It's that time of the year again when Witches in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate the first of the winter festivals - Samhuinn. (pronounces sow-in) In the Northern Hemisphere it is Beltaine - both of which are fire festivals.

Bonfires were lit on hilltops to celebrate the gathering of the harvest and the beginning of winter. Things which people wanted to give as gifts to the gods would be thrown into the fires. The ashes from the fires were then scattered on the fields in the hope that the gods, having enjoyed their gifts, would look favorably upon the land and improve the soil, thus ensuring good crops in the following year.

Whereas the May Day festival (Beltaine) is a time for dancing around the May-Pole to celebrate fertility, abundance and the beginning of Summer - Samhuinn marks the beginning of winter and a time to communicate with our ancestors.

At Beltaine cattle are taken to the summer pastures until Samhuinn when they are culled, and only the best breed of stock were kept alive over the harsh winter. Crops were also harvested and gathered before the festival, their seeds stored, in readiness for the more introverted part of the cycle of the wheel.

Samhuinn is a time when the veil between the living and the departed is said to be the thinnest. It is a powerful time for divination. As I said in last years post, the Samhuinn ceremony is an invitation to those spirits in the other world to join in the celebrations, and it is a time when we can make a connection with those of our friends, teachers or relatives who have passed on.

I am going to share with you a ritual you can perform either alone or with others, inside or out.

Light a candle or if outside use an iron cauldron or fire pit. Begin by meditating on what is passing, what needs to be shed and what, in ourselves and our lives, we need to let go of at this time. Write them down on a piece of paper and keep it with you whilst you meditate.

Call upon your ancestors by saying:

"O Ancestors, known and unknown, ancestors of our bodies, ancestors of our spirits, all those who have given form to our lives, who have made us what and who we are, body and soul. Mothers of ours! Fathers of ours! Teachers! Guides! Healers! Nourishers! Showers of the way to go... and of the way not to go! All you whose fire is in us, whose water is in us, whose Air is in us... whose Earth is in us... all you who spirit is in us! On this night of Samhuinn we feel you near. At this time of no time we call you forth.

Come dear Spirits! We welcome all of you who come in love and friendship, who share our quest for the truth, and even as you move amongst us we shall remember those of the departed who are most dear to us."

Then just sit and trust what happens. Write it in your journal.

Make an offering of bread and salt, honey and wine to the four directions and thank the guardians for their presence and inspiration. Burn your list of things you wish to let go of and hand them over to the ancestors saying:

Out with the old, in with the new

I pass around this stick of Yew

And bread and salt and honey mead

I offer in this time decreed

Take these things that serve me least

And join me in this Samhuinn feast.

Great Spirit and departed guests

Please guide me on my sacred quest

O ancient Queen, The Caileach Bheur

Please keep my focus true and pure.

Scatter the ashes on the earth, trusting that the coming year will be abundant and fruitful. Close the circle by saying "The circle is ended but unbroken". May the harmony of the land be complete.

So mote it be."

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