Samhain Rite

Summer Is Gone

My tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, summer is gone.
Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.
Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone
The wild-goose has raised his wonted cry.
Cold has caught the wings of birds;
season of ice-these are my tidings.

Kuno Meyer, trans.

The Samhain festival shall begin with offerings to the Spirits of
the Land for it is to them that we owe the bounty of the harvest.
And after the feast all produce left in the fields shall belong
only to the Land Spirits. Choice offerings of fruits and vegetables
and flowers shall be left on or near a stone or at an outdoor
shrine in loving thanks for Their labors.

Then shall the ancestor altar, which shall be maintained in the
West of the house, be cleaned and decorated with photographs and
mementos of the beloved dead. All fires in the home shall be

The high ceremony shall begin with the lighting of a mighty fire.
This fire shall be lit by women, in memory of Tlachta of Munster,
daughter of Mogh Ruith the Druid. This fire shall be fed with oil
or with uisce beatha to feed its spirit. (In the event that the
celebrants must remain indoors a cauldron shall be used in which
nine candles are placed and burned. Herbs may be fed to such a

The celebrants shall approach the fire in silence and then
circumambulate it three times, stopping each time they reach the
Western direction to recite the names of the beloved dead they wish
to honor.

Then shall each celebrant place a small piece of paper or a
suitable votive into the fire symbolizing their personal sacrifice
for the new year. This sacrifice shall be an offering of service to
the Gods, the Earth and Her people.

Then shall each celebrant place a small piece of paper or a
votive into the fire signifying their personal petition for aid in
matters of health, wealth and affection and one person shall remain
with the fire until it is extinguished.

The celebrants shall then repair to a liminal space in the
landscape, the top of a hill or mountain (between Earth and Sky),
by the black shore of the sea (between the line of seaweed and the
water), the shore of a lake, or in a cave, or in a field (between
the house and the forest). There shall they cast divinations for
the coming year. (Those who of necessity must remain indoors may
travel to a liminal space using a guided meditation).

Then shall a horned, masked figure appear out of the dark to lead
the celebrants in a dance and better it be that each celebrant
dance in memory of an ancestor.

The celebrants shall then repair to the house where a meal shall
be prepared. At this time the household fires may be relit using a
brand from the ritual flames.

A place shall be set at the table for the use of the beloved dead
and offerings of food and drink shall be set there. It shall be
forbidden for any mortal to touch or consume this food.
Traditional foods shall be eaten, especially foods with nine
ingredients for nine is the number of death and of transformation.
A small token may be hidden in these foods as a type of divination.

Stwmp Naw Rhyw
Mashed potato, carrot, turnip, peas, parsnips, leeks, pepper, salt
and milk.

Vegetable Pancakes
Flour, milk, baking powder, salt, grated cheese and sauteed
vegetables such as zucchini, onions, basil and marjoram, served
with sour cream on the side.

Fruit Crepes
Filled with a filling of mixed fruits, especially apples.

Horn shaped cookies, cakes and breads. Apple pies and pastries.

A bannock shall be baked of which one small section shall be
charred. Then shall the bannock be broken and the sections placed
into a jar or a bag. Each celebrant shall reach into the jar or bag
and the recipient of the burned piece shall do the bidding of the
company for the evening.

A door and a window shall be left open or cracked throughout the
festival so that any wandering dead might find entrance. All honor
must be shown to those who appear in strange and fantastic
disguises, for they represent the wandering dead. These must be
entertained with food, especially apples, symbolic of the
Otherworld Feast of Eamhain Abhlach. And these apples shall be
offered floating in a vessel of sacred water.

Copyright 1999, Ellen Evert Hopman