Samhain and Beginnings

First posts aren’t easy. No new undertaking truly is, I think. And yet: it’s just after Samhain, the beginning of the dark half of the year, the settling cold that precedes spring’s burst of warmth and life. It is, for many pagans, the start of the year. Not necessarily the most auspicious time for a new working, by many counts, but then, neither is the civil New Year, but that doesn’t stop us making resolutions amid the cold and snow. And besides: I have a vow to fulfill.

Yesterday I attended a Samhain ceremony hosted by Three Cranes Grove, the local group of ADF Druids with whom I’ve been happy to celebrate a handful of tidings over the past two years (and hope to share many more, but that’s for another post). We honored the spirits of the natural world about us, we honored the Shining Ones, especially Hades and Persephone as king and queen of the Underworld. We honored our ancestors, those of our blood but also those of our faith and our hearts. We invited our beloved dead to join us in our rites, and poured out libations to them as we spoke their names. And then, our dead remembered and our gods honored, we closed the rite and had a potluck in grand druid style.

The waxing gibbous moon floats in a dark blue sky
Flickr/BrightGarden

But after the plates were all cleared, the room set back to rights and cars driven home, I had another ritual to perform. I’ve been wanting to write about my experiences in druidry for a good while now, but setting up a blog — and really doing it right, I mean — always felt like too much effort after coming home from work, cooking, washing the dishes, and all the other tasks that fill up life. And yet: I knew I needed to. I just needed a boost, some accountability.

And so last night, I had another offering to give. Outside, under the gibbous moon, I folded a sheet of paper into a cone, lit it afire, and sealed my contract with a shared cup of wine. The exact writing on the paper is for the flames to hold, but in essence I pledged — by the witness of my ancestors of blood, faith, and community, and in the sight of the gods — to write of that Samhain night, and to keep writing thenceforth. And here we are.

The author's written vow burns in the dark

May Manannán guide me, may Brigid inspire me; may my words be clear and my heart true.

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