Samhain is the end of the old Celtic year and the start of the new one. It is the time when the veils between the world of the living and the world of the dead are thinnest. It is a time to honour and remember our dead, our ancestors and honour the dead time of winter.
There was a sizeable queue outside the hall waiting patiently to throw an offering of sticks into the smouldering cauldron to release the old year. The hall, sombrely decorated for the occasion was packed as the priestesses welcomed us to the hall and gave an introduction to the ceremony. Standing we began by welcoming in the goddesses of the nine directions including the lady of Avalon, goddess of this land.
When seated, the priestesses began a soundscape that rose and fell with haunting melodies, ancient invocations, drum and gong beats. As this beguiling noise surrounded us, we were led by a priestess on a guided journey…
…I found myself at the shores of a moonlit lake in a dark and empty land. Waiting for me on a wooden jetty was a dark wooden longboat with hooded figures at the oars, I was welcomed on board by the goddess who took my hand and passed me a torch of fire. Silently we glided across the water until the mists of time descended and stole away the world. Raising her arms she parted the ethereal veil and by the white light of the moon, I could see an island with people waiting on the shore, the isle of the dead. I stepped from the boat and greeted my beloveds…my dad, my grandmothers and my friend. It was so poignant to commune with them again, tell them how much I loved and missed them and thanked them for all they had done and been for me when in the realm of the living.
After being guided home from the isle, I joined others in front of the altar to light a candle and remember my beloveds who have passed, particularly my dear friend Jane who died of cancer at only 37 years old; a shining star that still shines bright in my heart.
Accompanying the soundscape with our voices, we were led in song by the priestesses calling on Ceridwen the dark mother to take away our pain and heal us. We remember her at this time as she stirs her cauldron and inspires us to dive deep into the shadows of our souls and retrieve the jewels hidden there in alchemical transformation.
I found the ceremony deeply moving and appreciated the sacred time and space to remember my dead and drawing on Ceridwen’s wisdom at this time is giving me the courage and strength to do the healing work I need to do this winter. Blessings.