Friday, October 2, 2020

A Samhain Devotional Practice

 The following introduction is edited from a longer text that will appear in ADF's 'Oak Leaves' magazine in the Winter issue. That issue will contain a Yule Devotional script, but I wanted to make the Samhain thing available in a timely way.

Pagan Devotional Worship

Modern Paganism, at least as I’ve known it, is primarily expressed through ritual performance. Our Paganisms are not, generally, contained in texts. Study of the words of a founder or of seers or spiritual teachers is not a significant part of Pagan practice, rather our ideas, understandings and inspirations are often translated into ritual acts and speech. This is as true for the Wiccan-styled segments of Paganism as for more traditional styles. Elements of Wiccan ritual speech, such as the ‘Charge of the Goddess’ come as close to scripture as Neopagan ways get. 

In ADF our rites have enshrined elements of our cosmologies, attitudes toward the gods and spirits, and toward one-another. Very little of that is overt and very little recitation or teaching usually accompanies those works. Rather we depend on group energy and the use of more grand ritual work to generate spiritual experiences for participants. Those working alone at home, or perhaps in a micro-group of family or friends, may need a different style of spiritual practice. It is certainly possible to mount the full production of a High Day sacrifice in living-room or backyard, but there are other methods that may serve better. 

The following text draws on elements of both the Indic ‘Pooja’, and the Roman Catholic ‘Novena’ The latter is a tradition of undertaking nine consecutive days of dedicated prayer focused on a particular spirit (i.e. saint or person of the Trinity) or on an intention. Authors compose formal novena-prayer texts for such things. I fell upon the text of modern RCC Novena prayers, and immediately saw what might be a useful model.

Taking what might be the easy road, I am beginning by creating Devotionals for the eight High Days of Neopagan tradition. For those who attend liturgical celebrations of the Days such a home-rite can serve as preparation, focus and personal work. For those working solitary a Devotional can serve as one’s primary celebration of the spirit of the Day. While these practices don’t follow our OoR closely, they do generally use the traditional formula of offering and blessing.

Practice Notes
The Order
The basic order under which I am writing these is thus:
1: - Opening Charm: The Blessing of Fire and Water, and acknowledgement of start
2: - Water and Smoke Cleansing: As usual – always a valuable ritual moment
3: - Hymn of Intention – a versified statement that both clarifies intention and inspires the proper feelings.
4: - The Vision - simple text to induce the vision of the target principles. This rather replaces the scripture-reading in the RCC texts.
5: - Prayer of the Vision – Affirmation of the vision-contents. A reflective reading followed by affirmational prayer is a sequence I like.
6: - Invocation of the Powers – calling and offering to the gods and spirits of the intention
7: - Litany of Blessing – reception of the Power
8: - Final Prayer of Thanks or Petition

The Shrine
This practice requires the usual Fire & Water, along with the means to make offerings – a censer and a plate or bowl for food offerings. Unlike liturgical rites offerings can be small, or token amounts of the lists called-for. If no offerings are specified in the text then an incense-offering is always proper.
As always, images of the gods and decorative symbols of the season are proper. Those who enjoy decorating seasonal altars and displays in their homes may find this worship-form useful.
                Allow me to give a serious (if pro forma) warning about the single greatest ‘danger of occult ritual’ – burning down your house! Treat live fire as a tricky guest – do not trust your luck to leaving live fire unattended.

Some of these practices call for food offerings that will spoil if left sitting unattended. Offerings made in ritual should be disposed of respectfully no later than the next morning. The best is to leave perishable or edible offerings at the foot of a tree. Those with minimal tree-access need not hesitate to dispose of offerings at home. I, personally, find flushing to be a more respectful and direct disposal than the house garbage-bag. If you find your censer with a dozen sticks in it, a window-sill or balcony may be in order.

The Work
The text is meant to be read-through, making offerings as you go, as called for. Each begins with an informative reading, which can be read silently before beginning the formal ritual sections. I have not included detailed trance-involvement instructions, but I encourage you to find your center and your basic trance before beginning, and return to that position as needed. The work includes a ‘vision’ – a ‘guided meditation’ segment in which you are asked to imagine or envision specific patterns relevant to the holiday’s themes. Visualization while reading need be no more complex than the internal visuals which accompany fiction for many of us.
                ‘Novenas’ in the RCC, may be done at home, or be led in church for group work, often leading up to a major calendrical feast. They use the ‘litany’ form, in which a reader recites the various lines of prayer, and the group responds with an affirmation. I have retained the form in just one place; it can be read through alone, or used as a responsive reading if the work is done in a small group.
                Another such trope is the ‘antiphon’ a framing mechanism used to begin and end sections of the work. These will probably remain consistent from text to text for my eight High Day devotionals.

Hallowing the Shrine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and Grow in me.
In Land, Sea and Sky,
Below and on-high
Let the Water be Blessed and the Fire be Hallowed,
And let my voice be heard by the Holy Ones!

Now may the Powers of Underworld and Heaven bring their cleansing blessing.
Anoint and cense the hands, and any items proper to the work, saying:
By the might of the Water and the light of the Fire, 
this (place/thing/work etc) is made whole and holy.

And/or, slightly more detailed:
Fire and Water, earth and Sky
Rooted deep and crowned High
Ill be gone and good draw nigh
Fire and water, Earth and Sky

The year begins, the year must end
The road of life to death must bend
As mortals we go on our way
Our fate is but our course to stay

In elder days the year was broke
In two by poetry bespoke
On Hallowed night, the ancient time
The spell was rightly made by rhyme

To gather on the high place bright
The folk would come on Samhain night
To light the sacrificial flame
And feast the Dead of ancient fame

Remembered, still, at this, my shrine
Where this small spirit-fire does shine
In Samhain-tide the cup I raise
And give the Holy Ones due praise.

Antiphon  of the Vision
Let the Inner Eye be open, let the spirit eye be clear
Wisdom speaks in spirit-vision, let the truth be on me here.
Sitting in your meditation seat, breathe and seek your peace in silence.
Let your bone uphold you
Let your blood beat in you
Let your breath flow through you
For a moment, in silence…
And let the Gate of the Season be open, and let the Fall of the Fall flow into your mind…
The Edge of Winter…
Where in such latitudes the trees go bare, and beasts burrow deep…
And mortal folk look toward the barren season.
Let the feel of the land’s season be over you
As you contemplate three doors.
Let the first door be in the Halls of the Dead,
Where the Great Feast is served, and the Hosts sit enthroned
Yet in season a door is open, and the Dead go forth into mist
Toward the Fires lit for them.
And let the second door be at the end of the long hall of cold stone…
Deep in the mound on the Edge of Beneath
An arch of giant stones, one upon the other… 
that opens into the Samhain season night
Upon green Earth.
To walk in the living Green… with wind and stars…
Toward the Fires lit for them,
Brings your vision to the Third Door – the homely Threshold
Of a family…
Warm fire light…
Scent of the boiling pot
Where kin welcome kin
And love welcomes love
At the feast of Samhain-tide.

Abide for a time in the Vision, and conclude with the antiphon.
Antiphon  of the Vision
Let the Inner Eye be open, let the spirit eye be clear
Wisdom speaks in spirit-vision, let the truth be on me here.

Prayer of the Vision
So I open my heart to the Holy Ones, in this season of the gates. May I walk in harmony with the tide, and gain the season’s blessing. Holy Ones in the Deep, who keep by right the Throne of the Hall of the Dead, hear my prayer in this season. Most Ancient Dead, hear me, Wise Dead, hear me, Beloved Dead, especially you my kin, hear me please.
Oh Mighty Ones, as you loved life so bless me with life; as you loved your kin let me know the love of kinship; as you endured death so may I endure life and death with Grace. In Wisdom, Love and Strength, so be it.

Offeratory Invocation
The Samhain Charm 
End of Summer, summoned
Herd Culling; Head Taking
Mead Making; Dead Calling
I keep the Feast of Samhain!
First of the Fallen, you I call
Son of the Warrior; Eldest of Brothers
Lord of the Feast in the House of the Dead.
Take now this offering here at my Fire.
Wrathful Red Goddess, you I call
Queen of the Spirits, Daughter of Danu
Mare of the Stallion, Crow of the Corpses
Take now my offering, here at my Fire.
Host of the Ancestors, this is your feasting.
Apples I give you, fruit of the Gods
Bread I give you, flesh of the Land
Ale I give you, blood of the Cauldron
Come you from the Isle of Apples
Come you from the Dark One’s House
Come you through the Door of the Hinge
And give your blessing to our year!

So, all you Powers, I give you welcome at my Fire. Let your light be reflected in my spirit, let your ale flow in my veins. I raise this glass to you, and drink to your divine power. Let me know the health, wealth and wisdom of the Gods and Spirits on this holy feast of Samhain! So be it!

Offerings: For the Deities, oil or incense, for the Dead as specified: Apples, bread and ale. Work the rite close to your hearth, or at a tomb. 
Blessing cup: Prepared before beginning, to be drunk as the text calls for, and during the following litany.

Antiphon of Blessing
With open heart and centered mind I seek the flow of blessing
Shine from Above and Rise from the Deep

Litany of Blessing
Holy Ones, we remember you
response: Grant me the Blessing
All beings of the Great Way of Things
response: Grant me the Blessing
You to whom I make these offerings
response: Grant me the Blessing
That there be blessing in our spirits, bright and deep
response: Let the Blessing be in me
Let there be blessing in our minds, calm and clear
response: Let the Blessing be in me
Let there be blessing in our Flesh, whole and strong
response: Let the Blessing be in me
That Wisdom guide me
response: That the Blessing be mine
That Strength empower me
response: That the Blessing be mine
That Love sustain me
response: That the Blessing be mine
Antiphon of Blessing
With open heart and centered mind I seek the flow of blessing
Shine from Above and Rise from the Deep

Antiphon of Contemplation
In soul-peace I let light reflect, and shadow bide in the deep
May my stillness reflect beauty, and abide in wisdom
Now abide a while in silence, and let the whole Blessing of the coming Feast be upon you
Antiphon of Contemplation
In soul-peace I let light reflect, and shadow bide in the deep
May my stillness reflect beauty, and abide in wisdom

Final Prayer
So I remember the work of the Wise. Let the Fire be lit again, let once again the Well give forth, when I return to this shrine and work. Let the Holy Ones be praised, and the Great Dance of All Things be a turning of joy. Let Blessing carry me, and mine, and bring comfort to all the world. In Wisdom, Love and Strength, so be it!