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Samhain: Feast of the Dead

Pre Ritual Briefing/Claiming & Saining

A druid briefs the public on the general outline of the rite, and runs through the words (spoken) and tune (sung) of the chants being used. Meanwhile, other druids claim & sain the ritual space.

Grove Attunement

The Druids lead a meditation intended to attune the company to the Earth and Sky powers and to join the company in spirit. This might conclude with an intoning or a proper chant or hymn.

Processional:

Song: Come We Now as a People
Come we now as a people, to gather at the sacred Well,
Come we now as a people, to gather in the warmth and the light of the fire.

Opening Prayers

A: Earth Mother:

An offering of Grain is made to the offering bowl, saying:
Danu beloved ancestral mother of prosperity and plenty
From whose starry womb the green earth springs
You who are the bearer of all life
We pray you bless and uphold this rite. Danu, Earth Mother, accept our offering!

B: Invocation to Brighid

Spirit of Bardic Inspiration:
Brighid, O' lovely lady of the green mantle,
Goddess of poetry, of bards, of fire and fertility,
Brighid, we pray you; as our thoughts form words from inspiration and flow into melodies - let your flame flicker in our hearts and compel us in our work.

C: Outdwellers:

An offering is made to the south of the Grove, saying:
Ancient dark ones, we make this offering to you.
You who dwell in the outer dark
You who stood against the gods
You twisted and misshapen
You cold of heart and dim of mind
Take this offering and trouble not our working.
Likewise we acknowledge in ourselves
Weakness and perversity
Hatred and spite
Cowardice and ignorance
We contemplate these ills and enemies and for this sacred time, we set them aside! Outdwellers, accept our offering!

D: Purification

Fire and Water: Druids draw water from the Well and light a censer from the Fire. They quickly cense and asperge the company, while the company chants:
By the might of the waters
And the light of the fires
This grove is made whole and holy!

Triads: Fire, Well & Tree

Silver is offered to the Well, Oil to the Fire, and Incense and Water to the Bile as the Company sings.
Song: Portal Song:
Chorus
By Fire and by Water, between the Earth and Sky,
We stand like the World-Tree rooted deep, crowned high.

Come we now to the Well, the eye and the mouth of Earth,
Come we now to the Well, and silver we bring,
Come we now to the Well, the waters of rebirth,
Come we now to the Well, together we sing:

Chorus

We will kindle a Fire, Bless all, and with harm to none,
We will kindle a Fire, and offering pour,
We will kindle a Fire, A light 'neath the Moon & Sun,
We will kindle a fire, our spirits will soar.

Chorus

Gather we at the Tree, the root & the crown of all,
Gather we at the Tree, Below & above,
Gather we at the Tree, Together we make our call,
Gather we at the Tree, In wisdom & love.

Chorus

Statement Of Purpose And Precedent

We gather here on the Feast of Samhain, the End and Beginning of the Sacred Year, the Time of Turning, of twilight, when the Dark Time begins. This is the Last Harvest. The fields lie empty, sinking into Winters Sleep and our larders hold what gain we have reaped from our labors.

As our forebears did, so do we do now, and so may our descendants do in time. We are here to offer worship to the Lord of the House of the Dead and to the Queen of Phantoms; to the Gods, the Dead and the Sidhe, and reverence to our honored dead here on this, their Feast. We offer to Donn the Dark One, the Antlered God who offers hospitality and peace to those bound for the Ancestors' Country. We offer to Morrigan, the Great Queen of Battle and Sorcery, the Old Woman of Death and the Cauldron of Rebirth.

In this Season of Change we honor the Holy Dead as the ancients did, and seek the omen for the coming year while the veil between the Worlds is thin.

Now let us open the Ways Between...

Opening The Gates:

O Manannan, Lord of the Gates, Lord of Wisdom, open the ways for us. We walk in your holy ways; we walk the Sacred Road. Share your magic with us; ward us as we walk in safety. Manannan Mac Lir, accept our sacrifice!

Gate Trance (after the ritual opening of the Gates):

Now, we turn our minds to Magic... make yourself comfortable, straighten your spine, and breath deep... Renew your center... Earth below and Sky above... feel the currents of light and dark... flowing in your flesh, and in our Grove... feel the presence of our circle... see before you our simple Hallows, the shining Fire, the dark within the Cauldron... the currents of Fire and Water swirling around the Bile... See, with your vision's eye, by imagination and by will... see rising from the Hallows a mist... Silver-grey, warm and thick... rising to swirl around your form... rising around your hips... rising around your chest... rising to enclose your head... Filling our Grove with Magic's Mist... the Mist of the Borderland... that separates the common world from hidden truth... feel the mist grow thick behind your back...

An offering of oil is given to the Fire. The Druid then conjures the Gates, making an opening triskel on the Fire and Well, saying:
Now, lord of ways, join your magic with mine and let the fire open as a gate, let the well open as a gate, let the tree be the crossroads of all worlds. Open as a road to our voices and to the spirits. Let the gates be open!

All: Let the gates be open!

The Mist... feel it thicken, feel it swirl and shift and rise upwards... surrounding and encompassing us as the gates to the otherworlds... Breathe deep, and feel the flow of Light and Shadow in your flesh... breathe deep and feel the Mist around you... flowing in and through and out of the Gates... Let the Mist enclose you, turning your mind inward... turning your eye toward the Gates themselves... let us build a vision in the Light and Shadow of the Gates at the Center... at the Boundary of All Worlds...

Close your eyes if you wish, or let them focus into the Otherworld... the vision at first moves quickly... You see glimpses of forests and rivers and the plains of the Inner Worlds... fragments of scenes from visions and dreams... All the while your eye is drawn onward... drawn now downward, into the Earth, passing along tree root and watercourse, down through veins of quartz... into the Deeps... toward the Light... Now the vision resolves... you see before you a portal made of three great stones... two upright and a great capstone, with darkness all around it... yet within it there is light...

You gaze through the Gate.... your vision focusing into a cavernous room... vast and deep... perhaps a timbered hall, perhaps a corbeled dome of ancient stones... as you enter, moving surely through the door, the Hall seems empty of guests... It is furnished with a pair of thrones before a huge round hearth... a fire burns low in the pit, and the shadows dance on the walls... As you watch the shadows you realize that every inch of the walls are covered with shrines, images and carvings, all depicting some aspect of the Powers... This is our vision-shadow of the Feasting Hall of the Gods... the image into which we draw the presence of the worshipped... now let us give offering to the Powers of Blessing, that our work may be made strong...

Kindred Offerings

The druids make proper offerings to each of the kindreds, standing at the fire.

Ancestors

The children of the earth call out to the mighty dead. Hear us, our ancestors, our kindred. To all whose bones lie in this land, whose hearts are tied to it, whose memory holds it; ancient tribes of this place, we offer you welcome. To all of our grandmothers and grandfathers, our own beloved dead, blood-kin and heart-kin, ancient tribes of our blood, we offer you welcome. To all those elder wise ones who guide their people, poets and seers, judges and magicians, wise women and men of ancient days, we offer you welcome. So, o mighty ones, we call to you as our kin, in the love of the all-mother, to join in our magic. Come to our fire, spirits; meet us at the boundary. Guide and ward us as we walk the elder ways. Ancestors, accept our sacrifice!
All: Ancestors, accept our sacrifice!

An offering of food and/or drink is made onto the ground or into a shaft

Nature Spirits

The children of earth call out to the spirits of this land. Hear us, companions and teachers. To all our allies, kindreds of stone and stream, crystal and fertile soil, pools and mighty seas, kins of the earth, we offer you welcome. To all our allies, kindreds of the growing green, herb and flower, shrub and mighty trees, root and stem and fruit. Green kins, we offer you welcome. To all our allies, kindreds of fur and feather and scale, all who walk or fly or swim or crawl, we offer you welcome. So, o noble ones, we call to you as our allies, in the joy of life upon earth, to join in our magic. Come to our fire, spirits; meet us at the boundary. Guide and ward us as we walk the elder ways. Land-spirits, accept our sacrifice!
All: Land-spirits, accept our sacrifice!

An offering of herbs, flowers and/or trinkets is scattered around the nemetons edge or hung on the tree

Deities

The children of earth call out to the shining ones. Hear us, eldest and brightest. To all the shining ones, first children of the mother, wisest and mightiest, loving and comforting, gods and goddesses, we offer you welcome. To the gods and goddesses of this place, ancient and powerful, known to us or unknown, gods of this place, we offer you welcome. To all the deities of those here gathered, you whom we worship, you who bless our lives, o patrons and matrons, we offer you welcome. So, O shining ones, we call to you as our elders, in reverence and love, to join in our magic. Come to our fire, shining ones; meet us at the boundary. Guide and ward us as we walk the elder ways. Deities, accept our sacrifice!
All: Deities, accept our sacrifice!

An offering of scented oil is poured on the fire
See these beings now at our fire. See them ringing our Grove, mingling their energies with ours. The Gods, Dead and Sidhe, joining us as we sing:
Song: Kindred Song
Gods & Dead & Mighty Sidhe, Powers of earth & sky & sea.
By fire & well, by sacred tree, Offering we make to ye.

Key Offerings

Druid refreshes the vision-of the hall, saying:
Recall now, the vision-shadow of the Feasting Hall of the Gods. The pair of thrones, the fire burning in the pit, the shadows dancing on the wall... Welcome to the Shining Goddesses & Gods. The beloved Ancestors, and the Noble Sidhe. To all of you gathered on the Honor feast of summer's end, we bid you join us in worshipping the Morrigan and Donn, here in this hallowed place.

Honoring the Patron Deities

The Invocation of Donn

In the season of darkening, the Lord of the House of Death receives the Spirits in his Hall. He is Donn the Dark One, called Cernunnos the Horned One. He is the First Ancestor, the Torc Bearer, and The Guardian of the Cauldron of Plenty. Hear us now, Horned One, Dark one, Receiver of the Dead, Granter of Rest, Patron of the Feast in the Land of the Dead.

We your children pray you to come in, to let your gaze fall upon this Sacred Ground, to indwell our rite and give us your blessing. We make due offering to you. We give you...

Offering made into shaft or offering bowl
Silver, that you grant the wealth of the Underworld, Source of All Potential.

Offering made to the Fire Oil, that the richness of the Land be renewed as our own lives are renewed.

Offering placed at the foot of the Tree Horn, that the beings that know you may bless us in the Season of Hunting.
Be welcome among us, Donn; Dark One, accept our sacrifice!
All: Donn, accept our sacrifice!

The vision-image of Donn is established, present in the Hall-vision.

The Invocation of Morrigan

As the Earth falls into sleep the Queen of Spirits is choosing those who will go to the Cauldron of Rebirth. She is Morrigan, the Great Queen of Phantoms, and the Chooser of the Slain. She is the Battle Raven, the Red Woman, Mistress of the Cauldron. Hear us now, Red One, Great Queen, Lady of the Reaping, Cauldron-Witch of Sorcery and Prophecy. We your children pray that you be with us, that you look kindly upon our holy rite, that you come into our Grove and give us your blessing. We give due offering to you. We give you...

Stone given to the shaft
Precious stone, that the Bones of the Earth may be clothed again in life.

Wine given to the fire Red Wine, blood of the land might be renewed through death and birth...

Black feathers given to the tree
Feathers, that your raven Eye watches over us in the Season of Sleep.
Be welcome among us Morrigan; Great Queen, accept our sacrifice!
All: Morrigan, accept our sacrifice!

The image of Morrigan is established in the vision-hall.

Honoring the Ancestors

On the feast of Samhain the veils between the worlds are thin. We call to our Beloved Dead, the blessed Ancestors, to join our feast and receive due offering. Come to the Gates, honored ones; hear our call, we your children who remember. We offer you our worship, our reverence and our love.
You who fill the empty womb, you who cause the seed to spring, you who fill the breast with milk, receive now these offerings, made in your honor:

Apples, the Fruit of Life and Death.
Pork, the flesh of the Sacred Sow.
Hazelnuts, concentrated meat of wisdom.
We offer these...
To the ancient heroes of the Pagan World, those men and women who did the bidding of the Gods for the good of the folk.
Some of each offering made to the shaft

To the Wise:
naming of nine Ancient Wise Leaders and Priests

To the Warriors:
naming of nine Ancient Warriors and Protectors

To the Sustainers:
naming of nine ancient Hospitaliers and Bards

Offerings made

To our own Beloved Dead, Grandmothers-and-Fathers, family and friends who have gone ahead, we honor you and grieve for you. To the honored Dead of the passed year; those women and men of our folk who inspired and guided our whole world.

The Roll of the Past Years Dead are read from the Grove Book of the Dead

Offering made

To all of you we give these fruits and meats that you may feast in joy in the Land of the Dead.
Note on the Praise Offerings
While the Praise Offerings are made, a wreath is passed among the people and all who wish tie a black ribbon onto the wreath in commemoration of their own dead. This wreath is then given to the fire at the Prayer of Sacrifice.

Sacrifice:

All are led to send their energy through the gates to the powers, meditating on the deities and the nobles. The druids prepare the final offerings and say:

So we have given of our love and our wealth to the lord and lady. Now let our voices arise on the fire, let our voices sound in the well let our words pass the boundary to the otherworlds. O Donn, o Morrigan, we give you our love, our respect, our devotion as we pray you...
All: Morrigan and Donn, accept our sacrifice!

Now we have called the company of the Powers to our Grove... as they are gathered in their Hall, we are gathered around our Fire... beside our Well... in the shadow of the World Pillar... here and now it is proper for the Cauldron of Blessing to appear...
For it is the Cauldron of blessing that gives and is replenished, promotes and is enlarged, nourishes and is given life, the Cauldron will infuse us with that which the Gods deem proper, and necessary. To you we have given, and from you we would receive. Reveal to us now, our Blessing...

The Omen

The Druid leads a re-centering, while the omen is prepared on a tray
See now in the vision's eye a shimmering rising from the Fire in the Hall of the Shining Ones...

A spiraling flow of Light and Shadow that seems to coalesce, to solidify into the image of Donn, Lord of Animals seated in the realm of the Ever Young, and the Morrigan, Queen of Phantoms and Initiatrix of Heroes.

Two ritualists have been sitting in chairs, bent over with cloak and hood about them. They sit up and reveal faces concealed by the masks of the Donn and Morrigan.
The Morrigan speaks:
On this night that stands at the rim of dark and light, the veil between the worlds is thin. Know that on this night above all others the Shining Ones and Ancestors hear the prayers of mortals and on this night the kenning of their will is most easily obtained. A gift calls for a gift! Offerings and sacrifice you have made. Learn now the wyrd of the folk who have come to this hall seeking the blessings of the mighty.

The omen tray is placed before Donn and the Omen is drawn. A Druid reveals the results with very basic, simple meanings. The Druids make brief speculation as to the results.
Donn speaks:
Hear now the nature of the blessing the Gods see fit to bestow upon us.

Donn continues with a poetic/prosaic interpretation of the Omen. When done, he says:
What use have you for: ________________?
What use have you for: ________________?
What use have you for: ________________?
Meditate now on how you will receive this blessing.

The Morrigan speaks:
The blessing of the Gods is poured from the caldron of mystery, the caldron of plenty, the caldron of rebirth.
Do the Children of the Earth desire the blessing?
(All respond)
Do you come in honor to the Elder Ways?
(All respond)
Do you desire that every one of us be Blessed?
(All respond)
 

The Blessing:

The Donn and Morrigan bow their heads and resettle themselves. As the Druid leads the Caldron meditation they slip out of the chairs leaving the masks on them and blend in with the crowd once more. Meanwhile, the Druid speaks (continuing previous trance):
See in your minds eye, the Caldron of Blessing. It is exalted and is ennobled, round and deep... light and dark are so blended in it that none could say if it were gold or blackest iron... Its rim is graven with runic emblems and Humans and animals alike cavort about its' sides in an everlasting dance of life and death... It seems supported by the light and heat of the flames... The Light shows that every surface of the cauldron is covered with images, symbols and runes... waiting to be deciphered... It floats just above the eyes of the folk... the Cauldron in the Inner Grove... from which it is our will that we all draw blessing...

Children of the Earth, in this season of magic you are offered a boon! Choose now, and hold this prayer in your mind and heart as we draw at last, the Blessing. Let none drink of this vessel holding ill will to any here in their hearts! Let this be the cup of peace and fellowship!

Hallowing the Waters

The Druid draws water from the Cauldron into a cup and elevates it, saying:
We draw water from the magic caldron; we fill the Blessing Bowl. O Mighty, Noble and Shining ones we have honored you. Now we ask for a Blessing as a gift calls for a gift. Now let us enchant the Blessing Cup, that our work may bear true fruit. This is the outpouring of Blessings from the Mighty Ones, from all the Powers, from the Caldron of Wonders! Drink we now the draught of the Gods. Drink in Wisdom, Wealth and Strength, so that we may live our lives in truth, joy and honor.

So, O Mighty, Noble and Shining Ones, hear and answer us! Hallow these waters Donn and Morrigan!
BEHOLD THE WATERS OF LIFE!

The cup is passed in the usual way.
Song: Pour the Waters
Pour the waters, raise the cup,
drink your share of wisdom deep,
Strength and love now fill us up,
as the Elder Ways we keep.

Final Blessing:

When all have drunk, the Druids lead a final meditation:

The Ale of Blessing flows in us, filling us with the magic of Morrigan and Donn. As the year turns, let us welcome the quiet of the Dark. Let the stillness of the land calm and satisfy our spirits, allowing us to receive the Harvest's Bounty. Let the gain of the passing year be ours, to fill our lives with contentment. Let us welcome the Dead who wish to return to the living world, even as we remember those who depart. May we rest content as we pass the threshold of new beginnings...

Now let us rest in silence, with the Power of the Between in us, and know the blessing as it manifests itself in our lives...

Silence, for a time

Works

Investiture of Officers for the coming year

Closing

When all is done, the druids lead a resettling, then begin to close the grove, saying:
We have been blessed by Donn and Morrigan, offering we have given and Blessings we have received by the Mighty, Noble and Shining Ones. But now it is time to return to our common world, to leave behind the place of the Cauldron...

Remember the Hall of Donn... the presence of Morrigan... the shining inheritance of the Cauldron... remember the Mist of Vision... that brought us to this place... Now let the Mist come again... let it rise around us... rise around you... the vision of the Cauldron dims... as the Mist closes around you...

Remember our Grove... the Fire, the Well, the Tree... your vision returns to the Center of the Worlds, the Sacred Grove where we began...
The Mist dissolves again... and we are in our Grove together... returned truly and well to the common world... with the Blessing of the Gods in us all.

With joy in our hearts let us carry the magic from our sacred grove into our lives and work. Each time we offer to the powers they be come stronger and more aware of our needs and our worship.

So now as we prepare to depart let us give thanks to those who have aided us.

O Morrigan and Donn,
All: We thank you!
O Gods and Goddesses of elder days!
All: We thank you!
O spirits of this land!
All: We thank you!
O ancestors, our kindred! All: We thank you!
To all those powers that have aided us, we say again...
All: We thank you!

Druids renew the company's centering once more:
Finally, see the receding mist fade completely away, the Well, Fire and Tree becoming the common tools they were before, and remember that while our grove fades, the vision and memories of our rite are there always for you to use, and to carry with you in our common world.

The druids go to the center, bearing the wand. They speak:
O gatekeeper, warder of the ways, for your presence and power, your guiding and guarding we say...

All: We thank you!

Druid makes the closing sign over the hallows with the wand, saying:
Now by the keeper of gates and by our magic
We end what we began.
Now let the fire be flame
Let the well be water;
Let all be as it was before.
Let the gates be closed!
All: Let the gates be closed!

Then any unused offerings, return flow, incense, water etc. is given to the earth, saying:
Mother of all, to you we return all we leave unused. Uphold us now in the world as you have in our rite.
All: We thank you!

Go now, children of the earth, in peace and blessings. The rite is ended!

The bard leads a proper chant as the company processes out of the Grove.