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Rosemary Kooiman







Samhain At The Nomadic Chantry of The Gramarye
by Rosemary Kooiman

The feast of Samhain is really a continuation of the festivals of our ancestors.  What was it our forebears celebrated this night so long ago? Do we pick up their threads to continue the warp and woof of their weaving, or have we chosen another fabric in this modern age?

There are layers of meaning to the celebration of Samhain as our forebears understood it.  It was the new year.  And it was the time to cull the flocks.  Life and death.  At the ending/death of the old year, and the beginning/birth of the new, the veil between the worlds was at its thinnest.  The living could communicate with the beloved dead either for solace or knowledge, and Faerie could cross over.  This was a night of communion with the dead, of divination.

This was the time of remembrance, of the Dumb Supper, the Feast of the Dead.  The dead were drawn to a meal set by the living, through ties of love and magic.  This night also, would Celts lie on graves seeking communication with the resident thereof.

Samhain is still the eve of the parting of the curtain.  We still seek from those who have gone before, as ever we did, wisdom and knowledge. We are all a bit fey this eve, touched perhaps by the spirit of Faerie.

At the same time, Samhain was a defiant affirmation of life and fertility in the face of the coming winter, an uninhibited feast of the living.  To understand the light/life, one must know the dark/death.  At this, the beginning of the winter, the new year, one learned of darkness and death.

It is at Samhain the labyrinth of the Underworld leads to the barren descent into winter.  The Goddess readies herself for her long sleep, and the God takes the reins for the Hunter's Ride, seeking those souls who have lost their way or are in need of release.

What can that mean to us now, we who need not hope the harvest was plentiful to store food for the winter's lack?  We have supermarkets and central heat; our only fear is cabin fever.  Yet the end of October is still the onset of Winter.   And the cold and the dark do come and they still frighten us.  So we throw our living lights into the teeth of the gale.  We shine with the sheer vibrancy of life.  We paint masks and create colorful garb and thumb our noses to mock their presence.  This is a night in which to celebrate life and communicate with the dead. Divination may be in order.  This night, Samhain, is the ending of the year.  Tomorrow's light is the beginning of the new year.

The intent of this gathering is to celebrate Samhain in all its meanings.We honor our dead.  We honor our lives.  We honor the Wheel of Life in its progression.  We joyously invite our beloved dead to join us in the Dumb Supper, our remembrance of their lives.

The Chantry has a requirement for all students in their Second Year to present their own ritual for one of the eight Sabats.  At Samhain we have been presented a Dumb Supper, a Feast of the Dead, a calling for One gone before; rituals with both Honor and Humor.  It is amazing what a talented student can come up with.  As much as anything else, Samhain now means to us at the Chantry a validation of the principles we have tried to instill in our students and amazement in what they have done with it.