[A Note from Daven: This will require some explanation. My wife and I were active in Ancient Sites as you may know by now, and this ritual was found on the Internet while Theresa was researching Samhain for her “family’s” celebration. She adapted it some and this is the result.
It is very moving and a transitional experience. Eldrich is the Druid of the Clan, Mai is my wife, a spaewife, and the Bard is someone else. Just read it through.]
Message: Awake with the sun
Author: Druid – Eldrich Niall, Patron
Date: Oct 31, 1999 10:33
Eldrich stretches his creaking bones, refreshed by a long and dream-filled sleep. The sound of wood-chopping nearby assures him that the clanfolk are busy with Samhain preparations. Warming in the early sunshine, he allows himself the luxury of one more restorative stretch. Then he reaches for his staff and hobbles towards the crannog.
On his way to the village, he passes nine neat piles of logs stacked a few paces from the grove. Pausing to inspect the carefully chosen wood that will fuel the sacred bonfire later, the old druid smiles to himself. His nighttime dreams remain with him, the shadows of the dead lingering like bittersweet incense. The whisper of Eldrich’s mentor from Iona accompanies him, gently reminding him of the age-old words, gestures and other druidic patterns of Samhain. Clearly he can hear the mellow voice of his beloved teacher softly chanting. Eldrich hums along and their voices become one.
Entering the crannog, Eldrich passes the huts of his kinfolk, exchanging greetings and blessings as he goes. Children trail after him, pushing and shoving each other nervously and playing scare-games of their own devising. Fumbling in his pouch, Eldrich produces a handful of nuts and one apple, which are eagerly accepted by small, grubby hands. Both delighted and awed, the youngsters dash home to their mothers, giggling with excitement.
Women sit in the doorways, weaving wheat into spiral patterns or mending their best clothing, singing the old songs. A trio of young women approaches him, bowing respectfully, and he directs them to the grove with the errand of clearing the area of sharp stones, sticks, or other unwanted forest rubble that may impede the festive procession. At the council house, a crone sweeps bloodstained straw away from the threshold. She bends slowly to pick up handfuls of fragrant herbs from a basket for fresh strewing on the clean floor.
Satisfied that preparations are under way, Eldrich turns towards the lough to seek out a quiet place for washing himself before returning to the grove.
Message: First Night of Samhain Ritual
Author: Druid Eldrich & Spaewife – Mai Niall, Patron
Date: Oct 31, 1999 18:04
As darkness falls, the horn, pipes, drums, harps call the clan to the grove.
The drums begin to pound a steady rhythm like the beating of a slow and steady heart.
Eldrich moves to the Sacred flame. This for the younglings is the scariest part, as Eldrich extinguishes the fire and chants:
“The fire of the old year is out. We now stand between the years in the twilight of the worlds.”
With Eldrich leading the tribe, Mai on his right, a circle counterclockwise/widdershins is made in a spiral pattern. As they walk, The Bard chants:
Honor the dead in the way that is appropriate. Those who come are truly welcome. May they remain in peace!
Now the harp, mournful and sad begins to play as a horn of mead and a plate of bannocks are passed around. Oatcakes and mead are offered on the altar stone and bowls of nuts and apples are brought by the children and maidens and a portion offered to the gods. And the roll of the dead is chanted by the Bard, Eldrich and Mai.
Hear now the people we have lost to find again!
Marion Zimmer Bradley,
Dylan, Captain of the War band!
Seamus the Red
Lewi the Fair
Callan the Bold
Erichu the Swift
Faollan the Lost
Faolin Ruadh, Red Wolf
Of the warriors of the Clan Niall are these gone, from the families and hearths and homes. They will come again from the cauldron of the Mother and we shall laugh and rejoice with them again.
The drum beat and wail of pipes increases in tempo and the harp notes sounds harsh. The flames rise into the darkness and Eldrich chants:
“So we meet again, between day and night, red and black, earth and sky.
Between dusk and moonlight lie the borderlands between the worlds.
Now we dance around its edge, from sunshine into shadow.
On this night, in these shadows, the Dark Lord of Samhain comes to claim His own.
He carries away the last of the harvest, the frosted fields, the withered berries, crisp, painted leaves.
All of these make up his treasures tonight.
O King of Death, Bringer of Peace! As we stand on your threshold tonight, I pray you, open the gates through which we all must pass. In this sacred grove, on this night when the doors open between worlds, let us meet happily with those who have gone before. Let us make merry and be together once again.
And when our time comes, as we know it must, we shall enter your realm happily and unafraid.
For we know that when we have been rested and renewed among our loved ones, we will then be reborn by the grace and love of the Great Mother. O Liberator and Comforter, pray let it be in the same time and same place as our loved ones!
And may we meet, know, remember, and love again!”
Eldrich strides to the western part of the Sacred Grove and chants: “Behold! West is the land of the dead to which so many have gone for their rest and renewal. Tonight we offer welcome by the western gate. There is a mystery within the mystery.
For the resting place between life and death is in the castle at the hub of the turning wheel of stars, beyond the northwind.
To this, in spirit, I call our departed loved ones.
The spiral path to this castle leads to night and rest, and so is against the way of the Sun.
“In the space between a breath
Death faces life and life meets death
Without dark we’d know no light
And without light we’d know no night
Without sky there is no earth
And without death there is no birth
Now join together, Life and Death,
In the space between a breath.”
“We welcome the new year with the darkness that came before the light. Tonight we kindle the fire of the new year and renew truth, love and courage in our hearts, strength in our arms, and fertility in the fields and forests of our clan. Let us welcome the new year!”
“Failte bliadn nua (fawltcha blee-uh-dun noo-uh)
Failte bliadn nua (fawltcha blee-uh-dun noo-uh)
Failte bliadn nua (fawltcha blee-uh-dun noo-uh)”
The voice of the Bard is heard, from behind, from in front from everywhere:
“This is the time when the Dagda mated with the Morrigu to secure victory over the Fomorians. The Fomor tried to bribe him with an offering of porridge stuffed with meat and milk. It marks the time when we await the coming of the Samildanach who will bring the Gods to victory over the Fomorian giants. As the Fomorians rule in darkness the land is a waste.”
A female voice joins the bard as he continues to chant:
“Nuada is deprived of his rule, for he is maimed and awaits his hero, Lugh, who will steal away his wife. The Dagda is the bringer of prosperity, fertility and virility. Nuada is the king who will step aside for the coming of the God Lugh, who will liberate us all. In our vigilence, we light a fire as a symbol of the Sun on its way to our part of the world as it spends a few months in the Underworld. During this time, order is turned upside down for three nights and the dead come back to share our world with us. We remember those who have passed from our world.
Horns now join the drums and harp. As Eldrich speaks again:
“O Horned God, O Lord of Runes, we listen for your wordless tunes!
Come from your realm of endless mist so we may keep our age old tryst!
Come through gates time-worn, well-used,
Come with power and wisdom infused!
Come, Dread Lord, come by our Will,
Come out from the hollow hill!
Bring our loved ones, friends of yore,
Long beyond Shadowland’s door!
Bring them on this holy night to our sacred Samhain rite!
Shake off the dust of tomb and earth
Come sing, come dance in joy & mirth!
Come singing, come dancing, round and round.
Come, sweet Lord, so newly crowned!
Wood from the nine sacred trees comprise the fire. At the sound of blowing a horn, there is a flare of light and the New fire of Samhain is kindled like magic.
In front of the bonfire, the procession stops and Eldrich intones:
“The gates of Life are opened. Welcome, New Year!
Welcome those who have gone before into the Shadowland, into the Summerland. Show us the mystery
That every end is but a new beginning. We meet in time and out of time. Everywhere and nowhere. Here and there, to greet the Lord of Death Who is Lord of Life and the Triple Goddess Who is the Circle of Rebirth. Our offerings have been accepted! May this year be filled with health, wealth and wisdom for all of us! We dance now in the path of Light and Life, sunwise.”
The music strikes up lively as a reel or jig is danced sunwise deosil around the fire and a procession dances to get indoors before midnight for feasting and drinking. It is time for praising each other, boasting and being eloquent.
Message: Racing the sunset
Author: Herbalist – Moss Niall
Date: Nov 1, 1999 07:41
Moss is certain she will arrive late for the Samhain rites.
She and Amleth have been in the healer’s tent on the field of Siofra’s farm all day, tending the remaining warriors. There they stayed until they were assured that the last of the injured had been taken safely to home. Then they took down the healer’s tent, which was the only one still standing in the muddy expanse.
Amleth brushed his hands on his tunic and glanced around with a satisfied smile. Aside from deep wagon ruts and a few bits of rubble here and there, one would never know this had been the scene of such pain and suffering.
With a gasp, Moss noticed the sun was hanging low in the reddening sky. “We will miss the Samhain ceremonies!” she wailed, then her eyes lit upon two horses grazing peacefully nearby. “I’m sure the farmer won’t mind us borrowing those horses. She is probably already at the sacred grove anyway!”
The older herbalist squinted at the sun and gave a weary sigh. “Go on, Moss, and I will catch up later. A bone jarring gallop would be the end of me tonight.”
Giving Amleth a quick hug, Moss hurried towards one of the horses. “I will look for you to follow soon!” she called over her shoulder.
The horse proved to be a swift one and Moss enters the crannog under a purple sky. Hastily she ties the steed behind her hut, patting his neck gratefully. Then she finds the path that leads to the grove and runs into the forest.
The horn has already sounded and the drumbeat tells her that the rites have already begun. Without a sound, she slips into place between two of her kinswomen. The names of the dead are being called out. Every muscle of Moss’ body tenses as she listens for one special name. There are so many this year, and so few that she has known. Dylan the captain of the war band! She remembers catching a glimpse of him as he proudly rode out of the crannog, his bright hair braided in warrior fashion and his weapons gleaming by his side. Faolan the Lost – does his restless spirit still wander the banks of the lough? The list of names ends abruptly, it seems, and a chill shakes Moss to her very bones.
Into the brief silence, she whispers a name that was overlooked. “Dubhdara! The chieftain! My father! Safe journey, Da, and rest well!” Tears flood into her eyes, unheeded.
Then someone grabs her hand, jerking her into the line of wild, ecstatic dancing. The piper wails and the drums pound. Round and around they spin, and the circle expands. They are led, dancing all the way, out of the sacred grove and down the path to the crannog. Everything is just a blur to Moss, and the only thing that matters is arriving safely at the clan meeting house for the festivities that will last all night. She lets her feet go where they will, flying blindly by torchlight through the trees, as she dances nimbly to outrun all her sorrows.
Message: Looking around at the battle lust, it is time…
Author: Reflecting – Mai Niall, Patron
Date: Nov 2, 1999 22:57
to remind those bereft by war of what awaits those who have gone before, and that we will all join again in the Kingdom of Manannuán mac Lir.
I stand and wait for silence to fall. It will be the first time I will speak in public at the Crannog, and I pray to the Tuatha De Dannan that I tell the tale well.
“To the west of here,” I begin softly. It is very true that people will become even more still and attentive if the have to strain to hear. “There is the Land of Apples and Summer. There it is that Manannuán is Ard Righ. Never is there hunger in his land, for all that is consumed in a day is renewed in the night. Pain is there none, for the warriors that are wounded on the battlefield one day are healed the next. No child cries in his land for want. No widow mourns the loss of her man. No husband aches for the wife gone from his side, and no one need be lonely, except by choice.”
I look at Ferchar and smile as I say these words. He blushes knowing that I have him in mind. Then my smile turns to the noble Feargus as well. I have seen my aunt eyeing him from the crowd of warriors and I know what that means from past experience.
“Here too is the gateway to the next realm and the cauldron of rebirth for those who would return. Manannuán watches over all and teaches those who seek to learn as he taught Lugh and others, that they will be fitted for their next life.”
“Rejoice then for those who are lucky enough to enjoy the hospitality of the three waves and the golden apples of Manannuán!
Rejoice for the The Druid has named them!
Rejoice for the Bard has sung their deeds!
Rejoice for they are known to Manannuán and in his care!
Rejoice now that with the dark time to come food have we in abundance, so there is no want found at the tables of Niall!
Rejoice that the warriors are home and will hunt for us!
Rejoice that the Conn Finn is returned to us safe!
Rejoice that the Clan has two such skilled hearbalist!
Rejoice that the New Year is so auspiciously begun!
With each call to rejoice my voice rises in strength. The people are nodding and smiling. I bow to the Conn Finn, Eldrich the Druid, The Warriors and the Herbalists and resume my seat.