So, tonight is Halloween.
Yes, really. I realise there is some confusion about this here in the southern hemisphere. Remember, the seasons are the other way around, so that makes it Halloween tonight here in the Antipodes. This festival is also known to pagans by its ancient Celtic name, Samhain. As a seasonal festival, it marks the descent of the wheel of the year toward the darkness of winter and the lengthening of the nights. According to tradition, the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest on this night, and the dead are free to roam the earthly world and claim the offerings we leave out for them.
As a solitary, practising Witch, I've developed my own way of creating rituals that is pretty simple, low-key, spontaneous, and, like my cooking, made up mostly of whatever happens to be around at the time. This is my Samhain.
A plate of food is prepared to feed the dead on their big night out. Apples cut across the middle to reveal the Star at the heart, fruit and nuts, tonight a little pasta bolognese and wholemeal bread with butter and honey. A traditional bottle of cider and cigarettes for the ghosts who like to party.
At first a dumb supper is presented in honour of my 'personal' dead - represented here by pictures of my paternal grandfather and my high school best friend. The black Samhain candle is lit only for this night and then put away for the next year. It is surrounded by a circle of 'white light' in the form of tea-light candles. Frankincense incense is burning; the incense holder is a little statue of an elephant, an animal known to remember the dead and honour graveyard sites over generations.
Then the feast is taken outdoors and left for the 'public dead' to enjoy at their leisure as they roam about.
The outside lights will be left on all night, and the Samhain candle burning in front of an open curtain, to light the way for the wandering spirits - and show them where the yummy stuff is.
Our beloved ancestors, blessed be.