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Spiraling into the center - A Samhain Ritual

Posted by on in Paths Blogs


I normally write about daily rituals and devotional practices, the kind we all do or all can do if we are so called to. Today, however, I'm going to focus on one of the largest, longest running public rituals I know of or have ever had the pleasure to participate in - Reclaiming's 35th Annual Spiral Dance.

The Spiral Dance began in 1979 as a way to celebrate and promote the release of Starhawk's ubiquitous and influential book of the same name. This Samhain gathering has grown from just a handful of Reclaiming witches that were part of the original Reclaiming Collective to a stadium-sized ritual with (more often than not) fifty ritualists, a hundred or so volunteers and a thousand or more attendees. It's a pretty spectacular sight to be in the presence of a thousand pagans, witches and seekers all assembled to pay homage to their own Beloved Dead and the Mighty Dead of the Craft.

Without giving away too much of the magic, the basic premise of the ritual is to gather and honour our lost beloveds and perhaps meet with them as the veil thins. The names of those beloved ones that have passed since last Samhain are called out during the ritual and they are invited as treasured guests. 

The Mighty Dead of the Craft are also called to the ritual and remembered for their contributions. This year our Pagan community has lost so many influential founders, thinkers, poets, musicians and writers. A special altar is being created this year to honour some of the Mightiest and a new song is being added to the canon of music called "Join the Calling", reminding us that though "our Mighty have fallen but their magic remains". You can see a list at the bottom of this page recounting many of those Mighty Ones.

The ritual is punctuated by beautiful music some of which has been sung for all thirty-five years. As an innovative tradition, the music is never quite the same twice, but the chorus holds over certain pieces from year to year. 

And then, of course, there is the Spiral Dance itself. I've lead Spiral Dances before, but never for a thousand people. There is something wonderfully disorienting about looking into the eyes of each person as one whirls around in a giant double spiral. The singing, the repetition of the song "Let it begin with each step we take. Let it begin with each change we make. Let it begin with reach chain we break. Let it begin every time we awake" is simply glorious. I get goosebumps just imagining it. There is an indescribable, palpable charge that runs through the ritual site and through the hands of so many people joined in one place to participate in this singular, ecstatic piece of magic. I've heard many tales of people seeing their Beloved Dead joining in the dance!

If you are able, I do recommend attending this ritual at least once. It is truly amazing!


Died in 2013:

Dawn Decker (Feri Trad; major Annwfn supporter) (12/12/1940-10/24/2013)

Layne Redmond (author of When the Drummers Were Women) (1951-10/28/2013)

Lady Olivia Robertson (Co-Founder Fellowship of Isis) (4/13/1917-11/14/2013)

Died in 2014:
Jonas Jaunius Trinknas (Krivis) (founder of Lithuani’s Pagan revival Romuva; ethnologist and folklorist; Vilnius, Lithuania) (2/28/1939-1/20/2014)

Stanley Modryzk (Founder of Pan Pagan Festival, Chicago, & Witches International Craft Association [WICA]) (8/15/??-1/28/2014)

Donald Michael Kraig (Grey Council; author,(Modern Magick & Modern Sex Magick) (8/17/1951-3/17/2014)

Judy Harrow (Lady Cleindori) (Gardnerian Elder; Proteus Coven; Cherry Hill Seminary) (4/3/1945-3/20/2014)

Michele Acred (Liberator of the South, and the first woman ever to speak at the Men's mysteries. 3rd degree in ATC tradition, and Temple Squire for 3 years.) (9/21/71-4/19/2014)

Morning Glory Zell (CAW Elder Priestess, Goddess historian, lifemate of Oberon) (5/27/1948-5/13/2014)

Bruner Soderburg (Sparky T. Rabbit) (nationally-known Heathen bard; album Lunacy) (2/3/1954-6/2/2014)

Steven Gaskin (founder/leader The Farm in Tennessee) (2/16/1935-7/1/2014)

Steve Frischer (CAW St Louis, 1970s) (12/16/1955-7/6/2014)

Loreon Vigne (Isis Oasis, Geyserville, CA; Fellowship of Isis) (6/8/1932-7/15/2014)

Gary Jeffers (CAW St Louis, 1970s) (10/22/1946-7/27/2014)

Margot Adler (NPR New York; author Drawing Down the Moon) (4/16/1946-7/28/2014)

Joe Bethancourt (SCA Bard & Arizona Folk Music Legend) (8/8/1946-8/28/14)

Jeff Rosenbaum (CEO Association for Consciousness Exploration; Starwood) (8/29/1955-8/31/2014)

Taliesin of Avalon Isle (David Osley) (Highlands of Tennessee Samhain Gatherings) (8/26/1960-8/31/2014)

* This list was created with help from Oberon Zell and others.




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I've been a practicing witch and ritualist within the Reclaiming Tradition since 2003. I love being in service with this community of witches and world changers.   My own practice, my own way of changing the world is through devotional practice. It's my belief that we can re-enchant our lives by re-framing the so-called "mundane" as sacred and divine. By imbuing the familiar with a sense of wonder and infusing daily life with acts of magic, we choose to consciously make all of life devotion. Whether we engage in large, public rituals or sink sumptuously into the pure ecstasy of eating a delicious meal by ourselves or meditating at sunrise, our daily rituals can draw us back into harmony with the world and each other.  


  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan Thursday, 16 October 2014

    We have lost so many Mighty Dead this past year. May they return to us. May we honor them by carrying their work forward.

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Thursday, 16 October 2014

    Yes indeed. And that, I think, is the thing to do. Remember them. Sing their names and carry on the work they began.

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