Samhain is the festival at which we honor the ancestors. Some groups make more of this aspect of the holiday than others, often depending upon the strength of the group members’ relationships with their ancestors. Some Wiccans are very strongly connected to their ancestors and honor them daily, often receiving clairvoyant messages from them on a regular basis. Other Wiccans feel very disconnected from their ancestors. However, we all have people we love who are among the spirits, and at this time of year it is always good to honor them.
For this act of power you will need one candle for each person present; small birthday candles or emergency candles are best. You will also need a place to put the candles after they are lit—a bowl of earth in which they can be stuck upright (a cast-iron cauldron or something similar) or lots of little candle holders.
Make a special ancestor altar. This can be a place set aside on the normal altar or a separate altar unto itself. The ancestor altar should have room for the candles, which will ultimately be placed here, as well as room for an offering. It can be nice to ask people to bring photos of their ancestors to place upon the altar as well, or special tokens representing them. You should also have one larger candle on the ancestor altar.
Begin by passing out the small candles to all present. Now address the idea of ancestors. You might say something like:
"On this night of all nights, when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, we honor those who have gone on before: the beloved ancestors.
Next, light the large candle on the ancestor altar. Than make an offering to the ancestors, perhaps a libation of water or wine, and/or an offering of flour or cornmeal. As you offer each, hold it up and imagine a show of light pouring into it, filling it with energy.
Now proceed. Tell the people what they need to do; you might put it this way:
"One by one we will approach the altar. When your turn comes, think of your ancestors and light your candle in their honor, then place it in the receptacle and leave it to burn for them. Speak to them, address them with words or with your heart; they will know."
Go first, so that the others see. Light your candle. Address your ancestors, aloud or silently. Then place your candle in the cauldron, bowl of earth, or candleholder as the case may be. Then step to the side, progressing in a deosil fashion. The next person will follow, then next. As each person lights their candle and moves on, the group will slowly progress around the circle clockwise until arriving back in their original position.
Next, join hands and begin a chant. If you are so inclined, you can also dance as you chant. A good chant might be:
"Spirits! Beloved spirits! Loved ones who have gone before!
Excerpted from Witch School: Ritual, Theory & Practice, by Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell
Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell (Illinois) is First Priest and Paramount High Priest of the Correllian tradition. As Chancellor, he is responsible for the day-to-day running of the tradition. Rev. Lewis-Highcorrell is also a ...