This past Samhain I attended three different gatherings honouring the Ancestors, The Beloved Dead, the Mighty Dead and my ability to gather freely and celebrate as I choose. The first ritual was the North Bay Reclaiming Samhain ritual. This is my local community. About a hundred or so witches gathered. We had altars and invocations and told stories about our Beloveds that have crossed the veil this year. The second gathering was a private affair in my home with a few dear and close friends. We watched a few of our favourite cheesy "witchy" movies (yes, we watched the one with the midnight margaritas!). We ate and we drank and we celebrated being alive and being in love and being part of such an active public community. The third Samhain event was Reclaiming's 35th annual Spiral Dance in San Francisco. Roughly fifteen-hundred pagans, activists, seekers and newcomers were welcomed to this most public of rituals.


Now rituals are odd things. We intentionally create a place and time that is, well, outside of place and time. Exquisite rituals challenge our thinking brains to switch off for a while and entice our imaginations or our fetches or our psyches to play, to see what's behind the words or the symbols. And those moments, those rare glimpses of something shimmering and askew and not easily explained away, can happen at any point in a ritual - and frequently for me, not at the moments that I might expect that to happen. So perhaps not all that surprisingly, there was one moment in the Spiral Dance that really affected me. But that moment was months in the making. 

I had a piece of the ritual to hold. I was one of four people that read the names of the Mighty Dead of the Craft that have passed this year. I also created a visual piece that showed images of these pioneers and a brief, very brief biography of what they contributed to the Craft as we know it. You see, I've been looking at the list of names grow and grow as the news of the deaths of Pagan pioneers kept showing up in my news feed since Samhain 2013. I've been looking at their pictures on my desktop and my altars. I've been holding them, if you will, as an act of devotion to their memory, knowing that they would be honoured at the Spiral Dance. As the lights dimmed, gasps and sighs and sobs began to fill the space as it became apparent that this list was not short. As their names were read and I saw their faces, full of life above me, I was overcome and began to cry. I cried because I knew a few of these folks, met a handful of them at Pagan conferences and such. I cried because I didn't know many more of them. I cried because I know that the list of the Mighty dead is starting to include my teachers and mentors. 

As the names of the Mighty Dead faded I launched into a lament song that was especially written for this year's Spiral Dance. The chorus called for us all to "Join the calling. And remember their names. For our Mighty have fallen. But their magic remains." I struggled through the lyrics. I'm sure my voice cracked more than once. But we did remember them. I think we remembered them very well indeed.