I am feeling the lack of a social context for my newfound spirituality more now than ever before. Over the last hour I performed my first Solstice ritual, a stumbling and uncertain affair that more than anything else made me wish that I had someone here who has long experience with this kind of thing. When I learned from a friend that tonight was a full lunar eclipse and one that has not been seen for some 350 years, I knew that this was the perfect time to conduct my Solstice ritual.
I have still yet to assemble the kind of hallows that I would prefer, particularly as regards the sacred well, but I collected what I had at about 2:45 this morning as the moon would be fully eclipsed by about 3:15. I took incense, matches, silver in the form of a coin, a bottle of winter lager, and a bowl of locally ground corn meal out to the fire pit that I dug for Samhain. It sits just at the edge of the high canopy of our two oaks: a white oak and a willow oak respectively. In my wooden bowl I had collected water from three sources, though each was hardly sacred, and walking home one day from work a couple weeks ago I had happened on two small stacks of wood as if they had been left for me. One was from a live oak and the other was from a dogwood, so collecting wood that had fallen from our white oak I laid my fire.
It did not light immediately, though, and with a passage from Greek Religion in my head that the presence of the god was seen as being signaled by a leap of the flame I began to wonder if perhaps the gods weren’t coming. I could not help but think of Ezekiel when he had his sacrificial competition with the priests of Baal that ended in his slaughtering four hundred of them after the god of the Hebrews spontaneously consumed the entire pyre and bull offered on it. This is not to say that there were no good omens at my preparation. As I was building the fire, I glimpsed in the corner of my eye a dark, shadowy figure about the size of a child and running from between the oaks off to my left. At least I got someone’s attention, and at last the fire caught.
My offerings seemed to go well enough. I offered the silver and some of the grain to the Earth in thanks: the silver to the bowl and the grain to the fire. At the tossing of the grain onto the fire there was a clear and distinctive burst of flame and the fire grew much more intense. I made my offering of incense to the Cucullati, as they are whom I see as gatekeepers, and the three sticks lit from the fire stood by me during the rest of the ritual. I offered grain also to the gods, ancestors and spirits before offering them the beer and inviting them to drink with me, while the last bit of the grain I then gave to the fire in thanks for its role in the ritual. By way of closing, I took the nearly burned out sticks of incense and, giving thanks to the Cucullati, tossed them into the slowly diminishing flames. The fire surged again and then went out, leaving only a bed of glowing coals. Over these I poured the contents of my bowl, mentally giving thanks again to the Earth. With the mingled smell of the beer and the incense in the air, I spread out the last remaining embers until they went dark.
It occurred to me as I was putting away my very rough-and-ready hallows that detailing the Cucullati as my gatekeepers had made a palpable difference in my ritual and that the same desperately needs to be done for the other gods as well. I am not sure what the full implications are, but in writing down exactly what my perceptions of them are and specifically asserting their role as gatekeepers I found it then much easier and even more real in some way to invoke them in the ritual. I have always taken the ‘I pray to whomever will hear me’ approach to invocation, but my experience tonight makes me want to reexamine my understanding of textualization. I almost think that the strength of sacred texts is in detailing something that would otherwise be so vague as to be almost unaccessible, and in the instance of the Cucullati they seemed more than any other spiritual entity to be there with me. Even that was fairly ephemeral, but then I am not well practiced at this at all. Samhain was, after all, my first ritual.
It is strange to think that this full moon was begun with that weekend wherein I felt so called by Cernnunos. I could not feel him at all, though I invoked by name specifically him, Taranis (as Jupiter), Mars Lenus and Brighid (not necessarily in that order), adding as well all the other gods in a more collective way. This is part of the reason why I really want to collect my view of the gods as I did with the Cucullati. I am sure that having additional hallows that can act as foci with regard to the gods will help enormously as well, but that will have to come in time. The work right now is to focus mentally on discerning the gods in me and how they are active in my life. The last half of Yule is on me now and I intend to use it well.