Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sacred Samhain

It is the time of The Last Harvest, a time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, a time to celebrate and a time to reflect – it is the sacred time of Samhain.

The Earth will soon nod a sad farewell to the God, but Wiccans know that He will once again be reborn of the Goddess, and the eternal cycle of life through the turning of the sacred Wheel of the Year will continue. It is a time to not only reflect on death, but on rebirth.

It is a time of reflection, it is when Wiccans and Neo-Pagans honor the Ancient Ones, as well as all of those we love but who have gone on before us. Divination comes to the forefront, and our gifts of spiritual-metaphysical “seeing” takes on special significance during this time.

To Wiccans and other Neo-Pagans, Samhain is the Night of the Witches, a profound Sabbat to hold fast to the Goddess and the God, and to celebrate New Year’s. The modern world recognizes the holiday by its secular name: Halloween.

Samhain, (pronounced “Sow-een or Sow-in”) means "End of Summer," and is the third and final Harvest festival of the year. It also the Sabbat that commemorates when the dark half of the year takes hold.

It is generally celebrated on Oct. 31, but some traditions prefer Nov. 1. It is one of the two "spirit-nights" each year, the other is Beltane. It is a magickal interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted.

Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is at its easiest at this time, for they journey through our world on their way to the Summerland. It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother, and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone (the third aspect of the Triple Goddess), and her aged Consort.

Originally the "Feast of the Dead" was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the "wandering dead." Today, a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set at the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. The “Wee Folke” became very active, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. Traveling after dark was not advised. People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits.

This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person's fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.

Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Third Harvest, Samana, Day of the Dead, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), and Samhuinn. Also known as All Hallow's Eve, (that day actually falls on Nov. 7), and Martinmas (that is celebrated Nov. 11), thus Samhain is now generally considered the Witch's New Year.

Symbolism and Correspondences Associated With Samhain:

Concepts: Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death.

Animals/Mythical Creatures: Bats, Cats, Dogs, Pooka, Goblin, Medusa, Sidhe, Harpies.

Symbols: Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms (Brooms.)

Herbs: Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Comfrey, Dandelion, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Mugwort, Ferns, Flax, Fumitory, Mullein, Dragon’s Blood, Thistles, Oak Leaves, Sage, Straw, Wormwood (burn to protect from roving spirits).

Food: Turnips, Apples, Pumpkin Pie, Bread, Pomegranate, Squash, Hazelnuts, Corn, Cranberries, Gourds, Nuts, Mulled Wines, Cider, Herbal Tea, Ale, Beef, Pork, Poultry.

Incense/Oil: Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg, Frankincense, Basil, Yarrow, Lilac, Camphor, Clove, Wood Rose, Wormwood, Myrrh, Patchouli, Apple, Sage, Ylang-Ylang.

Colors/Candles: Black (which wards off negativity), Orange (good luck), White, Silver, Gold, Indigo, Homemade Apple or Mint Scented Herbal Candles, Jack-o’-Lanterns.

Stones/Gemstones: All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian, Carnelian.

Tools/Symbols/Decorations: Black Altar Cloth, Jack-o’-Lanterns, Oak Leaves, Acorns, Straw, Balefire, Besom (Broom), Black Cat, Black Crescent Moon, Cauldron, Divination/Scrying Tools, Mask, Bare Branches, Animal Bones, Hazelwood, Depictions of Ancestors/Loved Ones.

Goddesses: The Crone, Hekate (Greek), Cerridwen (Welsh-Scottish), Arianrhod (Welsh), Caillech (Irish-Scottish), Baba Yaga (Russian), Al-Ilat (persian), Bast (Egyptian), Persephone (Greek), Hel (Norse), Kali(Hindu), all Death and Otherworld Goddesses.

Gods: Horned Hunter (European), Kernunnos (Greco-Celtic), Osiris (Egyptian), Hades (Greek), Gwynn ap Nudd (British), Anubis (Egyptian), Coyote Brother (Native American), Loki (Norse), Dis (Roman), Arawn (Welsh), Sacrificial/Dying/Aging Gods, Death and Otherworld Gods.

Rituals/Magick: Honoring/Consulting Ancestors, Releasing the Past (old behaviors that hold you back, etc.), Power, Understanding Death and Rebirth, Entering the Underworld, Divination, Dance of the Dead, Fire Calling, Past Life Recall, Bonfires.

Element/Gender: Water/Male.

Threshold: Midnight.


I am an Eclectic Solitary Wiccan, so celebrations with a lot of people – even for Samhain – are just not for me. Also, I’m disabled, so dancing around bonfires is also out. So, I have adapted/combined a series of Samhain Rites into a Solitary Practice. I am presenting it below as an example of a celebration only. I have also included some additional prayers and charges that might be useful. Samhain honors the Dark Goddess and Dark God. My personal choices are to honor the Dark Goddess Hekate and Dark God Kernunnos, but select a pantheon that speaks to your spiritual tradition.

Feel free to take what ye need, fellow spiritual travelers – an harm to none!


The Samhain Sabbat Rite

What you will need:

Altar with a Pentacle (a five-pointed star – Pentagram – within an enclosing circle)
Three Black Candles
Cauldron (real, not plastic) or similar cast-iron pot
Athame, Wand or Staff
Besom (broom)
Silver and Gold Candles (Illuminator Candles)
Bowl of Water
Anointed Oil and Clean White Cloth or Napkin
Censer and Incense
Candle Snuffer
Drumming Stick (NOT an Athame/Wand)
Slips of Paper Edged in Black (Note: Handwrite the name of an ancestor/loved one you wish to honor on a separate slip of black-edged paper. Take time to meditate, and prepare them in advance.)
Slips of Paper (Note: Handwrite on individual slips of paper behaviors or anything else that has been holding you back, and that you wish to release during the New Year, or behaviors-things you wish to add. Again, take time to meditate mindfully, and prepare them in advance.)
Pumpkin or other seasonal Altar decorations
Crete (Dried herbs)
Offering Bowl (With stones or nuts)
Offering Plate (With bread or other snack)



Most Wiccans take a ritual bath or shower before they begin any Magickal rite. That is especially important prior to a significant Sabbat like Samhain. I like to put on clean clothes with a Samhain theme after I’m all scrubbed, sometimes even a witchy hat!

Important Note: The Altar, and all of your magickal tools, should be within the area where you will be casting a Sacred Circle. Once the circle is closed, it’s a pain to reopen it to go and get something you’ve forgotten, so take care in placing everything within the area you plan to do all of your magickal work.

When setting up the Altar, place three black candles for the Triple Moon Goddess prominently between the Silver and Gold Candles Illuminator Candles, and put an orange candle inside the Cauldron. I generally choose to place Cauldron, which has a greater role than in many rites, in the West Quadrant of the Altar.

Note: Place the remaining traditional Altar items (Chalice, Pentagram, water bowl, offering items) in their normal positions.

The placement of the cauldron depends on personal symbolic preference. If the cauldron is to have a candle in it, placing it in the southern quarter of the circle can be considered most appropriate since the south is the direction corresponding with the element of Fire. On the other hand, placing the cauldron in the western quarter can be considered just as appropriate for Samhain since it is the Feast of the Dead, and the west has long been considered to be the direction corresponding to the dwelling-place of departed spirits.

Next, use the Besom to symbolically brush away all of the negative energy from the area that you will be working your magick, including all Altar items and also from your clothes and body. Say:

Sweep, sweep with this broom
All bad out, out of this room.
Sweep, sweep all good in
The bad never ever here again.


Tout, tout, tout
Within and without
All negativity
Get out, out, out.


Note: It is important that you are grounded and open to spiritual energy before you cast the Sacred Circle. The following is a great exercise to do that. Imagine that you are a tree. First, stamp your feet on the ground to feel the substantial power of the Earth. Focus on feeling the Earth’s energy spreading upward, legs becoming the roots of a tree drawing direct power from the Earth, which travels up your legs and throughout all of the cells in your body and torso. This amazing energy spreads to your arms and hands (branches and leaves) then your head as it begins to flow out of your hands and back down to the ground, completing the circle (sphere.) It’s important to really get the energy flowing before starting.

Casting the Sacred Circle

If possible, you should hold your Samhain Ritual outside in the fresh air and elements. But, if this is impossible (which it always is for me, because of my disability), don’t worry about it, just perform the Rite at your indoor Altar.

When properly focused, image the boundaries of the circle you plan to cast. It really can be any size, but generally is at least six feet across. Most circles tend to be larger, about nine feet across, if the caster is doing so outside. If you’re inside and space is even more limited, select a size that is convenient for everything that you plan to use and to be doing. Since I’m disabled, my circles tend to be smaller.

If you are new to casting circles, it may be easier to actually put stones or some other maker (rope, etc.) on the ground or floor in advance to physically represent its flat, two-dimensional boundary.

Next, take the water from the Altar and walk the perimeter of the circle you have imagined in a clockwise (or doesil) direction, beginning at the WEST corner. As you walk, sprinkle water droplets and say:

As I walk this circle round, I cleanse and consecrate this ground.

Now, take the salt from the Altar and begin to walk the circle around clockwise again, sprinkling the salt, saying:

First with Water then with Earth, with negativity banished there’s joyous rebirth.

Finally, take the Censer from the Altar, light the incense, and begin walking the circle a third time clockwise, “smoking” the circle’s boundary as you say:

Next with Fire, then with Air, leaving only purity fair.


Take the Athame, wand or staff (I use an Athame, so will be using it throughout the remaining narrative) from the Altar and put it in your dominate hand. Meditate a moment to re-gather your power. Focus the power down your arm and into the Athame. Direct the Athame’s tip down at the ground beginning at the WEST Corner, then proceed around to “pull up” the circle’s three-dimensional boundary.

Specifically, begin by pointing the Athame downward, imaging it going through the floor or ground and into the earth. Next, raise the Athame gradually to heart level, finally raise it above your head, at an angle that progresses from outward to straight up.

Walk slowly, clockwise. Continue to use your focus and intent to “pull” the circle up. I envision the energy sparking from the earth into my body then out from my arm into the Athame and out in a beam of steady bright blue-white energy (the color of the energy I envision depends on the work planned). Truly SEE and FEEL the shimmering, flame of power pouring out of the Athame, the wonderful energy enveloping you and coming up and over your head as you walk, creating the three-dimensional protective “bubble” or sphere of cosmic strength. (Some Wiccans and Neo-Pagans forget that a magick circle should always be three-dimensional. They make the mistake of only cast it in two-dimensions, thus they and their magick is not protected and contained within, and is less effective.)

When done, you and your Altar are completely within the friendly confines of your Sacred Circle. Only bright, positive energy, the power of love, is inside this shimmering bubble/sphere. When the Sacred Circle is pulled up completely and you feel that it is properly cast and enforced, say:

I, (then repeat your own magickal name), conjure thee, O Circle of Power, to form my sacred meeting place; To harbor me, within this hour; outside of time, outside of space.

Let the pumpkin’s candle glare,
Into darkness everywhere;
Burn all evil from the air!

I call air for speed
Fire to cleanse
Earth to manifest
Spirit to sea
(Visualize the Sacred Circle energy)
as above, so below.

The circle is now cast.

Ring the Bell. Light first the Gold Illuminator Candle, then use its flame to light the Silver Illuminator Candle. (Note: Wait to light the black and orange candles.)

Once a circle is cast, it is preferable not to open it until all work is done. But, to safely exit create a door by using the Athame and cut a metaphysical ‘doorway.’ Leave the besom at this doorway, as it spiritually protects the circle from negativity until you return. When your return, go back in at the same area you left, bring the besom back in with you, then seal the circle back with the Athame. A lot of practitioners believe that you can leave and return the circle without having to do any of this, but that is how I was taught, so that I what I do.


The Statement of Purpose and Precedent

This should be read, or recited from memory:

Across the globe, we Wiccans gather on the Feast of Samhain, the End and Beginning of the Sacred Year, the Time of Turning when the Dark Time begins. This is the Last Harvest. The fields lie empty, sinking into Winter’s Sleep and our larders hold what gain we have reaped from our labors.

The Great Wheel of the Year has turned as summer has become fall and the light of the days are fading into the dark. Soon, we will be in wintertime, at peace with all that we have harvested this season so that we may go into our healing dream-time to restore our souls.

We meet within the blessed bounds of this Sacred Circle to celebrate passing from one season to the next, from the old year to the new, and from life to death to life reborn.

Thus, has the Wheel turned full cycle. Now, we look back for knowledge from the life that has just passed.

As one year ends and next begins, we hereby seek the Seed that will wait in the Womb of Winter.

So Mote it Be!

Now let us open the Way Between...

As our forebears did, so we do now, and so may our descendants do in times to come. We gather to offer devotion to the Lord of the House of the Dead, and to the Queen of Phantoms; to the Gods, the Dead and the Sidhe (pronounced Shee); and especially to our honored dead here on the Feast of the Dead.

We offer to Kernounnos (or the House of Donn) the Dark One, the Antlered God who offers hospitality and peace to those bound for the Ancestors’ Country. We offer to Hekate (or Morrigan,) the Great Queen of Battle and Sorcery; the Old Woman of Death and the Cauldron of Rebirth.

In this Season of Death we honor the Holy Dead as the ancients did.

Meditate upon these great mysteries, then repeat:

To the Gods, the Dead and the Sidhe I offer you welcome. All you Spirits who gather here with me, I invite you to join in honoring the Patrons of our rite.

On the Night of the Scythe and the Skull, the honor-feast of Summer’s End, let us worship the Dark One and the Great Queen.

So Mote it Be!


I generally repeat several prayers or invocations at this point. I have included a couple of personal favorites:

Samhain: The Coming of the Crone

Icy syllables from an ancient time
She breathes into the void of darkness.

We stand in awe of Her chilling aspects trine.
The tree branches reveal starkness
at the Coming of the Crone.

Gnarled and blasted bones bereft of all leaves,
led by Her spells mutter heresies;

Upraised tombstones utter cacophonies;
The hounds of Hades bark strong decrees
at the Coming of the Crone.

Her horrendous majesty astounds our flesh.
Her orb above penetrates the haze:

Leprous-white Lady, source and cure of distress.
Shadow-framed myst’ry ornately plays
at the Coming of the Crone.

On This Dark Night!!


Samhain Prayer

Samhain! Samhain! Samhain!
Take the new fire! Send the rain!
Banish care and banish pain!

Speed the ghosts who ban the sheep,
Light the path to spirit sleep!
This our fire to light the way
This eve:


The Death Song
(Re-Paganized from the Carmina Gadelica)

You go home this night to your home of winter,
To your home of fall, of spring, of summer,
You go home this night to the Turning House,
To your pleasant rest in the Land of Joy.

Rest you, rest, and away with sorrow,
Rest this night in the Mother’s Breast,
Rest you, rest, and away with sorrow,
Rest, O beloved, with the Mother’s Kiss.

In the Many Colored Land;
In the Land of the Dead;
In the Plain of Joy;
In the Land Beneath the Wave;
In the Land of Youth;
In the Land of the Ever-Living;
In the Revolving Castle, the House of Donn.

Rest in seven lights, beloved,
Rest in seven joys, beloved,
Rest in seven sleeps, beloved,
In the Grove of the Cauldron, Morrigan’s Shrine.

The shadow of death is on your face, beloved,
But the Cauldron of Rebirth awaits you,
The threefold turning of your Fate,
When your rest has given you your peace.

So rest in the calm of all calms,
Rest in the wisdom of all wisdoms,
Rest in the love of all loves,
Rest in the Lord of Life and Death,
Rest in the Lady of Life and Death,

‘Till the Season of Turning
‘Till the Time of Returning
‘Till the Mystery of the Cauldron


The Assembling of the Quarter-Regents

Samhain is the only celebration of the Sacred Wheel of the Year that entails a change in the wording of the Assembling of the Quarter-Regents. (Otherwise, The Opening Rites are performed as a traditional Sabbat.) The alternate wording and directional sequence of the salutations follow.

To Call the West say:

Regents of the West, Patrons of the Blessed Dead, Protectors of the Departed in Avalon beyond Thy primordial seas; by the Holy Pentagram of Balance sacred to the Goddess, Queen of the Cardinal Quarters, I call Thee to this Circle, charging Thee to witness and watch over this rite of Samhain on this Night between the worlds, and out of time.

To Call the South say:

Regents of the South, Patrons of All Hallow’s blazing bonfires, Protectors of the paths of wandering spirits as Ye illumine their way to ancestral home and hearth; by the Holy Pentagram of Balance sacred to the Goddess, Queen of the Cardinal Quarters, I call Thee to this Circle, charging Thee to witness and watch over this rite of Samhain on this Night between the worlds, and out of time.

To Call the East say:

Regents of the East, Patrons of phantom-filled winds, Protectors of breeze-borne apparitions let loose from the ethereal realms; by the Holy Pentagram of Balance sacred to the Goddess, Queen of the Cardinal Quarters, I call Thee to this Circle, charging Thee to witness and watch over this rite of Samhain on this Night between the worlds, and out of time.

To Call the North say:

Regents of the North, Patrons of enchanted places and moonlit megaliths, Protectors of haunted heaths and long-forgotten, circled stones; by the Holy Pentagram of Balance sacred to the Goddess, Queen of the Cardinal Quarters, I call Thee to this Circle, charging Thee to witness and watch over this rite of Samhain on this Night between the worlds, and out of time.


Honoring the Ancestors


On the Feast of Samhain the veils between the worlds are thin. I call now to our Beloved Dead, the blessed Ancestors, to join our feast and receive due offering.

Come to the Gates, honored ones; hear my call, I, one of your children – remember. I offer you my worship, reverence and 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.

Hold up the stones or nuts that you have brought as your symbolic offering.

Ring the Bell.


Anointing with Oil

Next, retrieve the vial of anointing oil from the Altar. Begin by dipping a forefinger into it, then lightly tracing an Invoking Pentacle on your forehead with the oil (I trace a Pentagram, then close it with a circle, thus creating the Pentacle), while saying the following blessing:

In the Name of Persephone, Protector of the Blessed Dead, I anoint myself with the chrism of protection for this journey of vision between the worlds.

Next, anoint yourself with a dot-like mark upon your forehead in the area of the “third eye” (which represents divination in this Rite) saying the following blessing:

In the Name of Holy Persephone, Hope of the Blessed Dead, I anoint myself with this chrism of spirit-perception, that you may sense the presence of those passed on beyond the gathering shrouds of the Grave on this, their sacred Night.

When the anointing procedure is completed, return the vial to the altar, and use the prepared white cloth or napkin to absorb the excess oil from your finger, but leave it on your forehead.


The Triple Candle Invocation of Hekate Trevia

After the anointing, begin the invocations to call the Dark Mother, asking her to join the Quarter-Regents. Standing before the unlit candles that represent her Triple Aspect of Hekate, (that were placed prominently upon the altar between the two Illuminator Candles,) begin by saying:

The Dark Mother comes from time long past the setting sun. Lady of Night she is, where country crossing cry her sacred. She-force Shadow with upraised torch of Hades red-onyx bright; her hounds at bay where pathworked lanes collide.

Light one of the three black candles, then say:

Hail, Hekate Trevia, Wise One of the Willows; Thou who stirrest the Cauldron of Fate with the Staff of Destiny!
Visit me this Night with Divination and the Sight!

Now light the second black candle, and say:

Hail, Hekate Trevia, Queen of the Ghostworld, enthroned upon the bones of departed generations!

May the spirits of Thy crypted Domain be pleased with this rite of remembrance as they celebrate All Hallows among us!

Light the final black candle, saying:

Hail, Hekate Trevia, Spectral Sovereign of Darkness; Bringer of Shadows that I might see invisible realities without distraction from the light.
Part for me this Night the Veil that wanes thin between the worlds!

The Invocation to Hekate as Crone

After having lighted the three black candles, recite the following:

All Hallows, Samhain Hekate arrives again; ground to dust beneath her feet summer leaves now stiff with Autumn’s death. In the midst of chill an Age-Goddess cloaked in the mantle of the Crone – woven cloth of arcane Wisdom – quickens her pace in the midnight towards the altar of the ending year.

Raise your Athame and begin the welcoming of the Crone:

All Hallows Hail, Hekate, Season-reaping Crone!
I see Thee in the blazing colored death of Autumn’s leaves, and am in awe.

All Hallows Hail, Hekate, Night-stalking Crone!
I hear Thee in sounds of nocturnal owls seeking their prey under cloak of darkness, and am made uneasy.

All Hallows Hail, Hekate, Death-dealing Crone!
I touch Thee when feeling weathered tombstones in peaceful cemeteries, and am reflective.

All Hallows Hail, Hekate, Time-devouring Crone!
I feel Thee in the ice-caress of Thy gnarled fingers as they grip my youthfulness with deteriorating age, and are made aware of my own mortality.

All Hallows Hail, Hekate, Harvest-ending Crone!
I taste Thee in the last apples of October’s bounty, bidding me store away for the cold to come, as I am chilled with wintry foreboding.

All Hallows Hail, Hekate, Ever-recurring Crone!
I tremble before Thee in dreadful reverence, overwhelmed by the evidence of my senses, conveying to me Thy presence in this season.

To the Crone be praise,
To the Crone be power,
To the Crone be preeminence,
on this, Her Holy Night of All Hallows!

So Mote It Be!

Ring the Bell to toll Her arrival.


The Invocation to the Sacred Stag

“The Horned Lord of Winter’s Darkness” is a title of the God in His winter manifestation as the Ruler of the Dark Half of the Year – Kernunnos. “The Sacred Stag of the Gates of Annwn” is the title designating the God in His aspect as the Lord of the Underworld. In Celtic myth the Stag (Kernunnos or the Donn) is often associated with visitations for the Other Side.

“Man in Black” is an important title because black is the most popular, traditional color of Samhain, but primarily, this reference has to do with the belief that numerous medieval covens were often ritually led by a man who was characterized by the wearing of horns and black garb as a ceremonial representative of the God.

Below, is an invocation of Kernunnos, but first a word or two of explanation. The reference to “Who beholds the face of Hel,” is not a reference whatsoever to the Christian concept of “Hell.” “Hel” with one “l” refers instead to the Norse goddess of the Underworld, although there is also an intentional play on words, for as a chthonic deity, Kernunnos does indeed behold even Hell itself – if Hell is taken as a synonym with Hades as the realm of the dead.

After completing the invocation of the Crone, pause to meditation. Dip your Athame into the chalice, then lift it up and say:

Satyr Pan, Lord of Life, he meets her here – Hekate – on this Haunted Eve. They kiss Completion, yet a Cycle begun on the Wheel that turns once more. Old He is on the altar laid, His spirit released with Her spell; Lord be He declined in death, His form but swirling grains of earth, Spring’s fibrous strength decayed. Horned Pan descends below, to the home of the Hollow Womb he returns, to the Cauldron of the Deep Within.

It is time to being the invocation of The Stag by saying:

By the all-powerful torque of Kernunnos,
By the wisdom of the serpent which He holds,
By He Who sees, but is not seen,
By He Who knows the Mystery, and keeps the eternal Secrets,

I call down upon thee the Horned Lord of Winter's Darkness,
the Sacred Stag of the Gates of Annwyn,
the Seated God of the Ghosts of Gaul.

Now, raise your Athame to honor the Horned God, saying:

All Hallows Hail, Horned One,
Lord of the Dead,
Companion of the Crone;
We invoke Thee!

All Hallows Hail, Horned One,
Man in Black,
Fleet-footed Sabbat God,
Be here amongst us!

All Hallows Hail, Horned One,
King Stag of the Wildwoods,
Antlered Messenger from Another World;
Thou art welcomed!

Meditate, then say the following as Kernunnos:

I am Kernunnos, risen from nether regions of misty gloom in the Land of Living Shades.

Dark Twin of Pan am I, Wraith-Raiser of the Waning Seasons!

Look now upon the visage of your Paleolithic God imaged upon the shrine-caves of Ariege!

See in Me the antlered shaman dancing by smoky, flickering cavern-flames, casting shadows larger than life, darker than death.

Observe in Me the Sacred Stag of sacrifice, the Hunted Hart of Winter; with My body have the hungry been fed; with My skin have tattered tribes been clothed against the cold.

I am Kernunnos, Horned One of Hades Who beholds the face of Hel.

Guardian God of the Threshold am I, Protector of the dead at the Bridge of Crossing.

Come and follow your chthonic God in solemn procession down the descending spiral that leads to the Doors of the Dead!

Ring the Bell to toll His arrival.


Into The Grove

The next part of the ritual is its heart and soul. To perform it, you will be leaving your Altar, and entering the Dark Realm of betwixt and between; to join a processional that finds Kernunnos and Hekate at the Sacred Cauldron of the Dead.

To do this, you need only your fully awakened spirit, a little imagination, and some Wiccan magick!

You will be re-enacting, in your mind and in words, a symbolic procession of which you will become a part.

Take a moment to re-gather your energy. Now, envision that you have been transported to a fragrant, wooded, forest area. After a moment, you hear the approach of other Samhain revelers, and you join their joyous procession.

Pick up the drumming stick and use it to create the slow, rhythmic sounds mimicking the procession’s footfalls along your journey. All of the participants are either walking or dancing counter-clockwise (widdershins). (Note: Decide the SEE how you are moving!)

All of you are instinctively following a spiral path (symbolizing the Goddess and the eternal Turning of the Wheel) that gradually leads into a midnight grove of beautiful, tall trees that have come together in a natural, broad circle. All of these majestic giants are reaching their almost-bare branches up into the darkness as if they were each a priestess or priest. Suddenly, you see a magick cauldron that is sitting in the middle of this Sacred Circle.

Abruptly, Lord Kernunnos and Lady Hekate appear next to the cauldron. When you envision this, mediate upon the image until it is so clear in your mind that you can actually feel the crisp air, smell the forest, and see the details of the clothes that the God and Goddess are wearing.

Stop drumming and speak again as Kernunnos:

The Lord Stag Kernunnos bids you welcome to the wonders of shades and spirits as you glimpse into that ghost-ridden realms revealing the resting-place of the disincarnate!

Repeat the following as Kernunnos, but who has turned and is now addressing the Goddess Hekate:

Lady, it is time for the darkness to be illuminated by the otherworldly Light of the Goddess, that the ancient traditions may be honored.

Now, speak as Hekate responding to Kernunnos:

As Thou hast spoken, so shall it be, Lord Kernunnos!


The Lighting of the Samhain Fire

It is now time to light the orange candle that you had placed in the cauldron on your physical Altar, but keep your mind in the magickal grove with the processional and the God and Goddess. After lighting the candle, grab a pinch of dried herbs (Crete) and drop them into the flame. Then say:

Death for life the sacrifice; another year gives up its ghost. Freshly dead seasons consumed in the bonfires of Samhain, billowing crimson-orange in ashen blackness; spectral fiery incantations. Goddess-summoned spirits celebrate this Night between the years. End, Beginning, No Time Betwixt, cradle and grave in one. Future faded, past returned, all alive have died. Dimensions departed, merged with the moment; Mystery the magick is yarn for Hekate’s wraith-raising loom!

Ring the Bell.


The Offering for the Dead

Pick up each slip of black-edged paper that bears the name of an ancestor or loved one lost. These will now be used as an offering in memory of the Ancient Ones, and the specific ancestors, loved ones and friends who have passed on to the Land of Shadows.

Meditate silently, then recite the name of a person you are memorializing, placing the black-edged slip of paper that bears their name slowly into the Cauldron, allowing the candle’s flame to burn the slip completely to ashes. As you do so, declare:

I, (say your magickal name), remember thee, and offer (love and) honor on this Night of Wonders, and Shades of Spirits. (Note: Only offer love if you felt love for the departed. This is a declaration, very close to a magickal binding, so only say what is true and not false. If you are honoring someone you did not know, adjust the words accordingly.)

Repeat the process until each name has been recited, their paper fully consumed, and the individual offering message declared.

It is now time to do the same thing with each slip of paper that bears upon it something that has been holding you back, something that you wish to change, or something positive that you wish to add in the coming year (reminiscent of New Year’s resolutions.) Read each item aloud, then burn it to ashes in the cauldron, while saying:

I, (say your magickal name), hereby release (name the behavior-item-person to be eliminated) from my life on this Witches New Year, so that I may be reborn from the Cauldron of the Dead.

I, (say your magickal name), hereby draw (name the behavior-item-person to be added) into my life on this Witches New Year, so that I may be reborn from the Cauldron of the Dead.

Repeat until all of the slips of paper have been burned, and each declaration made.

Because both of these burning rituals are acts of magick, you must send your will, your magickal intent, into each slip of paper during both the recitation of the dead, and the declaration of the changes you will be making in your life.

After you have brought your will to bear, read each aloud and said the appropriate declaration, repeat:

As I have willed, So Mote it Be!

In Wicca, magickal intent is very, very REAL, and extremely powerful. After the burning rituals have all been completed, re-gather your energy and gives thanks to the sacred Element of Fire for releasing all of your intentions toward their magickal goals.

Ring the Bell, tolling to honor your magickal intentions.


The Blessing

As in all Rites, it is beneficial to enjoy “Cakes and Ale,” a symbolic meal, whether you are a Solitary Practitioner or a member of a group. This ritual is different, however, because you are still in the magickal grove with the procession of revelers and the God and Goddess, so even if you are “alone,” you are with a group!

Eat and drink the bread, wine, juice or other seasonal “meal” that you have brought into the Sacred Circle for this purpose. After you have eaten, offer a blessing:

The Ale of Blessing flows in me, filling me with the magick of the Dark Goddess Hekate, and the God Kernunnos.

As the year turns, let me welcome the quiet of the Dark. Let the stillness of the land calm and satisfy my spirit, allowing me to receive the Harvest’s Bounty.

Let the gain of the passing year be mine, to fill my life with contentment.

Let me welcome the Dead who wish to return to the living world, even as I remember those who depart. May we rest content as we pass the threshold of new beginnings.

Ring the Bell, tolling in thanksgiving.


The Conclusion

When you sense that it is time to draw the Ritual to a close, say:

It is time to make ready for my journey back to the world where night follows day and moon follows sun, rotating the spinning cycles of season after season; where the tides of my life shall wax and wane until I, too, must descend again into this nether-dimness among the shadowed spirits.

Meditate on all that has happened, then repeat:

Lord Kernunnos, it is time that I depart Thy dark Domain.

Dread God of Death, Thou alone can take me back to that dimension where light and life are intertwined to make for the brightness of my momentary incarnations before I must return again to Thy caring embrace.

I beseech Thee, O Stag of Autumn’s Night, while the psychic Veil that divides the dead from the living is still transparently thin, grant me guidance between the worlds to the safety of the realm above.

When you have finished His entreaty, take the role of Kernunnos, lifting up your right hand, palm outward, as in a command for silence, before ‘he’ begins ‘his’ reply:

(Your name here) as you have asked, so shall it be done!

In these night-draped regions of Persephone there is serenity and rest for those labored of life and tired of heart, but your time has not yet come.

Follow now in My hoof prints, and you shall cross safely the bridge between the worlds.

Bow in reverence to the God, as he begins to lead you and your party out of the grove, and back to the here-and-now, where time will resume.

Once again, beat the drumming stick to echo in you and your group’s footfalls. But, this time all will walk or dance the sacred spiral clockwise (deosil.) When you and your spiral procession have reached the boundaries of worlds, take a moment to meditate. Next, still speaking as Kernunnos, repeat ‘his’ parting words:

Turn towards the lantern at the Eastern Gate, the glowing lamplight at the Quarter of the Rising Sun.

See there in prophecy the insatiable Satyr, Spring’s Horned Pan in pursuit of the Maiden’s pleasure, for life must always follow death; this, the fallow season, must be followed by the fertile.

But it is now I Who reign in the dying of Autumn and the snowy slumber of Winter’s repose.

As I take My leave, look not behind you, lest I take you with Me into the infernal Abyss that divides the dimensions, for I go the Way of the Gods, and My Secret Mysteries are not for you to know.

The blessings of All Hallows be upon you, and the granted guidance of the Crone be your portion.

All Hail, Farewell, and Blessed Be!

Ring the Bell, tolling for Kernunnos.

There should be silence for an appropriate period.

Now, speak as yourself:

Behold, I have returned to my time and space!
The God is gone; the Sacred Stag has slipped into the shadows from whence He came.
I am in awe, and am thankful for His visitation;
For His lifting the Veil between worlds this Samhain night.
Blessed Be Kernunnos!


The Parting Prayer

To end the Rite, stand and raise your Athame and speak the parting prayer to the Goddess:

Crone of Dark Moons and Death, Hag Queen of All Hallows, be pleased to remain here until the last shadows of Samhain are swallowed in the light-fused mists of morning.

Protect me from all harm and spiritual malevolence.

Enlighten me from the wells of Thy ageless wisdom, and endow me with the insight that comes with reverence for Thy worship.

All Hallows Hail, Hekate, and Farewell!

Ring the Bell, tolling for the departing Queen.


The Dismissal of the Quarter-Regents

The dismissal will always begin with the Quarter-Regent Who has the seasonal preeminence – West for Samhain, the sequence of dismissal continuing with the south, east, and north.

The Opening of the Circle

Take your Athame to the boundary of the Sacred Circle, and starting at the same quarter from which you initially began to cast the circle (west,) once again walk its circumference, pointing the Athame at its boundary as you progress. This time, visualize the dissipation of the blue-white spherical walls of the sacred space and say:

This rite of Samhain is ended!

May shadows and spirits guide me towards the dark-crystalled wisdom of the Crone as I learn to be at peace in the season of death that leads to life.

Merry Meet, and Merry Part!

Remember to snuff the candles out rather than to blow them out to honor the Element of Fire. Also, take the ashes from the cauldron, and the other offerings that are left and spread them outside, do not throw them away.


Wiccan Rede (Full Text)

Bide ye Wiccan laws you must, in perfect love and perfect trust.
Live ye must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give,
For the circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out.

To bind ye spell well every time, let the spell be spake in rhyme.
Soft of eye and light of touch, speak ye little, listen much.

Doesil go by the waxing moon, chanting out ye baleful tune.
When ye Lady’s moon is new, kiss ye hand to her times two.

When ye moon rides at her peak, then ye hearts desire seek.
Heed the North winds mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail.

When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss thee on the mouth.
When the wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast.

Nine woods in the caldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.
Elder be ye Lady’s tree, burn it not or cursed ye’ll be.

When the wheel begins to turn, soon ye beltane fires will burn.
When the Wheel hath turned a Yule, light the log the Horned One rules.

Heed ye flowers, bush and tree, by the Lady blessed be,
Where the rippling waters go, cast a stone the thruth ye’ll know.

When you have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.
With a fool no season spend, or be counted as his friend.

Merry meet and Merry part, bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Mind ye threefold law you should, three times bad and three times good.

When misfortune is enow, wear the star above thy brow.
True in love must ye ever be, lest thy love be false to thee.

These eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill;
An harm ye none, do what ye will.


The Witches’ Creed
By Doreen Valiente, 1978 Witchcraft for Tomorrow

Hear now the words of the witches,
The secrets we hid in the night,
When dark was our destiny’s pathway,
That now we bring forth into the light.

Mysterious water and fire,
The earth and the wide-ranging air.
By hidden quintessence we know them,
And will and keep silent and dare.

The birth and rebirth of all nature,
The passing of winter and spring,
We share with the life universal,
Rejoice in the Magickal ring.

Four times in the year the Great Sabbat Returns,
And the witches are seen,
At Lammas and Candlemas dancing,
On May Even and old Hallowe’en.

When day-time and night-time are equal,
When sun is at greatest and least,
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
Again witches gather in feast.

Thirteen silver moons in a year are,
Thirteen is the coven’s array,
Thirteen times at Esbat make merry,
For each golden year and a day.

The power was passed down the ages,
Each time between woman and man,
Each century unto the other,
Ere time and the ages began.

When drawn is the Magickal circle,
By sword or Athame or power,
Its compass between the two worlds lies,
In Land of the Shades for that hour.

This world has no right then to know it,
And world of beyond will tell naught,
The oldest of Gods are invoked there,
The Great Work of Magick is wrought.

For two are the mystical pillars,
That stand at the gate of the shrine,
And two are the powers of nature,
The forms and the forces divine.

The dark and the light in succession,
The opposites each unto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess:
Of this did our ancestors teach.

By night he’s the wild wind’s rider,
The Horn’d One, the Lord of the Shades.
By day he’s the King of the Woodland,
The dweller in green forest glades.

She is youthful and old as she pleases,
She sails the torn clouds in her barque,
The bright silver Lady of midnight,
The crone who weaves spells in the dark.

The master and mistress of Magick,
They dwell in the deeps of the mind,
Immortal and ever-renewing,
With power to free or to bind.

So drink the good wine to the old Gods,
And dance and make love in their praise,
’Till Elphame’s fair land shall receive us,
In peace at the end of our days.

And Do What You Will be the challenge,
So be it in love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment.
By Magick of old be it done!


The Charge of the God

Listen to the words of the Horned God,
The Guardian of all things wild and free, and Keeper of the Gates of Death, whose Call all must answer:

I am the fire within your heart... The yearning of your Soul. I am the Hunter of Knowledge and the Seeker of the Holy Quest; I who stand in the darkness of light; I am He whom you have called Death. I am the Consort and Mate of Her we adore, call forth to me.

Heed my call beloved ones, come unto me and learn the secrets of death and peace. I am the corn at harvest and the fruit on the trees. I am He who leads you home. Scourge and Flame, Blade and Blood these are mine and gifts to thee.

Call unto me in the forest wild and on hilltop bare and seek me in the Darkness Bright. I who have been called; Pan, Herne, Osiris, and Hades, speak to thee in thy search. Come dance and sing; come live and smile, for behold: this is my worship.

You are my children and I am thy Father. On swift night wings it is I who lay you at the Mother's feet to be reborn and to return again.

Thou who thinks to seek me, know that I am the untamed wind, the fury of storm and passion in your Soul. Seek me with pride and humility, but seek me best with love and strength.

For this is my path, and I love not the weak and fearful. Hear my call on long Winter nights and we shall stand together guarding Her Earth as She sleeps.


The Charge of the Goddess (Traditional)

Now listen to the words of the Great Mother,
who was of old also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Bride, and by many other names. At her altars, the youth of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice.

Whenever ye have need of any thing,
once in the month,
and better it be when the moon is full,
then shall ye assemble in some secret place, and adore the spirit of me,
who am Queen of all witches.

There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery,
yet have not won its deepest secrets;
to these will I teach things that are as yet unknown.
And ye shall be free from slavery;
and as a sign that ye be really free,
ye shall be naked in your rites;
and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.

For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit,
and mine also is joy on earth;
for my law is love unto all beings.

Keep pure your highest ideal;
strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside;
for mine is the secret door which opens upon the land of youth,
and mine is the cup of wine of life,
and the cauldron of Cerridwen,
which is the Holy Grail of immortality.

I am the gracious Goddess,
who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man.
Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal;
and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom,
and reunion with those who have gone before.

Nor do I demand sacrifice;
for behold, I am the Mother of all living,
and my love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess;
she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven,
whose body encircles the universe.

I who am the beauty
of the green earth and the white moon upon
the mysteries of the waters,
I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.

For I am the soul of nature
that gives life to the universe.
From me all things proceed and unto me
they must return.

Let My worship be in the
heart that rejoices, for behold,
all acts of love and pleasure
are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength,
power and compassion,
honor and humility,
mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know me,
know that the 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.


The Charge of the Crone

I am the Queen of Magick and the dark of the Moon, hidden in the deepest night. I am the mystery of the Otherworlds and the fear that coils about your heart in the times of your trials. I am the soul of nature that gives form to the universe; it is I who awaits you at the end of the spiral dance. Most ancient among gods and mortals, let my worship be within the heart that has truly tasted life, for behold, all acts of magick and art are my pleasure and my greatest ritual is love itself. Therefore let there be beauty in your strength, compassion in your wrath, power in your humility, and discipline balanced through mirth and reverence.

You who seek to remove my veil and behold my true face, know that all your questing and efforts are for nothing, and all your lust and desires shall avail you not at all. For unless you know my mystery, look wherever you will, it will elude you, for it's within you and nowhere else. For behold, I have ever been with you, from the very beginning, the comforting hand that nurtured you in the dawn of life, and the loving embrace that awaits you at the end of each life, for I am that which is attained at the end of the dance, and I am the womb of new beginnings, as yet unimagined and unknown.


The Invocation of The Donn

As you have seen, most Wiccans acknowledge this God during their Samhain Rite, and ask that He attend their feast. Here is another example of his call:

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 Kernunnos the Horned One. He is the First Ancestor, the Torch Bearer, The Guardian of the Cauldron of Plenty.

He is the 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, giving grain, or meat.
Silver, that you grant the wealth of the Underworld, Source of All Potential.
Oil, that the richness of the Land be renewed as our own lives are renewed.

Be welcome among us, Donn; Dark One, accept our sacrifices!


The Invocation of Morrigan

The Great Goddess Morrigan is often honored in Celtic rites, while any Dark Goddess in her Crone visage is the goal.

Again, Wiccans who want to invite Her to attend may say:

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, 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. I, one of your children, pray that you be with us, that you will look kindly upon this holy rite, that you come and give me your blessing.

We give due offering to you. We give you:

Precious stone, that the Bones of the Earth may be clothed again in life.
Whiskey, that the Waters of Life May flow in us and Spirit indwell flesh.
Feathers, that your raven Eye watch over us in the Season of Sleep.

Be welcome among us Morrigan; Great Queen, accept our sacrifices!


The Death Song

You go home this night to your home of winter,
To your home of fall, of spring, of summer,
You go home this night to the Turning House,
To your pleasant rest in the Land of Joy.

Rest you, rest, and away with sorrow,
Rest this night in the Mother’s Breast,
Rest you, rest, and away with sorrow,
Rest, O beloved, with the Mother’s Kiss.

In the Many Colored Land;
In the Land of the Dead;
In the Plain of Joy;
In the Land Beneath the Wave;
In the Land of Youth;
In the Land of the Ever-Living;
In the Revolving Castle, the House of Donn.

Rest in seven lights, beloved,
Rest in seven joys, beloved,
Rest in seven sleeps, beloved,
In the Grove of the Cauldron, Morrigan’s Shrine.

The shadow of death is on your face, beloved,
But the Cauldron of Rebirth awaits you,
The threefold turning of your Fate,
When your rest has given you your peace.

So rest in the calm of all calms,
Rest in the wisdom of all wisdoms,
Rest in the love of all loves,
Rest in the Lord of Life and Death,
Rest in the Lady of Life and Death,

'Till the Season of Turning
'Till the Time of Returning
'Till the Mystery of the Cauldron.


May shadows and spirits guide you towards the dark-crystalled wisdom of the Crone as you learn to be at peace in this season of Death that leads to Life.

Merry Ye Meet, and Merry Ye Part!

— Danu’s Daughter

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