In the Spiral of the Wheel of the Year, with tonight’s arrival of Samhain, the Celtic New Year, we return to our beginnings, the deep nurturing womb of Mama Earth represented by the end of Harvest and the beginning of Winter. . . a time of deep reflection on our past year, a time of connection with our ancestors, a time to honour those who traveled to the Otherworld this year, and a time to release that which we no longer need to enable new growth in the coming year.
It is in the waning times that our release rituals can be most profound. Each lunar month, we have an opportunity to connect to that waning energy of Seanmháthair Gealach (Grandmother Moon, in Irish Gaelic), and let go, renew, refresh, rebirth.
And in this deep waning time of late Autumn and early Winter, when the connections to the Otherworld are even stronger in the thinning veils, our release rituals can be even more profound . . . as can our connection to the Goddess of these winter months, An (the) Cailleach.
It is said that An Cailleach turns to stone at Bealtainne but is reborn at Samhain. She is a powerful goddess, perhaps the oldest, the Dark Mother. The “hag of winter” was possibly known to the inhabitants of Ireland even before the Celts arrived. She is the Crone, keeper of winter and weather and wisdom, the mother of all gods and goddesses, living in the rocks and stones and mountains she created, many of which still bear her name, such as the image of the Beara rock above, and the megalithic tombs of Slieve na Calliagh (Irish Gaelic for the hag’s mountain).
And for my release rituals at this time of the year, I look to the energy and inspiration of An Cailleach and the deep Earth Element energies of winter and Mama Earth.
A RELEASE RITUAL FOR SAMHAIN
A couple of years ago, I added a death mound release ritual into my Samhain observance, inspired by this post from the Woolgathering Wildcrafted blog. In this ritual, one works with the Earth element by burying a release bundle into the ground and then covering with a pile of fallen leaves. Pure magick! It resonated so deeply with me.
This year, I felt such a strong connection with the Cailleach and wondered how I could modify this ritual to honour her, she of the liminal places, the mountains, the rocks, and stones. . . especially as this describes the landscape around me here in Vancouver: mountainous, rocky, a place where Sea meets Shore. I could have gone to a local mountaintop to perform my ritual, but the liminal places were calling to me, so I went to a rocky shoreline close to home and created my death mound there.
A STONE CAIRN RELEASE RITUAL WITH AN CAILLEACH
Modify this ritual for where you live. If there are no mountains or higher elevations, create a small cairn with stones in a suitable place for you. It can be on your altar, your garden or balcony, or in a local wild area.
This ritual is suitable for Samhain, and for any Full Moon or Waning Moon in the winter months.
You will need:
- rocks or small stones for building a small cairn
- a notebook and pen for writing down what you will release
- a hag stone (a stone with a hole worn through) or crystal for meditating and journeying before the ritual, to strengthen your connection to An Cailleach, to the ancestors and to what you wish to release
- fallen leaves (or other materials) and some twine or raffia for creating a bundle
- be sure to use materials that will easily compost and not bring any toxicity to the earth
Gather and prepare your materials for the ritual. Find a spot where you can meditate and build your small stone cairn. Lay out your sacred tools and other items. I chose the base of this ancient tree, washed onto the shore.
Create sacred space by calling in the directions, the Cailleach and your guides, gods, goddesses, allies, and ancestors, or by using your preferred ritual.
Sit and meditate with your hag stone or crystal and meditate on the past year:
- What are the lessons you have learned?
- What growth have you experienced?
- Who are you mourning?
- What are the messages and wisdom from the Ancestors and other allies? From An Cailleach?
- What is dying a natural death within and can be released? Perhaps there are relationships that no longer nurture you, beliefs that no longer serve you, cycles and lessons that are now complete and can be honoured.
Journal your thoughts, when you are ready and sense that this part of the ritual is complete. Use a single page of paper (if possible!) to note what you are ready to release.
Make a small bundle with leaves, or other material. Tie it up with a piece of twine or raffia. Hold it to your heart chakra for a few minutes. Honour those items you are releasing. They once served you well, but their time is now complete. Feel the weight of this no longer needed “stuff”, leave you . . . bring any new feelings to your awareness. What do you sense, feel, hear?
Place your bundle on your designated spot. You can enhance this ritual by using the energy of Mama Earth, and digging a small hole for your bundle and placing it there.
Thank all that you are releasing one more time, and thank your allies and An Cailleach for their support and wisdom and guidance.
Build a small cairn, by piling stones atop your bundle. As I was building my cairn, I found the shell of a small crab and placed that atop my cairn to honour the creatures of the sea that had passed this year.
As you add each stone, feel the release happening within. Spend some time at the cairn, in gratitude to your allies and to that which you have released.
Close your sacred space when you feel all is complete.
Samhain Blessings !