* Hearken Now, The Darkness Comes! *
Mists gather in the valleys and pour down the ancient riverbeds to the darkening sea. Gone the fires of autumn's glory, lost to the legions of cloud-swept days and chilling rains. Gone to wild geese flying southward, gone the last of summer's bounty. Mornings rimed with silver frost, evenings gathering gloom for sitting round the hearth fires glow. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
In the vale under the moor, the village speeds it's frantic pace. Thatcher's finish repairs on thick round roofs to hold out the snows of winter. Children bring in the last of the nuts and withered fruits from the woods. The wheat is threshed and winnowed on the chilly breeze. Wood smoke rises from the hearth fires and axes ring in the clear air. Down from the moors come the cattle and sheep to the winter fields, come too the pigs from the forest glades. The smell of blood is thick in upon the air as those animals chosen for the slaughter are slain and cured against the winter's needs. The planting begun at Beltane is now the harvest. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
In the great forests that lie across the land, the leaves form a thick carpet upon the ground, upon which treads the King Stag, velvet gone from his crown of horn, challenging all with his trumpeting cries. The bear and the fat squirrels seek their dens. The wolves stir in the cold, and their voices rise in songs to the moon. Now is the time of the Hunter. His shadow flies across the midnight sky, His horn sounds in the wind like thunder, His red-eyed hounds fly on before. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
She who stands guardian now is no longer the soft Maiden of spring, nor yet the fecund Mother full of the heat of summer. It is Cerridwen now, the Crone, the Hag, who stands without. In dreams and trance you see her, holding the cauldron into which all that live must go. Holding the cauldron that is Death. Gone too the young Lord of Spring, the Summer King. Now is the time of Herne the Hunter, wild master of the Winter's night. Harsh he is and full of fire, Lord of Death made manifest. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
And in the turning of the year, the walls of time and space become as air, until life and death are as one and departed souls walk again among the living. Here on this most sacred night, as the old year died and the new was born, around the fires the people gathered in celebration. There was wine and cider from the vines and groves, bread from the fields of winnowed wheat, and meat steaming from the slaughter. A great feast and celebration of life to take into the darkness. Hearken now, the darkness comes!
And as the earth moved onward into the darkness, the veil between the worlds grew thin, and strange beings walked upon the land. See now the pooka shake his tangled mane, the Sidhe come forth from out the hollow hills, listen as the bean sidhe sings forth her terrible cry. And against this army of eldritch power, men did wield a greater weapon as fires sprang forth upon the hilltops and lit the standing stones and village greens. Dancing, swirling, leaping past the fires, the people held back the powers of the night with light and music until the dawn came once more. Yet still the darkness comes!
Turn and turn again the Earth did in its endless dance among the stars. Gone now the villages that lay beneath the downs and among the woods. Gone the straight track and winding sheep path. Gone the King Stag and the shaggy bear. Yet still we hear an echo of that time and place as we sit to honor our blessed dead, as our children dress as monsters and play in the shadows. We hear the whisper of the Goddess in our hearts, and sometimes, late at night we hearken to the cry of the Hunt, high in our crowded skies. Hearken, for the darkness comes!
And we, the spirit children of that ancient age, we remember. Though we labor not in the fields of waving grain, yet do we too now bring in our harvest. We gather to ourselves the fruits of our projects begun in the spring of the year and ready ourselves for a time of rest and introspection. We unburden ourselves with that which is no longer needful for our survival through the winter of the year. We the children of this ancient age remember too our honored dead who speak to us again as the walls of this world grow thin. We pass the Cup of Remembrance as we think upon one who has gone before. We remember the good times and the bright things we treasure from their memories, and we allow them to fly free. We make our peace with She who waits for all. We remember the fears of the darkness, and in our masquerade and games, we come to terms with Death and with change. For such is the meaning at the heart of the feast. So prepare you now as the darkness comes. Ready the harvest of your hopes and dreams. Light the fires against ignorance and fear. For
remember also, that the darkness is but one turn upon the Wheel, it is the darkness of the womb. And the Death we all must face is merely the doorway to the Life to come.
* Lord Atmahka's Samhain Ritual *
by Lord Atmahka
Lord Atmahka offers his ritual for Samhain, observed at the full moon nearest Ancestor Night, also called Hallowe'en, and in 1998 was observed Nov. 4. While this ritual is more a Wiccan one than Druidic, it is of the nature of this one, and is gently offered, to be accepted in whatever way it will, by those spirits who are among us and in our hearts. It is traditional at Samhain to leave food outside in a special place for the souls of the dead. A small candle is placed in a window, to guide those souls. The food consists of a small piece of bread, and an apple, cut across horizontally, revealing the five-pointed star. There is also a small container of salt. Half of the apple will remain with the food, the other half consumed during the ritual. Wine is also left with the food, a portion of that which is used in the ritual. The remainder is left in a natural paper container, to return entirely to the earth. Also, the salt will remain.
An altar is set in a special place, obscure to the rest of the world, and safe from intrusion. It is made up of the elements of the outdoors. This year it was based on three large stump pieces from a mulberry tree cut a year ago, and left to mature among the living trees and grass. They are placed in a triangle shape, with a circle of stones round about the whole area. On the left side altar stump is placed the bread, the apple, a small chalice of white wine, and fall leaves, a simple display. A candle, lighted from the domicile and carried to the altar, is in a square glassed lantern and placed on the right stump piece representing bringing the individual to a special place with his personal light shining. A small cauldron is in the middle of the natural circle described by the largest trunk piece. This circle is divided into 8 parts, spokes representing the wheel of the year and the cycle of the season - the beginning and end of creation. A candle is placed within the cauldron, as yet unlighted, as well as incense. A special small sword is placed next to the apple and bread. A black, hooded robe is worn, representing the idea of being one with the outside, bereft of finery, and in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion. Standing before the altar, thoughts flow through of friends and family who have passed before, in their transition to another form of their entity. It is known that they are merely in another stage of their being, so we are not sad. Rather, we allow memories of them to come into the lighted circle, and thereby they live in our hearts and continue to be with us. We do not wish for them to be unable to progress, so we allow their spirits to go on after a time. We know that they have incarnated into another form, and only this one aspect of their spirit remains. Also prepared before the journey to the altar: a piece of paper with any aspect of life that needs to be released: worry, disease, anger, want. We know that these are merely transient, so we identify them and place a word or two for them on the paper, which is carried to the altar. We speak a Blessing Chant:
"May the powers of the One,
the Source of all creation,
all inclusive, eternal;
may the Goddess of the Moon and the God,
hunter of the sun;
may the powers of the stones, rulers of the elemental realms,
may the powers of the stars above and the earth below ~
bless this place, and this time, and I who am with You."
Holding the chalice of wine toward the sky, we speak:
"Gracious Goddess of Abundance,
bless this wine and instill it with Your love."
"Bless this food of the harvest and fill them with Your love."
Finally, these thoughts, in the following vein:
"The veil is lifted tonight, we open the gates
between this world and the next,
and honor ancestors and others who have gone on before.
You are not forgotten;
remember me and all who wish me well are welcome in this circle."
Lifting the bread and salt over the altar:
"I ask all who have gathered here to join me in this feast."
I dip a piece of the bread in the salt and eat. Then, half the apple is eaten, remembering its symbolism. Likewise then, the wine, first placing it on the circle, it is lifted:
"May I always be strong in body, mind and spirit."
Drinking some of the wine, the rest is placed back on the altar. The candle within the cauldron as well as the incense both are lighted. The paper with those things to be released, is placed in the cauldron, to be burned and banished from our being. The balance of this time is spent in meditation, going within to consider all matters that appear, then allowing all the spirits to depart to the four points. When meditation is completed, then the circle is released. The food is left, the candle and incense are gently diminished, and we return to our domicile, to start a new year.
Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader's personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.