In my tradition of eclectic paganism, Halloween is called Samhain. Like many other traditions, it’s a day we honor our dead. We say the veils are thinnest between the worlds of the living and the dead during this time of year and on this day in particular and messages can pass between the veils.
Samhain 1999. For many years, I hosted a semi-regular Full Moon Circle in my home. Women would gather, we’d do a ritual to honor the Goddess, usually have some kind of craft to take home as a remembrance – paintings, drawings, decorated candles, runes made from clay – and then we would have a potluck feast.
This Samhain would be the last I would host, as I would be making a 4-year commitment to attend school. I would be passing the mantle on to one of the other women in the group.
This was to be a big affair. Instead of the meal being last, it would be part of the ceremony. Each woman was asked to bring a dish that reminded her of someone they loved who had passed. They were also to bring an item that reminded them of that person or pet they were honoring.
As my daughter and I prepped the space and RSVP’s came in, we realized we would need more seating. I borrowed a table and chairs. We set up an altar with mums and pumpkins, decorated the mantle with candles, set the table with autumn-themed partyware.
Usually, we had about 7-10 women at each gathering, as not everyone on our list of like-minded women could attend each month. It was a good thing I borrowed the extra table and chairs, as this night we ended up with 18 women crammed into my living room.
Women began arriving in ones, twos and threes. Food was piled on the tables – mashed potatoes, tortilla casserole, apple pie, tuna casserole, brownies, mac and cheese, cinnamon apple iced tea – lots of comfort food. Candles lit, the room blazing with light and the warmth of friendly chatter, we sat down at the tables, crowded elbow to elbow, with high spirits. Taking a small bit of food from each dish, I made a spirit plate for the ancestors, and welcomed all the women.
The ceremony for the night, once the food was passed around and glasses filled, was for each woman to tell the story of why she chose that particular food, who she was honoring and tell about her remembrance item. After each tale, the remembrance was placed on the altar.
The night was filled with joyful stories of past loves and fresh sorrows at new losses. Each woman’s tale filled the room until all the colors of our stories tangled together in the air. The spirits of those we loved and lost settling into the spaces between, behind and above, their presence palpable and rare.
A scrying bowl had been set up outside under the moonlight, it’s dark depths allowing those who wished to peer into, and see, messages from loved ones past. Several of the women told me they got vital messages that gave them comfort.
But most of all, from that night, I will remember the sweet camaraderie, spirit and light we felt as the shared stories brought us closer together and created a magical night.
Mirabel is an eclectic pagan living in Central Texas. Autumn is her favorite time of year.