My altar is laid out upon white cloth:
a single candle and a water glass,
some clear-wrapped Woolworths fudge, a china cup
of Earl Grey tea (no milk), a rosary.
All my dead grandparents are honoured here,
and all of those who've died that I loved best —
a tooth, a collar, brushed out puppy fluff —
and ancestors of spirit, genii,
their deeds in clippings, shining words transcribed.
At sunset, I will light the candle flame,
door opening to memories and grief,
red raw beneath my busy mind, my smile.
The more I name, each year, 'Beloved Dead',
the more my heart is patterned through with fear,
anticipating dear ones' pains and ends.
But fallen apples, cut through to their cores,
reveal their seeds: the star of life in death;
a promise made. I name each baby born
to steal my friends' sleep in return for joy.
I welcome in, for stewed meat, roots and bread,
the shades of all those dead I yearn to see.
I dream; as day arises out of night
I wake to shiver in the mist and face
the waning sun, draw in first breath, and live.
© 2006 Elinor Prędota
Samhuinn (pronounced sow-in) is the Scottish name for the festival of 31st October, also known as Hallowe'en, which recognises oncoming winter. The dead are remembered, and the newborn welcomed.
This year, I'll be away from home on the night of the feast itself; it's also the first year in a while that I won't part of a small group ritual with my two coven-mates.
I feel a little adrift.
Remembering this poem is helping me to remember the spirit of the festival, as I have always chosen to celebrate it. It's prompted me to dig out the ritual script one of my coven-mates wrote, which we used a couple of years ago. I'll let you know how it goes.