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.
Ancestors are those who have shaped us and made us what we are. Some are physical ancestors, family members now crossed over; others are spiritual ancestors, people to whom we are not related by blood but through love, who have shaped us through their example and actions—they have made us what we are, and we honor our spiritual tie to them.
Think now of your ancestors: the people in spirit whom you wish to honor and with whom you wish to remain linked. They are here. They are always here, wherever we are—for in the Otherworld there is neither space nor time as we know it, and the spirits are not limited by either. Think of your particular ancestors. Imagine them here in this room, standing among us. See them clearly and hold them in your hearts as we proceed.
Beloved ancestors, we address you, Honored ones, beloved and holy ones, we know that you are always with us. Sometimes we can hear your voices, sometimes we cannot. But we know you are here. We call upon you, and ask you to be with us. On this night set aside for you, we honor and remember you especially. Dear ones, accept from us this offering, in token of our love and our respect"
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!
Parted from us! Yet still with us! Connect to us—forever more!
Though our soul lives many lifetimes—yet the bond of love endures!
For the veil could never dim the light of a soul as bright as yours!
Spirits! Beloved spirits! Loved ones who have gone before!
Parted from us! Yet still with us! Connected to us—forever more!
Beloved ancestors, we pray that our offerings have found pleasure in your eyes, and that you will keep us always in our hearts, even as we keep you in ours. We think of you always and honor our connection to you throughout the year, but at this time of year we are all the more aware of you and all the more anxious to thank you for your contributions to our lives. Dearest ancestors, may the blessing be upon you! So mote it be!"
All: "So mote it be!"
Excerpted from Witch School: Ritual, Theory & Practice, by Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell