by Scott Cunningham
Place upon the altar apples, pomegranetes, pumpkins, squashes and other late autumn fruits. Autumn flowers such as marigolds and chrysanthemums are fine too. Write on a piece of paper an aspect of your life which you may wish to be free of; anger, a baneful habit, misplaced feelings, desease. The cauldron or some simular tool must be present before the altar as well, on a trivet or some other heat-proof surface (if the legs aren't long enough). A small, flat dish marked with an eight-spoked wheel symbol should also be there. [This is just what it sounds like. On a flat plate or dish, paint a large circle. Put a dot in the center of this circle and paint eight spokes radiating out from the dot to the larger circle. Thus, you have a wheel symbol - a symbol of the Sabbats, a symbol of timelessness.]
Prior to ritual, sit quietly and think of friends and loved ones who have passed away. Do not dispair. Know that they have gone on to greater things. Keep firmly in mind that the physical isn't the absolute reality, and souls never die.
Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle. Recite the Blessing Chant. Invoke the Goddess and God. Lift one of the pomegranates and, with your freshly-washed Boline, pierce the skin of the fruit. Remove several seeds and place them on the wheel-marked dish. Raise your wand, face the altar and say:
"On this night of Samhain I mark Your passing, O Sun King,
through the sunset into the Land of the Young.
I mark also the passing of all who have gone before,
and all who will go after.
O Gracious Goddess,
You who gives birth to the fallen,
teach me to know that in the time of the
greatest darkness there is the greatest light."
Taste the pomegranate seeds; burst them with your teeth and savour their sharp, bittersweet flavour. Look down as the eight-spoked symbol on the plate; the Wheel of the Year, the Cycle of the Seasons, the End and Beginning of all Creation. Light a fire within the cauldron (a candle is fine). Sit before it, holding the piece of paper, gazing at its flames. Say:
"Wise One of the Waning Moon,
Goddess of the Starry Night,
I create this fire within Your cauldron to
transform that which is plaguing me.
May the energies be reversed:
From the darkness, light!
From bane, good!
From death, birth!"
Light the paper in the cauldron's flames and drop it inside. As it burns, know that your ill diminishes, lessens and finally leaves you as it is consumed within the universal fires. [The cauldron, seen as the Goddess.] If you wish, you may attempt scrying or some other form of divination, for this is a perfect time to look into
the past or future. Try to recall past lives too, if you will. But leave the dead in peace. Honour them with your memories but do not call them to you. Many Pagans do attempt to communicate with their deceased ancestors and friends at this time, but it seems to me that if we accept the doctrine of reincarnation, this is a rather strange practise. Perhaps the personalities that we knew still exist, but if the soul is currently incarnate in another body, communication would be difficult, to say the least. Thus, it seems best to remember them with peace and love - but do not call them up. Realease any pain and sense of loss you may feel into the cauldron's flames. Works of magick, if necessary, may follow. Celebrate the Simple Feast (Cakes and Ale).
The circle is released.
It is traditional on Samhain night to leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead. A candle placed in the window guides them to the Lands of Eternal Summer, and burying apples in the hard-packed earth "feeds" the passed ones on their journey. For food, beets, turnips, apples, corn, nuts, gingerbread, cider, mulled wines and pumpkin dishes are appropriate, as are meat dishes (once again, if you're not vegetarian. If so, tofu seems ritually correct).
Book of Shadows © 2001, Dana (Huntress of the Dark)