Jello skulls, votive candles and feasting with the dead

Jello skulls made of pomegranate juice, fruit and coconut.

Jello skulls made of pomegranate juice, fruit and coconut.

On the morning of the 2nd of November, Amhranai-Mati Feri hosted a workshop on Oíche Samhna or Samhain and the ritual and lore that surrounds it. We invited Deborah Oak, Feri witch and priestess from San Francisco, to guest teach with myself (Bríghde Éire) and Mikey Harlequin,  and to bring the flavour of the Mexican El Dia de los Muerto or The Day of the Dead to the workshop. I also come from California, though currently living in the UK, and El Dia de los Muerto has been part of how I celebrate what is known in the Catholic Church as All Saints Day since I was a child.

We divided our work into a spell integrating what we desired for ourselves, our loved ones, our spiritual communities and the world. For the world we did a working for the bees and the sacredness of honey and how it has been used in many spiritual traditions throughout the ages. Usually we would draw attention in ritual to the bitterness of loss with the ‘bitter cup’ and the sweetness of life with honey. This year we went into the apple grove in trance, called to the ancestors who wanted to work with us and drew out our ancestral trees, placing those ancestors who called to us and whom we called to. These are ancestors of our blood and bone, of inspiration and of spirit.

An important part of working with our ancestors revolved around altar building. Here are a few of the altars that grew over the weekend.

The main altar for the weekend workshop.

The main altar for the weekend workshop.

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My favourite image of Victor and Cora Anderson.

My favourite image of Victor and Cora Anderson.

The pomegranate jello went quickly on the first day of the workshop.

The pomegranate jello went quickly on the first day of the workshop.

Over the weekend we made our votive candles, built our altars, tranced to the meet our ancestors, tranced to the Isle of Apples, talked to our beloved dead, did some group divination and set our spell work. We also feasted with our Beloved Dead each day, placing their favourite food and drinks upon our personal altars. Interesting discussions emerged on our personal views of what happens when you die and reincarnation. As part of our ritual work with the honey, we used blessed and charged local honey. For me, two great people left this plane over the last year. Of course there are many who go through the gates every day. This Samhain I remembered Layne Redmond, frame drummer, author of the book, When Drummers Were Women and Bee Priestess, and Goenka, a great teacher of Vipassana Meditation. They have joined the Beloved Dead I remember every year.

Celebrating Samhain as a two day workshop is an annual event for us. As I wrote in our workshop description:

Samhain marks one of the two great doorways of the magical year in Celtic lore. It is at this time we look to the western gate, celebrate the dark and welcome in our beloved ancestors. In most traditions, Samhain is considered the Witches’ New Year. The time we turn within, and in reflection, plant the seeds of dreams yet to come in the fertile darkness. It’s also the time we listen for our ancestral stories of blood and bone, kith and kin, spirit and ancestors of our tradition(s). It is also the time we acknowledge the light to come and our responsibility for what we pass on to our descendants.

Next Samhain (2014) we are expecting Anaar, Feri witch and priestess and Grandmaster of the Feri Tradition, to join us. Maybe you’ll join us next year too!

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