Firstly ours: being traditional Wiccans, this time of year is when the God departs to the Otherworld (or Underworld), and is one of the most profound moments of the male mysteries. In our cycle, the God takes his wasting wound at Midsummer, diminishing in his strength as the sun grows weaker. He begins to look within. Where his energies had previously been focused outwards towards physical growth, between Midsummer and the Autumn Equinox, he turns inwards, and begins his inner journey towards that greatest of all mysteries.
We symbolize this by having the God and his male counterpart (normally Father/Son) meeting in ritual combat. It is their realization that Dark and Light are one and the same that initiates them into the mystery of their deepest Selves, and thus they pass beyond this mortal realm. In our tradition, we teach that each one of us is both male and female, and so this a very profound moment is shared by everyone present, male and female, as each of us is able to comprehend the mystery at this time.
The ritual that we wrote for this year is as follows:
Circle cast in usual manner, and Elemental Guardians invoked. Blessings of God and Goddess upon the Circle.
Old God (OG) and Young God (YG) stand in the center of the circle, back to back. The coven circles around them, chanting an invocation to the Horned God. (We used the one which begins, “By the flame that burneth bright 0 Horned One…”) After the “Io Pan” chant, everyone stops, raises their arms, slowly brings them down again, and then lets go of their neighbors’ hands.
OG starts to slowly thread his way in and out of those forming the circle; as he moves, he is obviously old and wounded. The YG starts to shadow him, keeping always on the opposite side of the circle. The OG begins to be aware that he is being followed, and tries to see who follows, but the YG remains hidden. At last, the OG turns and confronts the YG:
“Who is there!”
“It is I, your son and shadow”
“Why do you follow?”
“Because your time is past, old man, and I will now take your place.”
“Old I may be, but I am a better man than you shall ever be! Meet me if you dare, and I shall prove it to you!”
This is not what was actually said: OG and YG spoke spontaneously, and their interchange was a highly charged, combative exchange, which had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck! This gives you some idea of the kind of thing that happened, though.
They meet in combat, and fight. After a period of fighting, they realize that fighting is not the way, and in a moment of true reconciliation, they join as one, and kill each other. This is the moment when the male mystery is revealed; the reconciliation of all those different aspects which have been explored individually throughout the passage of the Wheel of the Year. This is the culmination, and a moment of incredible sanctity.
A Priestess walks around the circle saying: “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; all things pass; all things fade; all things die.” As she does, she extinguishes each of the Quarter candles, leaving only the two altar candles alight.
The HPS, wearing a black veil and robe, picks up the God candle, and stands in front of the altar. She extinguishes the candle and says:
Farewell 0 Sun, ever returning light
The hidden God who yet remains,
Who now departs to the Land of Youth
Through the gates of death,
To dwell enthroned the judge of Gods and men
The Horned Leader of the Hosts of Air
The two Gods stand silently, and move slowly and with dignity towards the west, where a veil hangs across a doorway. They part the veil, and leave the circle. Behind the veil, one holds a candle, to symbolize the passage of the sun to the Underworld. (In the ritual, in the almost-dark, this had the appearance of the etheric bodies rising from the dead, and silently moving to the veil – it was very effective!)
The HPS continues:
Yet even as he stands unseen without the circle,
So dwelleth he within the secret seed;
The seed of newly-reaped grain, the seed of flesh;
Hidden in earth, the marvelous seed of the stars.
In him is Life, and Light is the Life of Man,
That which was never born, and never dies,
Therefore the Wicca weep not, but rejoice.”
The HPS replaces the now unlit candle upon the altar, and picks up the chalice of wine, and the dish of cakes. She moves to stand in front of the veil, and says:
HPS: “I bring to you an offering: wine from the fruit, and food of the earth.”
She places both in front of the veil.
“And now I would ask of you a question.”
OG: “You may ask”
HPS now asks any question of the Lord of the Underworld.
OG replies to the question as he is inspired to do. This part is totally spontaneous, and assumes that the one playing the role of the OG is able to “channel” directly from the Gods, or is skilled in divination (which is probably one and the same thing!).
When OG finishes speaking, HPS thanks him, and takes a sip of wine, and a cake. She returns to her place, and each person in turn repeats her actions, beginning with the placement of an offering, and ending with the sip of wine, and taking a cake.
When all have visited, and spoken with, the Lord of the Underworld, the HPS stands before the veil once more:
HPS: “My love, I cannot see you”.
OG: “Nor I you – but come to me, for I am lonely for you.”
HPS: “I cannot! For I fear….”
OG: “Find me – seek for me – I yearn for you, and your love”
HPS: “No, they need me, I cannot leave them”
OG: “No, they do not need you, but I do – come to me!”
HPS: “I cannot.”
OG: “Now is not your time, but soon, soon you will make the journey, and then you and I shall meet, and love again. But this time, deeper and more lovingly than we have ever known before.”
(Again, this was not quite as we spoke it, but is the gist of the exchange. To say there was nary a dry eye in the house would be an understatement. This incredibly emotional and moving moment is almost impossible to describe.)
HPS thanks Quarter Guardians, and finishes with the Blessing Prayer. All leave the Temple.