Much gratitude to the eight wonderful families who joined in our Samhain Celebration this past Sunday. We braved the elements and delighted in one another's company and the fire! To be able to safely gather we wore masks, socially distanced, had a sign-in sheet and kept our numbers below 25. Because of the rain, we actually split into two shifts, 2-3pm and 3-4pm. We began with a chalice lighting, followed by spoken call and response of the UU hymn "Oh We Give Thanks."
Oh, we give thanks for this precious day,
For all gather’d here, and those far away;
For this time we share with love and care,
Oh, we give thanks for this precious day.
Oh, we give thanks for the old and young,
For a time of wonder, joy, and fun
For all we give as we grow and live,
Oh, we give thanks for the old and young.
We introduced ourselves and shared something we're thankful for. Responses ranged from thankful for snow, fire, good health, the harvest, the Old Shelter we stood under and those who built it, and more!
We introduced where Samhain originated, with the Celtic tribes of ancient Europe. We looked at the Wheel of the Year and other holidays they celebrated, according to nature's cycles. We enacted a bit of life back 2000 years ago, perhaps of a small Celtic village in what we now call Ireland, planting our crops and tending them, with hopes for enough food to make it through the winter, and the relief and celebration when we were able to produce a big harvest. Both a joy and gratitude, mixed with a worry of the long nights and the hardships and perhaps worry due to a belief in evil spirits that might come near when the veil is thin, between Oct. 31st and Nov. 1st.
Above: Wheel of the Year (image credit: technicallyadults.com)
Above: We took time to add treasure to our Samhain altar -- photos or mementos of friends or ancestors who have died, and harvested fruit / veggies, flowers. We took a collection of items for the local food pantry, so we can practice the age-old tradition of sharing an abundant harvest with those in need.
Above: Families brought donations to share the "harvest" at the Food Pantry.
We built fairy houses to keep those spirits out, on the edge of our village. We wrapped herbs to dry, which would have been our medicine and seasoning for our food, and a bit of beauty from dried flowers. (We wrapped cat mint from our church gardens!) Some went journeying and found items on a scavenger hunt: sign of an animal, a nut or berry, something beautiful, and something dead!
We closed with a time to share how their projects / explore time went and a ritual. We each thought of something in our habits or thoughts that we'd like to actually let go of, to let die away in this season of plants returning to the soil. And then we thought of an intention or hope that we'd like to plant, as this is also nature's big time of planting seeds for next spring. We put these thoughts into a leave that we then took turns tossing into the fire, to set the intentions out into the world, as well as holding them in our hearts.
Samhain prayer for children
Samhain is here, cold is the earth, as we celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth.
Tonight we speak to those through the veil, the lines between worlds are thin and frail.
Ghosts and spirits in the night, magical beings rising in flight,
owls hooting up in a moonlit tree, I don't fear you and you don't fear me.
As the sun goes down, far to the west, my ancestors watch over me as I rest.
They keep me safe and without fear, on the night of Samhain, the Witches' New Year.
(from IrishCentral.com, author unknown)
After our second group's gathering, I spoke the words to one of my favorite songs of this season, "Who are the Witches" by Bonnie Lockhart. Marissa helped me sing the version that has been passed down to me over the years, which I prefer since it doesn't place witches only in the past, and it also allows for all genders to have a little witch identity! Here it is (recording by Marissa and Liza).
The whole gathering wore wooden name tags. At the end of each event outdoor event this year, everyone gets a gift of a Memory Bead to add to the name tag. Each event has a different color connected with it. Our pumpkin carving service project for the Enchanted Forest was an orange bead, for example. Since Samhain is the start of the long, dark nights, and also sometimes called "the witches New Year," and witches wear black, this day we got a black Memory Bead.