable charge that runs through the ritual site and through the hands of so many people joined in one place to participate in this singular, ecstatic piece of magic. We’ve heard many tales of people seeing their Beloved Dead joining in the dance!

If you are able, We do recommend attending this ritual at least once. It is truly Otherworldy! Here’s a link to the event details. You can even purchase tickets here – http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2266777


To keep on what we’re doing, You can like our Facebook page at The Witches Next Door.

note: the spiral staircase picture can be found here

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