My shrine to the gods of death
October Full Moon Esbat
Tuesday was the last Full Moon before Samhain. As Samhain falls on a Saturday this year, I suspect I will be out and about for the day and the evening so I decided to hold a Samhain ritual on this day instead.
It was raining, and so for the first time, I held the ritual in the “altar room” of our new house. I lit a large number of candles and turned off the lights, so the room was entirely candle-lit (the altar room is below ground level so there are no windows). I also burned some “opium” incense and played suitably Pagan music (Eye of the Aeon by Silver on the Tree, a very rare album). This generated an atmosphere that was both mystical and soothing, which was perfect as I was actually a little nervous about conducting a ritual alone in the dark cellar – it is quite creepy, and the season of Samhain is the time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is at its thinnest, so anything can happen.
I intoned the names of various deities of death, and thanked them for being a companion to my departed friends and family when they pass over to the other side. I made offerings of sake and a miniature pumpkin and an apple to them in my “Death Shrine.”
I then focussed on the spirits of my departed friends and family, starting with our two family dogs whose deaths were recent quite close to each other (the second died in January this year). I thanked them for the many years of love and affection they gave us, and left an offering of water and dog treats at my main altar.
Next, I focussed on my relatives who had died long ago, but within my lifetime. I remembered each one in turn, and offered a chalice of sherry in their honour (I think most of the relatives I remembered enjoyed a tipple of sherry).
Finally, I gave my thoughts to my ancestors whom I have never met, but whose blood runs in my veins and whose life my own came from. I asked them to guide me to help me bring pride to their name.
I then had a brief period of meditation in which I invited these friends and relatives into my memories. I remembered what it was like to play with my dogs, and I could imagine them coming up to me and poking their noses under my arm like they often did when I sat on the floor. I remembered the way my maternal grandfather would give usually me a kiss while forcing a pound coin or five pound note into my hand when we said goodbye after visiting. I remembered how my paternal grandfather would smile and joke exactly the way my Dad does, and I remembered how grandmother would make incredible knitted toys for my sister and I (she was really skilled with her hands). I also had a “vision” of my grandfather and grandmother as a young couple, dancing together. It was really nice and I even teared up a little.
I was surprised at how emotional this ritual turned out to be. I thought it went much better than my solo ritual last Samhain, which felt rather hollow in comparison. Clearly, the steps I made to create the ritual space, and the focus on my family as well as the deities, worked well for me.
Medway Pagans Samhain Moot
The following day was the Samhain Moot with Medway Pagans, led by one of our members who identifies as a “Left Hand Practitioner.” The ritual turned out to be an intensely personal one, and for this reason, I do not feel it is appropriate for me to share the specifics here. It’s something I think that’s best left in the memories of those who were there, rather than shared with the world (which is different to how I feel about other Medway Pagan rituals, which are far more communal in nature). But I will share some photos of the altar, which I thought looked especially beautiful.