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Betwixt and Between: A Samhain Open House

We are opening our hearth and home to all those who are looking to celebrate the end of the cycle of the year with friends, family, and like-minded individuals. All people of all ages are welcome to attend (children under 18 must be a known quantity or be with a parent, sorry), and there is no faith-requirement. Yes, this is open to people who are not Pagan, including atheists and agnostics, if the activities seem interesting to them. All we ask is that you maintain an attitude of reverence, and an understanding that this is a religious ceremony for some or all who attend.

Here’s the specifics:

  • When? Friday, November the 1st, starting at 7pm and lasting until sometime around midnight but possibly later.
  • Where? Hagerstown, Maryland. Specific address will be given as a response to RSVPs. You must RVSP by October 30th to ravesblood at gmail dot com. As our place isn’t very big, we will have to cap attendance at 20 people; therefore, RSVPs are important, and we ask that once you RSVP, please honor your commitment. If you RSVP late, we will maintain a “waiting list” in the order people respond, so if we have a cancellation we will notify the next in line. We don’t know for certain we will reach our cap, but it’s likely, so RVSP early.
  • Who? We expect most people will be local, friends and family who want to celebrate with holiday with us. We do have the ability to host a small number of out of towners, so if you’d like to come from far away we can give you a place to sleep (although if we get many, it may be a patch of floor here or a bed at a friend’s place). We should be clear, however, that we have set plans that Saturday afternoon, so although you’re welcome to stay the weekend, we’ll be gone for most of Saturday.
  • What? Samhain is a holiday from the agricultural “wheel of the year” (the literal reality of which we can debate another day, but it’s what’s been adopted by some NeoPagans) that marks the end of the harvest, a time when the veil separating the living and the dead is thinnest, therefore making it easier to feel and hear the presence of our Honored Dead. It’s one of my favorite Pagan holidays, and as Rave and I are at loose ends for a group to celebrate with, we figure there are others who might be as well. You don’t need to ascribe to the Wheel of the Year to take some time to think about and grieve our dead.
  • How? The evening will have three parts. From 7pm to 9pm, we will have several people practicing various forms of divination (and yes, if you’re a diviner, feel free to indicate whether you’re willing to read for people, and what kind of set up you’ll need.) As I have a strong ethic that you pay for skilled labor, but also an understanding that this is a special occasion, I have decided that all readings will cost $5, or you may attempt to enter into a barter agreement with the diviner of your choice – but of course, the diviner has a right to turn down barter they don’t want or need. If you wish to attend only to avail yourself of divination, you are welcome to RSVP thusly, but the reading will cost you $10 (to give people an incentive to stay the whole evening).
  • The second part will be a dumb supper, which Rave will be organizing. A dumb supper is somewhat a Samhain tradition; people cook various entrees and desserts that were favorites of a dead relative or friend (or something the person is just really good at cooking), and bring them potluck-style. When we clear the room from Part 1, a bell will be rung, and at that time all speaking will cease. The moving of furniture, the setting of the table, the meal itself, and a short time afterward will all be held in silence. The idea is to invite our Honored Dead to eat with us, and there will be a plate in the center of the table where people can share a portion of their dinner with the Dead. We eat in silence so we can be better able to feel the dead’s presence, or hear their whispers. When the meal is over, the offering plate will be placed outside and a silent prayer thanking the Dead for attending will be said. If your Dead want a certain kind of drink, or (as in my case) for you to smoke tobacco, you must bring those things with you (and you don’t have to share if you don’t want to). When it is time to speak again, a bell will be rung a second time. There will be a short period of re-adjustment before we move to Part III.
  • Part III will be a Sumbyl. This is a Norse tradition, but is accessible to people of all faiths. We fill a drinking horn with some form of alcohol (probably a hoppy beer, or cider) and it will be passed around as we make three rounds of toasts. The first round will be toasts to Gods of the Dead; it can also be to Death itself, or even a Concept or Archetype of Death if you so desire. The second round will be to your Honored Dead – people who have had a good influence on you, both intimate and not, so you can toast Aunt Tilly and Jim Henson if you want to. The third toast is usually a boast, but it is the only part of the ritual I’m keeping close to the chest. At a sumbyl, it is always okay to skip a round, or to libate the alcohol instead of drinking it (or kissing the horn), so none of it is mandatory. If the feeling in the room is to open it up after the last round, allowing people to make further toasts, we will continue until the hosts decide it’s over.
  • We ask that attendees plan to be at all three parts, but obviously we ask that at a minimum, you be present for parts II and III, as we can’t predict how long the dinner or the sumbyl will be.
  • Also, we can set aside a space for those who may not have been able to get their reading before the supper, to do so during or after the Sumbyl. Of course, it is up to the diviner as to whether or not they’re willing to work later on, so I can’t at all guarantee that it will happen. If someone comes and isn’t able to get a reading, I will offer them a reading at the same cost sometime later on,either via email/skype or in person.
  • Why? Well, the short answer is “because my Gods told me to”, but that isn’t really satisfying for anyone other than me. We feel there is a dirth of Samhain celebrations in the area, and since death magic and the dying/decomposing part of the cycle of life is something I work closely with, it seemed like a no brainer. I also felt that having a ritual where people who aren’t sure where their faith lies, can still come and take a little time to mourn their dead without having to swallow a bunch of thoughts about what the afterlife is like or that Uncle Harry is “smiling down on us” or whatever.This ritual is meant to be built in a way where it is primarily internal – your reading is confidential between you and the diviner, the dumb supper goes without saying, and you can always offer a toast without telling anyone why, or the circumstances that lead you to. (Of course, you can choose to share if that helps you.)

So, again, you must RSVP to ravesblood at gmail dot com by October 30th if you want to attend. If you aren’t a known person to us, letting us know how you found me (fellow Lokean, blog fan, friend of a friend, etc), will make us feel much more comfortable letting you into our house. Also, keep in mind that Part II only works if people bring entrees and desserts to share (plan to share with 10 people), and we’ll be supplying plates and tablecloths and such. It can be store-bought if you’re not a cook; it’s more important that the food have some meaning for you or your Honored Dead.

About Del

A shaman who writes about spiritual things, but not in that namby-pamby "everything is light and fluffy" sort of way.

One response to “Betwixt and Between: A Samhain Open House

  1. Fala

    This looks absolutely brilliant. October is threatening to leave me completely kaput, but Kit and I will let you know ASAP if we can make it.

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