I created this ritual after reading a book written by one of my favorite Pagan authors: Dreaming the Dark by Starhawk. I’ve had the pleasure of actually meeting Starhawk and participating in rituals with her, and I have incorporated some aspects of those rituals into this one. Many thanks to Starhawk for her inspiration and continued teaching.
This ritual is best done within a group, or at the very least with one or two close friends whom you can trust, and I do not recommend it for beginners or newcomers without a skilled, experienced practitioner present. The process of journeying into the dark can be somewhat intimidating, and the emotions it invokes can be powerful and overwhelming.
My Deaf readers will notice the presence of music written into this ritual, although there is no actual music playing – I considered adding such to this post but decided against it, preferring to allow my readers to choose their own music to accompany the reading of this ritual. I am indebted to my dear friend and fellow Pagan Wyndsinger – himself a talented musician – for his contribution of the musical score included in the creation of this ritual.
Music does play a role in many Pagan rituals… at the very least, there is usually drumming involved. I chose to include music because some of my readers are hearing Pagans who can identify with it; and also because there are Deaf people out there who can and do appreciate music – myself included. No offense is intended to anyone.
I have conducted this ritual both in real life and on-line several times, and have always been amazed by the transformations which can occur when people embrace their own shadows and dream their own darkness.
Goddess Bless and Goddess Keep.
Ocean steps forward and stands in front of the altar, facing the Circle. Silently, she grabs the hands of the two Crossroads visitors on either side of her, and as if by cue, everyone begins to hold hands, creating a circle of energy, where only love and trust exists. Quietly the Circle draws in the energy, breathing in unison, grounding itself to the earth below, the sky above, and the spirit in the center. With the strength and support that we give to each other, we are now ready to begin the Rites of Embracing the Shadows. In a quiet soft voice, signing and speaking at the same time, Ocean guides us on our journey…..
We come together here to perform the rites, cast the circle, raise power, and honor the Goddess and God. We also come to share ~ our thoughts, our feelings, our visions, our hopes and dreams, and sometimes our pain. We have laughed together and cried together, and sometimes even fought with each other. We have bonded, and found in that bonding our strength and connection.
But sometimes, we still hold back parts of us…sometimes out of shame, sometimes out of fear. Oftentimes we don’t like to show that aspect of ourselves that we consider to be “negative”…the fact that we can be totally irresponsible, or totally insensitive, or totally pissed off. We don’t like to face our fears, face our anger, face our weaknesses. We avoid them.
All of those fears, all of those angers, all of those weaknesses….come from the dark. But if we retell them, if we express them, without creating the dark anew, we feed it. We don’t break the mold. We need to dream the dark as process, dream the dark as change…..to create the dark in a new image. Because the dark creates us.
When we tell of the turning dark, the velvet dark, Hecate’s birthgiving dark, the shadow listens to that. And what we name as our fears, our angers, our weaknesses…feeds into the Inner Selves that are also listening. And thus can our concept of the dark change. The Dark becomes a journey….a lesson in learning to face our deepest shadows, and embrace them as an integral aspect of ourselves. And in doing so, we find our own personal power. We transform the dark, and see it not as light….but for what it is and what it can be ~ a source of potent energy.
We dream the Dark into a new image, dream it into actions that will change ourselves and our environments. We dream the Dark as kind, and charged with a friendly power ~ the power that is unseen, the power that comes from within, the power of the Goddess.
And now a journey that began in anger, in fear, in despair….can reach a place of hope and a sense of empowerment. We can descend into the dark, embrace our own Shadows, and return with knowledge and power from within…a death and rebirth that began with a stripping process, and promises something at the end. We can know the Dark, and dream it into a new image.
Tonight, as we come together in celebration of Samhain, honoring the Darkness, we shall take that journey. Together we shall travel to the darkest, deepest parts of ourselves, and face our own shadows. In these rites, we will acknowledge our shadows (facing the dark), we will embrace them (turning the dark into velvet), and we will plant the seeds of our new selves and thus claim our own personal power (dreaming the dark).
Let us begin now…….
The orchestra starts off with the drums producing the rhythm of a slow heartbeat (thu-DUM…) with the harp accentuating the ‘DUM’ with the low strings which reverberate through the floor/ground. As the journey progresses, the various instruments of the orchestra begin to improvise to the Phrygian mode ~ ancient church mode, haunting and eerie, giving an odd sense of strangeness and uncertainty. We continually feel the heartbeat pulse and the downward motion. We find ourselves being pulled along by the music…pulled into the darkness…traveling along on our journey.
Travel through the darkness, and meet your Shadow…..that Shadow which you wish to embrace….that negative aspect of yourself. It could be your fear, it could be your weakness, it could be your anger. Whatever it is that you wish to embrace and accept about yourself, and to transform from being something negative into something positive. What is it? Find your shadow, and call it out to the darkness….
While I’m excited about moving to California, I’m scared also. I guess it’s as much a fear of success as it is a fear of failure. I’m afraid that with things going so well lately, I’m going to end up doing something really stupid and sabotaging it all, and screwing everything up. Then I’ll really be in trouble!
Now we have journeyed through the darkness, and met our Shadows. We face them, and see them as an integral part of ourselves. Now it is time for us to embrace our Shadows, and see them as a source of power and knowledge, rather than something to be feared and avoided. Let’s take that so-called “negative” aspect of ourselves and look at it from a positive perspective. Transform it…Embrace it…See it as something good about yourself. What can you make it into? Let us embrace our shadows, and see them for what they truly are….
The drum/heart beat music of the orchestra speeds up slightly and the instruments move into the Dorian mode. This gives us the slight melancholy feeling but with the warm ’embrace’ of the Mother. We can hear and feel the sounds of the flutes and oboes, along with the strings of the violas and the cellos, as well as the other instruments. The drums still take the heartbeat, but are no longer the strongest force. The music of the instruments feels like silk or rabbit fur, soft and gentle, something you want to caress and sink into. The music flows into a La Mer (Debussy/Impressionistic) piece that undulates like ocean waves. There is no single tonal structure…the music flows around and through us as we sense the dark changing, turning into the velvet darkness…
It’s okay to be afraid – those fears are normal. This is a big change for me, and change involves taking risks. Nobody can predict the future… but the cards don’t lie, and they speak of positive things coming out of this move. It’s time for me to hold my chin up and take that leap of faith, knowing that I have the strength, the courage, and the intelligence to make wondrous things happen from this grand adventure!
The music of the orchestra changes, as it begins playing a soft quotation from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, commonly called the “Song of Joy.” The upper strings and oboe begin the piece, providing a rich texture for the melody…
We have embraced our Shadows, and we now stand proudly and fearlessly in the transformed darkness, full of the knowledge and power that we have gained. We now plant the seeds of our new lives, which may thus form and spring anew from this transformed darkness. Our perspectives have changed, and we now see our fears, our angers, our weaknesses as a source of our greatest strength. We celebrate the death of the Lord, not as an ending, but as a new beginning. The Wheel of the Year continues to turn, and we now accept this dark period as an integral part of the neverending Circle of Life. Let us celebrate who we are, and what we have become, as we emerge from the darkness…
I am a strong, courageous, and intelligent woman who isn’t afraid to take risks and make things happen! I see this move as a positive change for me, and the beginning of a new journey filled with all kinds of new adventures. As I come out of the darkness, I am rebirthing myself as a 50 year old woman emerging from the womb of the Goddess; redefining who I am. I have planted the seeds of a new life in California, and I look forward to seeing that life grow and evolve.
The other instruments provide a march type accompaniment which stirs the blood and body into motion. As they join the melody, we can hear and feel the sounds of the flute and trumpet…as the volume and tempo begin to increase so does the activity of the people. The music becomes louder and faster until the call is unavoidable and we all begin to move to its power.
Ocean grabs Edain’s hand and pulls her inside the circle behind her, and the two begin to dance around the circle to the music, celebrating the emergence of their new selves. Edain reaches out and pulls Barb into the circle behind her, and Hawk also joins in the dance. The dancers are soon joined by Crystal Dolphin, Bonnie, and others until all of the Friends of the Crossroads are dancing around in a spiral circle to the sounds of the orchestra as it continues to play….
The march quickly becomes a slip jig, the “Butterfly” jig. This piece is in three with triplets on each beat (3×3=9), creating an atmosphere of light-hearted joy and celebration, almost skipping instead of dancing.
There is laughter and merriment in the air as the Clan continues to dance and skip and make merry. Samhain isn’t all dark and somber, it is also a time for festivity and celebration…after all, this is our New Year’s Eve! Quinn and Queen Alpo can be seen dancing their way around the circle, while Robin tries her hand at a quick Texas Two-Step. Ocean promenades around the circle with David, while Nydia skips along with Wolf Wind and Birch.
Finally the music comes to an end, and everyone collapses on the ground, out of breath! After grounding and centering themselves, the Friends come together in a circle once more for Closing Rites, where they thank the Spirits for this ritual before bringing it to an end.
Wishing everyone a most blessed Samhain.