Excerpt: A Samhain Ritual from Missing Witches
Structured around the 8 sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, each chapter of Missing Witches includes invocations, rituals, and histories informed by women who have practiced and lived magic. The following passage has been adapted from the Samhain chapter of the book, and explores the nuances and meaning of life, death, and transitions.
Samhain sits in the space between one year dying and the next being born, and in that time we get a glimpse into an unknown country.
The word means “summer’s end,” and it is a window ledge. A lintel on the doorway, a liminal evening through which we are leaning into the darker half of the year. It is a festival of death. A festival of meeting our dead as well as our ideas about death. Where other seasonal solar and lunar festivals are tied to the harvest, Samhain is the time when shepherds gather their ﬂocks. It is a time of ﬁnding out who among your beloved will come home, and who will remain wandering in the upland pastures. It is a time for encountering the knowledge that this comes to us all: stepping out oﬀ the edges of all maps. “In our travels through the underworld, Witches become map makers” wrote Amanda Yates Garcia, Oracle of Los Angeles. Meeting death is beautiful and horrible, inspiring and the most terrifying, and so we dress up to meet this specter in ways that hide us or empower us, disguise us and amplify us.
At Samhain in particular, we ritualize the knowledge that death is close but also that our lives matter. That this present moment is always a portal, a circle of white ﬂame that holds space for things wildly new and very old. All our work is ancestor work, and in the great fertility tradition of Witchcraft, we are the womb and the tomb, we sit on the edge of life and death, calling new possibilities into the world.
For a Samhain ritual, alone, or with a perfect friend, or a strange chosen family, or with your wild and delicious coven, we urge you to dress up and in doing so to become a portal.
Use ritual to find who or what you need to be infused with in this coming year. Because we are heading into the dark, a time when one year ends and the next begins; and in the interregnum, this world is thin. Its rules and laws and necessities loosen their grasp just an inch. New things can come in.
First, protect yourself. Pour a glass of some kind of offering, water is fine. Light a candle and something that makes a beautiful smoke: a dry bay leaf, rosemary, a cinnamon stick, incense.
Make a circle, even if it is out of string, on paper, or in a clearing of leaves. Then take guidance from nonbinary, queer, Indigenous (Wixárika), and Latinx multidisciplinary artist, curator, educator, psychotherapist, and Witch Edgar Fabián Frías: “For this spell if I’m able to I close my eyes and then I turn inward and I say ‘Divine within me’ or you can say Goddess within me, Spirit within me, and then you imagine your energy moving down into the Earth and say ‘Earth beneath me’ and then you imagine your energy moving up into the heavens and say ‘Sky above me’ and then you say ‘Love surround me’ and you imagine this love enveloping you in this gorgeous orb of energy.”
Reach inside to the universe within, embrace yourself. Then reach down deep into the Earth to connect with the great currents of being. Reach up to the universe above and see the protection of love radiating on each plane. Continue this pattern of three-times reaching keeping time with your breath, and as you do, see the energies mounting like winds around you.
In your circle welcome only the energies that have your highest purpose at heart. Say it aloud: In this circle I welcome only those energies that have my highest purpose at heart.
Ask these energies—or guides or waves of inspiration or messages from your subconscious—to show you an image of themselves. This will be an image from your own symbolic language, and whether it seems like it or not, it’ll have in it seeds of what you need to carry with you, in you, as you, for this crossing through the doorway, for this glimpse into the wisdom of the unknown country and for this next turn around the Sun, if we are once again to be blessed with one.
When you see something, sketch it. Pen, crayons, markers are all fine, words, symbols, stick figures are all perfect. Ask yourself what colors and materials could you use, what could it symbolize. Safe in your circle you are only receiving messages of highest love and purpose, so listen and take notes.
Next thank your guides and clear away your circle. Tuck your trans- mission into your heart and go spend time on a disguise that means something to you. Returning full circle to Donna Haraway’s message from the Yule chapter: Play in order to be a participant in the creative magic of worlding. Play at making. Craft horns or halos out of branches and wire, layer your most dramatic scarves and gowns, paint your face in brilliant colors or stark black symbols of your own devising.
After that, what you do with this iconography you’ve put on is up to you. You could stay home and drink tea in front of a mirror channeling art. Make music with friends. At dusk, walk the streets. Feel the electricity of curiosity. Or wait till very late at night and go sit in a graveyard, find the gravestone of someone who seems like they would be good company, and tell them about your new self. Or, if this is available to you, just go out to a bar and dance.
Whatever you do, feel the power in the spirit you have created.
Feel the power of the spirit all around you. This is All Hallows’ Eve, and all is hallowed.
We close with a Wiccan song from the Reclaiming tradition. This song is based on a blessing of love that (aside from one small change) was taught to us39 by Amanda Yates Garcia, the Oracle of Los Angeles, who sang it in her mother’s circle.
This song is sung to end a ritual, to send coven members safely home. This incantation spirals open a circle that remains always unbroken within us.
Whenever you are alone, know that this chant stitches you back into belonging.
Wherever you are, we are all with you.
Our circle is open
May the peace of the GoddETC
Be ever in our hearts
And merry part
And merry meet again.