I talk about spells and casting a lot in The Silver Cord. There are witches that are solitary (like Kat and Jess). Solitary means that they do their own thing even with other witches sometimes, but they are not affiliated with a coven – or group – of witches. A coven is a group that practices together with a High Priest and/or Priestess that leads the circle casting or initiates the other members. It’s like being a member of any other church with a higher authority figure.
There are many different small things one can do to celebrate Samhain, as I have been posting over the last few days. I have offered two different rituals or ceremonies for you below. The first is for those who do not want to, or know how to, cast a circle of protection prior to beginning. The next is for Wiccans that already know how to do so. If you are interested in becoming Wiccan and trying out this ritual, I recommend anything written by Scott Cunningham, Ellen Dugan, Kate West, Dorothy Morrison and Ellen Dugan.
The first ceremony is taken from: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/samhainoctober31/ht/Harvest_End.htm
If we had lived a few hundreds of years ago, we would not only have brought our cows and sheep in from the pastures. Most likely we'd slaughter a few of them, as well as some pigs and goats, smoking the meat so it would last through the cold months. Our grain that we picked back at Lughnasadh has been baked into bread, and all of our herbs have been gathered, and hang from the rafters in the kitchen. The harvest is over, and now it's time to settle in for winter with the coziness of a warm fireplace, heavy blankets, and big pots of comfort food on the stovetop.
If you want to celebrate Samhain as the time of harvest's end, you can do so as a single ritual, or as the first of three days of ceremony.
If you don't have a permanent altar in place, set up a table to leave in place for the three days prior to Samhain. This will act as a your family's temporary altar for the Sabbat. Decorate the altar with symbols of late fall, such as:
- Skulls, skeletons, grave rubbings, ghosts
- Harvest food such as pumpkins, squash, root vegetables
- Nuts and berries, dark breads
- Dried leaves and acorns
- A cornucopia filled with an abundance of fruit and veggies
- Mulled cider, wine, or mead
Gather everyone around the table, and say:
Tonight is the first of three nights,
on which we celebrate Samhain.
It is the end of the harvest, the last days of summer,
and the cold nights wait on the other side for us.
The bounty of our labor, the abundance of the harvest,
the success of the hunt, all lies before us.
We thank the earth for all it has given us this season,
and yet we look forward to winter,
a time of sacred darkness.
Take the cup of cider or wine, and lead everyone outside. Make this a ceremonial and formal occasion. If you have a vegetable garden, great! Go there now -- otherwise, just find a nice grassy spot in your yard. Each person in the family takes the cup in turn and sprinkles a little bit of cider onto the earth, saying:
Summer is gone, winter is coming.
We have planted and
we have watched the garden grow,
we have weeded,
and we have gathered the harvest.
Now it is at its end.
If you have any late-fall plants still waiting to be picked, gather them up now. Collect a bundle of dead plants and use them to make a straw man or woman. If you follow a more masculine path, he may be your King of Winter, and rule your home until spring returns. If you follow the Goddess in her many forms, make a female figure to represent the Goddess as hag or crone in winter.
Once that is done, go back inside and bring your King of Winter into your home with much pomp and circumstance. Place him on your table and prop him up with a plate of his own, and when you sit down to eat, serve him first.
Begin your meal with the breaking of the dark bread, and make sure you toss a few crumbs outside for the birds afterwards. Keep the King of Winter in a place of honor all season long -- you can put him back outside in your garden on a pole to watch over next spring's seedlings, and eventually burn him at your Beltane celebration.
When you are finished with your meal, put the leftovers out in the garden. Wrap up the evening by playing games, such as bobbing for apples or telling spooky stories before a bonfire.
There are plenty of sites that offer rituals for Wiccans and Pagans. Below is a solitary ritual for Wiccans. If you are not familiar with how to cast a circle of protection, I recommend you look that up first or even look in The Silver Cord, as Kat and Jess do so a few times.
The next ritual is taken from:
From Scott Cunningham, we have this simple yet meaningful solitary ritual.
Place upon the altar apples, pomegranates, pumpkins, squashes and other late autumn fruits. Autumn flowers such as marigolds and chrysanthemums are fine too. Write on a piece of paper an aspect of your life which you wish to be free of: anger, a baneful habit, misplaced feelings, disease. The cauldron or some similar tool must be present before the altar as well, on a trivet or some other heat-proof surface (if the legs aren’t long enough). A small, flat dish marked with an eight-spoked wheel symbol should also be there.
Prior to the ritual, sit quietly and think of friends and loved ones who have passed away. Do not despair. Know that they have gone on to greater things. Keep firmly in mind that the physical isn’t the absolute reality, and that souls never die.
Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle.
Recite the Blessing Chant.
Invoke the Goddess and God.
Lift one of the pomegranates and, with your freshly-washed white-handled knife, pierce the skin of the fruit. Remove several seeds and place them on the wheel-marked dish. Raise your wand, face the altar and say:
On this night of Samhain I mark your passing,
O Sun King, through the sunset into the Land of the Young.
I mark also the passing of all who have gone before,
and all who will go after. O Gracious Goddess,
Eternal Mother, You who gives birth to the fallen,
teach me to know that in the time of the greatest
darkness there is the greatest light.
Taste the pomegranate seeds; burst them with your teeth and savour their, bittersweet flavour. Look down at the eight-spooked symbol on the plate; the wheel of the year, the cycle of the seasons, the end and beginning of all creation.
Light a fire within the cauldron (a candle is fine). Sit before it holding the piece of paper, gazing at its flames. Say:
Wise One of the Waning Moon,
Goddess of the starry night,
I create this fire within your cauldron
to transform that which is plaguing me.
May the energies be reversed:
From darkness, light!
From bane, good!
From death, birth!
Light the paper in the cauldron’s flame and drop it inside. As it burns, know that your ill diminishes, lessens and finally leaves you as it is consumed within the universal fires.
If you wish, you may attempt scrying or some other form of divination, for this is a perfect time to look into the past or future. Try to recall past lives too, if you will. But leave the dead in peace. Honour them with your memories but do not call them to you. Release any pain and sense of loss you may feel into the cauldron’s flames.
Works of magic, if necessary, may follow.
Celebrate the Simple Feast.
The circle is released.
It must be the Season of the Witch...