Samhain Ritual To Move Beyond The Constraints Of Linear Time

Unusually, this is a solitary ritual, so that you can make connection with your personal ancestors, though you may wish to share it with close family members. Perform it on Hallowe'en Eve, as it gets dark.

* Light an orange candle.

* Cut the top off a pumpkin or large turnip, to make a lid, and scrape out the inside and place the flesh in a bowl in front of the candle.

* When the skin is quite empty, do not draw a scary face with grinning teeth, but instead make eight large, regular, round holes in it to let in the light.

* Place a small, orange nightlight or tiny candle inside and leave off the lid.

Beginning anywhere in the circle of holes, look into each hole in turn, asking a question about your future life path and saying:

Jack o' Lantern burning bright, let me pass through time this night, Seeing not a future set, but possibilities that yet I can seize as paths unfold, Jack, guide me to new joys untold.

* Shut your eyes, open them, blink and write down the first image that comes either in your mind's eye or in the circle of light.

* Continue until you have explored each of the eight windows of the future and have eight images. You can either interpret the images as referring to the eight time points of the Wheel of the Year, beginning with Samhain, or integrate them into a story about eight steps on your unfolding path throughout the coming year.

* Cook and eat the pumpkin or turnip flesh to absorb the magic.

* Leave the candle to burn down as you make plans for the future. Alban Arthuran, The Mid-Winter Solstice

Time: For three days from sunset on or around 20 December (20 June in the southern hemisphere)

Focus: Rebirth, the return of light, the triumph of life over death, spiritual awakening, light in the midst of darkness, faith that the Wheel will turn and the life cycle begin anew.

The mid-winter solstice pre-dates organised religion. When early humans saw the Sun at its lowest point and the vegetation dead or dying, they feared that light and life would never return. So they lit great bonfires from yule logs, hung torches from trees and decorated caves and homes with evergreens to persuade the other trees to grow again. So this really is a time of faith and hope and also an awareness once more of the responsibility of individuals to ensure by ritual and by giving hospitality to family, neighbours and strangers that at this lowest point (the yoke or yule of the year) life would be rekindled. This is a long way from the present commercial and consumer emphasis that has overtaken our Christian festival of Christmas.

The name Alban Arthuran means 'light of Arthur', named after King Arthur who in legend bore the title Sun King. His round table represented the great solar Wheel of the Year.

The common theme of the festival that spans many ages and cultures is that the Mother Goddess, under one of her many names, gives birth to the Sun itself, the Sun God. It is the same theme as the Virgin Mary giving birth to the Son of God in a cave or stable at the darkest hour of the year. The virgin birth features in several cultures and traditionally a candle (or other flame) is left burning all night on this longest of nights, to persuade the newborn Sun to rise again on Christmas Eve to light Mary on her way. The feasting of Christmas was another magical gesture to ensure there would be food again in the spring and good harvests the following year.

Globally, this is a time for rituals of renewed faith in the face of despair and cynicism; for work to provide homes and shelter for people, birds and animals, more efficient and humane welfare services; the regeneration of famine or war-torn lands; rekindling goodness even in wrongdoers, improving conditions in all institutions; also individual charitable endeavours.

On a personal level, the mid-winter solstice is a good time for matters concerning the home and practical family matters, for money spells as well as abundance in less material ways; for relieving depression and anxieties for all matters where improvement, relief or success will come after patience and perseverance; also potent for rituals concerning the very old, unborn children, mothers-to-be, nursing or new mothers and newborn infants.

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