Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Circle of Fountains Samhain Dumb Supper and Ritual 2014

A note that this entry includes some examples of appropriation and includes our reasoning behind them.
Instead of removing this entry from our list, I would rather keep it to recognize that this once happened and will thus never happen again.


This post will cover the Samhain dumb supper and ritual held by the Circle of Fountains.

Circle of Fountain's Samhain celebration was written and hosted by me this year.  Because Samhain is a special holiday for all of us, I wanted to set it apart from our standard rituals.  In order to do this, I honored a variety of cultures in our celebration and ritual.  Each aspect was celebrated with dignity and respect. We did not wish to steal from these cultures, but rather show the greatest amount of appreciation for each piece of our heritage.

The festivities began with a mask-making craft session.  Masks and costumes on Samhain, and thus Halloween, date back to Celtic traditions.  Because the veil is thin and the dead walk the earth, masks and costumes are a way of scaring away evil spirits.  We honored this by creating our own masks, themed with black, gold, tan and bronze.

We then continued to our fifth, unfinished room for dinner.  I chose our unfinished room over the dining area in our kitchen because it perfectly represents Samhain, a new year with untapped potential.  This upcoming weekend, we will be painting it, cleaning the cement floor and painting that as well with cement paint.  It's exciting that we'll be living in a five bedroom house here shortly!

We then sat down to a dumb supper.  This is a special kind of silent dinner in which you dine with the spirits of those passed.  As you can see in the picture above, I've set up places for each of us to sit, and then added a special location for the spirit, or spirits, to sit.

The spirit's sitting area was marked as "Guest" on the place card, included a special gold plate, and had a chair covered with black cloth.  In front of the plate were six tea light candles on an appropriately-themed candelabra.  These were originally unlit.

We began the dinner by serving our guest first, then serving ourselves afterward.  Once everyone had food, we each lit a candle for someone special to us, asking them to join us at our dinner.

During dinner, we remained completely silent.  I asked everyone to be expressly aware of their surroundings, for they may give us clues that spirits have joined us.  As each person finished, they hung their head in silence until midnight.

At midnight on the mark, from the basement came the following music:

"Oh Death" by Jen Titus
And thus we proceeded down the stairs and into the spiritual room for ritual.

My circlemates held hands as I called upon the elements silently with the music.  I joined in once the circle had been called until the end of "Oh Death."

"Tree" by Aphex Twin

In Taoism and Voodoo, ancestor and memory altars are incredibly important.  The first step of our ritual was to call upon the same spirits we did at dinner by placing an item or picture that related to them on my personal ancestor and memory altar located in the north-facing corner.  By doing this, we recognized and honored this cultural practice.

We then each lit a large pillar candle for the family member, friend or loved one we called upon.  For example, I called upon a friend of mine who passed away in 2006.  He was the first person I dreamed of during this season, so I felt it only proper to honor him.  Others called upon loved ones, family members, pets or even a person whom they no longer were.  My husband asked to honor a friend of ours who is missing, but did not want to light a candle as we did not want to definitively mark his death.  We both still hold out hope that he is alive.

Once we honored our loved ones, we lit all other candles and incense on the primary altar for the unnamed, unloved and unknown who have passed.  This altar was an interpretation of Japan's Festival of Lights.  While we could not do paper lanterns, I chose items that were significant in Buddhist culture.  When someone passes, shrines to the dead are covered in white paper to keep out impure spirits, a custom called kamidana-fuji.  Thus I chose white candles to replace the lanterns.  Incense is also a custom in Japanese culture and was added to the altar as well.

Once the fog cleared from the room, we began on our first ritual project: Calaveras, or sugar skulls.

Sugar art is imbued in Mexican culture, and an important part of the Mexican Catholic holiday, Dias de los Muertos.  Each sugar skull represents a departed soul and sometimes has the name of that soul written across the forehead.  While I could not make sugar skulls as I lack the culinary skill, I provided skulls I carved from foam and the appropriate artistic accessories to create a personalized calavera.  I also provided examples in three different handouts for anyone unfamiliar with calaveras.

We decorated them to the light of circle member Kolika's Sugar Skull inspired jack-o'-lantern.  Everyone's decorate skull turned out amazing!

We then turned to an old Norse tradition.  On the seventh day after a person had died, people celebrated with a funeral feast that included ale.  The ale was a way of socially designating the end of a period of death and grieving.  By drinking the funeral ale, heirs could rightfully claim their inheritance.  In fact, many of the large rune stones in Scandinavia are actually notifications of inheritance.

My interpretation of this ancient practice involved each member taking a sip of a local beer, then drawing a rune from a pouch.  The rune would signify something that person would "inherit" from a spirit in the room for the new year.  It may not necessarily be an ancestor or someone they know, as we had asked many spirits to join us, but that also gave us a variety of special skills to inherit.

Each rune was written on birch, a tree that signifies growth and adaptability in Celtic traditions.  On the back of the runes, I wrote the name of the rune and two keywords for the meaning.

We then ended the ritual by passing a sprig of rosemary to each of the circle members.  Rosemary is a universal symbol for remembrance, and dates back to Egyptian times when sprigs of the herb would be laid on coffins.  Each member could take the rosemary home to lay upon their altar or gravestone of choice.

We then completed the ceremony by releasing all the spirits we called upon to return across the veil...

... And closed the circle!

Each member was able to take home from the ceremony a personalized mask, a small black decorative mask, a decorated Sugar Skull, an inheritance rune, a sprig of rosemary, and a small gift box filled with things for the new year, such as quartz, an old key, an empty notebook and more.

And that concludes the Circle of Fountains Samhain ritual for 2014!
From my circle to yours, we sincerely hope you had a fantastic Samhain!

Here's a full list of all the songs I used in ritual:
Entrance, Circle Raising:
Oh Death - Jen Titus

Ancestor Altar:
Tree - Aphex Twin

Ritual Background Music:
Seven Sirens and a Silver Tear - Sirenia
Kesson Daslef - Aphex Twin
One Last Wish - James Horner
Ghost Song - Max Ablitzer
Despair and Triumph - Kevin MacLeod
Dark Times - Kevin MacLeod
Samara's Song (The Ring) - Thomas Andersen
A Voice in my Head - Amy Lee feat. Dave Eggar
All that I'm Living For (Evanescence) Acoustic Piano Cover - Schmoonify
Lost in Paraside (Evanescence) Piano Cover - SophOnKeys

Circle Closing, Exit:
Helvegen - Wardruna

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