MoonFire: Samhain Witches Sabbat
Article ID: 7327
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,607
Times Read: 5,501
Author: RuneWolf [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: November 16th. 2003
Times Viewed: 5,501
Location: Arlington, VA
Event Date(s): October 25th 2003
What could be more appropriate on Halloween than a Witches' Masquerade to Honor the Ancestors? On October 25th, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA, that question was put to the test by the worthy folk of MoonFire.
Guests at the masquerade were greeted warmly, amidst the quiet hustle and bustle of masked Witches going about their last-minute preparations. Each arrival was presented with an Order of Service, a pencil and paper, and a choice from the Tarot deck, to be recorded and interpreted later. A beautiful selection of masks was also available, for those who did not come so prepared. Fortunately, I had read the Samhain announcement in the MoonFire Newsletter, and had managed at the last minute to make my own simple mask, although I would not have looked out of place with a pair of six-guns strapped over my robe. (Who was that Masked Witch...?)
>From the greeting area, celebrants moved into the dimly lit pre-ritual meditation area, there to reflect on the events of the previous year, to the unobtrusive and eclectic strains of Brian Eno. Out of those reflections, we were encouraged to write down something that we wished to offer up to the Ancestors, and/or the Goddess and the God, and then release into the Veil of Samhain.
At the appointed hour, the Guardians of the Circle came to brief us on the progression of the ritual, and to guide us into the ritual space. Between the pre-ritual area and the ritual space, a panel of black fabric had been placed, to represent the Veil of Samhain. At the Veil, celebrants were formally challenged - and cautioned - before entering the Circle proper: we would meet and speak with the Goddess and the God this night, and we were counseled not to go lightly into that encounter.
In the ritual area awaited the magnificently appointed Central and Quarter Altars, as well as the Ancestors' Altar that took up an entire wall of the ritual room. After placing items of personal remembrance on the Ancestors' Altar, along with our written offerings, we celebrants arranged ourselves around the Circle, and the festivities commenced.
The Circle was beautifully cast: as the High Priestess walked the perimeter, we were encouraged to speak the names of those who had crossed into the Summerland this past year, and our voices called out softly, each in turn, to our dear departed ones. Once the names had been called and the Circle cast, the presence of those so called was palpable.
The Quarters were called, with the charming and unusual twist that the final line of each call was made in a language appropriate to the Quarter: Gaelic in the East, Spanish in the South, Japanese in the West and Finnish in the North.
The Ancestors were called to join the festivities as well.
The Lady and the Lord were invoked by the High Priestess and High Priest, and appeared to take Their places in Circle with us, in the form of masked Avatars of Cerridwen and Cernunnos.
The main working of the ritual was the encounter between each celebrant and the Goddess and the God. After lighting a candle in remembrance at the Ancestors' Altar, each of us, in turn, presented ourselves to the Lord and Lady, revealed our true faces, and spoke with Them about whatever we were moved to speak about on this chill night when the Veil is thin and the Ancestors near.
For myself, I spoke of gratitude for what I had been given in the past year, and for the privilege of being present during my father's passing. I gave thanks for the strength and grace that the Lady and the Lord had bestowed upon my family and me during our trials in the past months, and for Their presence in my life. In token of my thanks and gratitude, I pledged to Them that I would faithfully observe all the Festivals and Moons in the coming year (I had been a little lax, last year, you see...)
(This sort of ritual drama is a real strength of MoonFire. The group - especially at Samhain - has a great knack for creating ritual environments wherein the celebrants have the opportunity to be present with Deity, and their own deep questions and emotions, which is sometimes difficult in solitary practice. And the cohesiveness and harmony of MoonFire's energy always makes for a welcoming, safe and secure Circle, wherein such processes can take place. Even with the gift of a small Pagan group forming recently where I live, I nonetheless look forward each and every year to MoonFire's Samhain. For those in the Washington, DC area who are seeking a warm, welcoming, innovative Open Circle, I highly recommend MoonFire.)
After the main working, we all joined hands, hearts and energy in a lively Spiral Dance, to the wonderful music of Blackmore's Night. After grounding the delicious energy of the Dance, we returned to our places around the Circle, for a very Traditional round of Cakes and Ale. The High Priestess and High Priest moved along the perimeter of the Circle, and the soft repetitions of "May you never hunger/thirst," "Thou Art Goddess/God" and "Blessed Be" drifted through the thick, pungent incense smoke.
With the taste of the Cakes and Ale still sweet in our mouths, we bid thankful farewell to the Lady and the Lord, and They left the Circle in stately procession. The Quarters were released, and the Circle opened with MoonFire's traditional round of "May the Love of the Goddess Be Ever in Your Heart."
Feasting and merriment ensued, with a sumptuous potluck. Music, food and fellowship flowed, and several members of MoonFire made themselves available to read the Tarot cards that celebrants had drawn upon arrival. The written offerings that we had made during the ritual were commended to the fire, and the wind carried away what we had given to the Veil.
As the Witching Hour approached at last, and pumpkin-hood threatened this old Witch, I was reluctant, as always, to bid my friends at MoonFire a "Blessed Samhain and Happy New Year" once again, and wend my way homeward to the wilds of Reston.
MoonFire, renamed in November 2000, is an open CUUPs chapter that has existed for eight years, and is affiliated with the UU Church of Arlington, VA. The MoonFire Mission and Vision Statement reads:
"We strive to build a safe and nurturing community which is inclusive and provides for spiritual growth and service to the Earth and her children. We are the Hub of the Wheel of Life, the Crossroads where all meet; We are a Chalice of the Goddess; We are of the Earth, rich and empowering; We are a Rock, safe and secure; We are a Rainbow, diverse with many colors yet together in one band; We are a Flame of Spirituality, providing the light to see our path before us."
MoonFire conducts open rituals at the UUCA on the 3rd Sunday of every month, except October, when the Samhain celebration is held on a Saturday night. For contact and event information, please visit the MoonFire website.
Location: Reston, Virginia
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