Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Circle of Fountains Samhain Celebration and Ritual 2016

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

I led this year's Samhain ritual!

Each sabbat, a different Circle of Fountains member writes and leads the ritual.  Each of our circlemates has a different belief system or practice and often incorporates that into their celebration. As a nontheistic witch, my work often deviates greatly from what might be considered a "stereotypical pagan ritual."  I generally don't call quarters or gods and am more invested in spirit work and self-exploration.  You can read more about what witchcraft is to me here.  All of this is reflected heavily in my rituals.

I also want to welcome both Olivia, our wonderful Novice-turning-guest-member and Tamilia, our newest guest member, as this was their first active sabbat ritual with us!

The evening began with a rather large crafting session!

Each person received a plate with their name penned onto it, arranging our seats for later.  On that plate was a candle, which I asked each person to decorate in honor of their loved one.  Once their candle had dried, I took that with their memory photo or trinket into the ritual room for later.

They were also given a skull mask, which I asked them to decorate with the theme "How I want others to see me."  These masks were set aside for after ritual.

Finally, in case some people finished early, I also let everyone decorate a section of a paper mache pumpkin.  This was mostly just for fun.

Once crafting was complete, we were ready for dinner!

Our dinner consisted of lamb roast (my specialty), oven-roasted chicken, carrots in sauce, corn casserole, beet borscht, lavender cookies, smores bars and your choice of non-alcoholic apple cider or a dark red wine.

As always, we reserved a space for our spirit guests and served them first.  I then asked everyone to line up and one by one, quietly light a candle for the person they were honoring tonight, requesting that they join us to dine.

Upon all candles being lit, everyone was allowed to sit and silently dine with the dead.

When each person completed their meal, I asked them to hang their head in silence.  Only I reserved the right to stand from the table and prep ritual.  My circlemates knew that, once they heard clapping, ritual was ready to begin and they could enter the ritual space.

The clapping led to my personal rendition of Delta Rae's I Will Never Die.

We gathered around a foggy, fire-lit cauldron as I sang with Kolika on guitar and Amy on the tambourine, both backing me up vocally.  Amy and I also took a moment using our athames during the song to cut the circle.

Singing was an important part of the ritual for me.  My rituals are often about becoming our most authentic selves, but my role here was to lead others, not to follow.  Singing in front of people is a huge fear of mine, so forcing myself to do so was a way of becoming my most authentic self and facing my own fears in a ritualistic sense without participating in the following ritual.

Not to mention, I Will Never Die is the perfect accompaniment for the work we were about to do.

The fire was tended by Kira.

Once the song was complete, I welcomed everyone to the ritual, to a space between the living and the dead in the mist of the Veil.

Instead of calling upon the elements, I asked my circlemates to notice that we were surrounded by altars to the dead, to their loved ones, arranged by Phaedra.  During dinner, we gave them an offering of food.  In return, I wanted them to request their protection by having each spirit join hands with the spirits around them.  I asked Circle of Fountains to call upon their loved one like they would an element or a god: With respect, with gratitude, with energy and focus.

I called upon my familiar who passed on, Nyx.

Nyx was my fire Tortie, a beautiful cat who passed in 2012.  I decorated her candle in the color of her fur and tied it with a red ribbon.  We have lost friends and family during this year but, if I was looking for someone to protect me, Nyx would be my first call.

Of course, the spirit calls were emotional for many circle members and required the support of others.

Once everyone had called upon their spirit, the following occurred without any instruction seamlessly in the ritual:  I took one step forward, called out Nyx's name and held my hand out to Olivia.  She stepped forward, called out her loved one's name and held her hand out to Phaedra.  So on and so forth, everyone stepped forward, called out their loved one's name until we formed a circle inside the spirit protection circle.

We then repeated three times:

"Hear us, join us, protect us!"

How amazing is it that we've become so cohesive that things like this just occur now with no instruction?  I'm so amazed by my circle, my family!

And so our circle was cast.

I then proceeded to the next portion of the ritual, which required my circlemates to examine who they truly were.  Theoretically, we start anew after Samhain and emerge from the ritual a different, more complete version of who we are.  But who are we?  What is the self?

According to Carl Jung, the Self is comprised of our many parts, both unconscious and conscious.  But in order to fully encounter who we truly are, we must first let our egos - the conscious mask of ourselves - die.  The ego is what we allow others to see, a self developed around what society tells us we should be and what it deems is acceptable.

For Samhain, we drank an elixir to poison our egos.  It was the only way to meet our true selves.  In the corner was a tiered display.

Each glass, provided by Abby, contained a small amount of liquid.  The liquid in the glass, I stated, was death: The void, the world beyond the veil where our bodies are no longer.

The water within the fountain represented the River Styx, filled with the ice cold spirits ushering us to the afterlife.

The spoons served as Charon's boat.

And the skull-shaped sugar cubes, brought in by Andrea, represented the ego as it dissolved away through the transition.

But to cross the river, a toll must be paid.  Ancient Greeks would place a coin in the mouth of the dead to pay the ferryman.  In this case, what Charon wants is something that comes from the mouth - but it isn't a coin.  It is the spoken word.

I asked each person to write on the coin at the top of a slip of paper a statement that begins with "I want others to think I am..."  What does the sugar skull represent?  What trait do you show the world?  What mask do you wear?

Then, placing the sugar skull on the spoon and the spoon on the rim of the glass, open the river Styx.  Allow the representation of the ego to dissolve into the elixir.  Once the drink, absinthe of course, is mixed, state your "I want others to think I am..." statement aloud and take a sip.  The toll is paid.

My circlemates had now crossed the river and stood at a large gate.  In front of that gate, I told them, was someone they truly hated, dead or alive.  Shadow work is all about the withdraw of projections.  We project when we hate, when we don't take responsibility for our hatred.  I asked them to analyse why they hated the person and what that said about themselves.  To unlock the gate, we were going to attempt to come to terms with one of these projections.  However, the Shadow Self does not talk in words.  In order to meet the Shadow Self, I asked my circlemates to confront their projections non-verbally.

Laura led us in a dance for this.

Upon completing the dance, everyone fell to the floor and closed their eyes.

Once everyone was down, my husband and I tied everyone's hands together with ribbon.

I then led them through an extended adaptation of Belinda Davidson's Forest of Fears guided meditation.

"You awaken on cold ground, your arms and feet tied and bound.  You don’t know where you are.  The person you hate is gone.  The gate is gone.  It’s so dark that you can barely see.  Your first instinct is to struggle, to undo the rags around your wrists but you can’t.  You are bound for a reason.

"The wet grass starts to slowly soak through your clothes, creating icicles of damp on your skin.  It chills you.  You want to take action, scream, run away but you cannot.

"As your eyes adjust to the darkness, you see looming trees and hear unnerving sounds.  You now recognize where you are: This is the forest of your fears and darkness has descended.  All you can do is surrender.

"It won’t be long now.

"You hear a creak and the snapping of twigs.  You are not alone.  It has come, and as it moves closer, you grow more afraid.

"The initiation begins."

During this initial part, my husband and I held our hands in the ice water from the fountain.  We then walked around and touched each person with an ice cold, wet hand.  Every person gasped.   A few started to cry.

"You have been touched by your own darkness, your own fears, your own insecurities, your projections, your hatred, your strength, the deepest and darkest part of you.

"The figure in front of you is void, dark, a monster of your own creation.  The only thing you can truly see for sure is its eyes.  Look into your shadow self’s eyes.  Understand this being, this shadow, this darkness within you.  Take your time – you have plenty.  What is your Shadow Self trying to tell you?  Memorize it.  Keep it.  Store it.  You will need it.

"When you are ready, I want you to allow your Shadow Self to engulf you.  Once that has happened, keep your eyes closed but raise your hands.  When I interact with you, you may open your eyes and stand."

As we went through the meditation, it was difficult listening to my circlemates struggle with their shadow selves.  Many of them cried, one sobbing uncontrollably. But it was so essential for their growth.

As each person held their hands up, I used a pair of scissors to cut their ribbons apart.

Upon standing, I told them that they were now past the gate and inside the Other.  The initiation was complete.  We journeyed to the other to pull our Shadow Selves from our personal Forest of Fears for the first time.  We brought the intangible to the tangible - the Shadow Self to the Physical Form.  We must now give a tangible to the intangible.

On this display were items you would find on the forest floor of the tangible world: Hickory wood, oak wood, pine cones, thistle weed, sycamore leaves, ash wood, moss and peat (in replacement of loam, which does not burn).  I read of a list of correspondences - each one containing two positive and one negative trait for each item offered.  Each person was asked to select an appropriate item and offer it to a flame when they returned home as an offering to their Forest of Fears.  While we had merged with our Shadow Selves for now, all too often, the Shadow Self recluses back to the forest within.  Instead of arriving on the floor bound, this offering would create ashes within our world that would help us achieve stability when we arrived.

Before we could board the boat back to the physical world, we must of course pay the toll - for two, ourselves and our Shadow Selves.

Before them was a cast iron skillet with a sigil designed to enforce embracing their shadow selves.  Circling that sigil was a candle for each of them.

I asked them to refer back to their paper of coins.

"Who are you really?  Who is the real you?   What is it you hide from other people?  What embarrasses you, what do you not want others to know?  Think about things you dislike in others.  Think about projections, judgements you make.  Take each trait and see if that is a quality that you have or are capable of demonstrating.  Recognizing who we really are, examining these projections and owning them, allows integration to occur."

With their Shadow Self, I asked them to write down two statements of authenticity beginning with the words "I am" - with one being considered "negative" and one "positive."  I wanted them to own these statements, flaws and all.

When each circlemate was ready, I asked them to step forward and light a candle.  I then asked them to state their two "I am" statements and set the paper ablaze, allowing it to burn out on the center sigil.

The toll has been paid.  However, before we left, I asked each member to take a small vial and collect some of the ashes.

Then, take their candle and seal the vials with the wax, blowing it out once they were done.

Just as we would plant ashes in our Forest of Fears to help us travel there more easily, these ashes would connect all of us together, rooting us here in the physical world as a reminder to lean on one another for support.  The candle could be burned any time they felt they weren't being their true selves, when they didn't feel whole.

"Because you are the most beautiful when you are authentic."

I then welcomed them back to the physical world asked them to return to their loved one's altars.  I walked my circlemates through a short grounding meditation to help relax them and ease the stress of the ritual.  

Before releasing the spirits, I let them know that I had extra forest items for them to take home should they need help traveling to their Forest of Fears on their own.  They were welcome to take home the remainder of their spirit's candle to burn for actual Samhain, since we were holding this ritual on the 29th.  Finally, once they returned outside the ritual space, I asked them to take another look at their masks from the crafting session earlier.  The masks represented their ego.  Now that they've accessed their Shadow Self, I asked them to notice how different the masks looked.  They could place this mask on a Samhain altar in memory of who they were before becoming their most authentic self.

Each person then released their spirits, thanking them for their protection.

We then released the circle.

And returned outside the ritual room for drinking and festivities, including these wonderful COF smores bars made by Laura!

You'll notice as you've read through this that each Primary Member had a hand in creating this ritual without knowing its premise.  While the ritual was a surprise for everyone, I wanted them to feel connected to it in some way.  Getting them unknowingly involved was essential to the process.

Each circle member walked away with enough to perform this ritual again if needed:
A candle to honor their loved one and ask for their protection.
A mask to remind themselves of their ego.
A glass and skull spoon to drink to the death of their ego.
A cut ribbon to remind themselves of their Forest of Fears.
A tangible forest item to burn to access their Forest of Fears.
A candle to burn representing the merging of the Shadow Self with the Physical Form.
And a vial of ashes to root them here.

From my circle to yours, we wish you a blessed Samhain!


  1. What a wonderful sounding ritual! Glad Tamilia was a part of it!

    1. Thank you so much, Alice! We love Tamilia to pieces!

  2. Thank you for sharing! Your description allowed me to get a sense of the power, the fear, and the healing of the Shadow work performed. Brightest blessings to all of you!

    1. Of course! Thank you so much for reading and blessings to you as well!

  3. The rituals your circle does are always so thoughtful and creative! I especially liked the idea of having the tools on hand to use on your own.

    1. Thank you so much, Liz! I truly appreciate it!