Wicker Man 2013 Photo by Nels

Wicker Man 2013
Photo by Nels

Samhain on the River is an event hosted by my friends Nels and Judy for many years.  This year was the last and I made a point to attend.  The high point of the weekend is the burning of an effigy “corn man” or a “wicker man” in ritual.  Nels did a piece several years ago about his experiences hosting fire rituals.

The ritual itself is powerful, dramatic and lovely.  Sitting with a group of friends drumming and dancing around a HUGE bonfire is a great time.  Taking time out to acknowledge and honor the ancestors is especially nice in a year when we’ve had a recent death in the family.  However, dramatic and awesome though it may be, the burning isn’t the heart of the weekend for me.

The ritual starts with a casting of the circle, calling in the four directions as guardians and protectors.  The ancestors are welcomed and so is the Divine, in many forms.  Then there is the feasting.  This is a huge pot-luck extravaganza.  The ovens are going for two days.  There are half a dozen crock pots.  The desert table has two levels and probably could use a third.  Given all the dietary issues in the group everything is supposed to be marked and labeled – does it have meat?  Nuts? Is it gluten-free? Vegan?

We each placed a pumpkin around the man and named our ancestors for remembrance

We each placed a pumpkin around the man and named our ancestors for remembrance

When I attend I complicate things.  It’s that darned allergy to cinnamon.  Most people don’t think it’s a real allergy, or they just don’t hear it, or they haven’t a clue how to read a label down to those tiny ingredients.  (Except in red hots, cinnamon is rarely one of the first ingredients listed.)  It gets even trickier when all the label says is “natural flavorings and spices.”  Most of the time that actually means cinnamon.  Who knew?  – Well, I do.

There are a few people in this crowd who have watched me react to cinnamon.  Who know that my children wash their hands and brush their teeth before they come home if they have a cinnamon roll elsewhere.  People who have been to restaurants with me and been asked “Please don’t order the waffles, the cinnamon roll, the warm apple pie.”  If the ventilation is good I might manage the room (if they’re not baking right then) but not at the table.

some of the drummers got a little warm

some of the drummers got a little warm

Because of all the trouble, the feast isn’t really the heart of the event for me either.  It’s the people.  It’s being able to spend time just talking and catching up with folks I only see once or twice a year.  It’s the late night conversations about being a leader in the spiritual community and the lessons that come with the job.  It’s the laughter when someone pours a glass of wine and makes a joke.

These people remind me that not all our ancestors are ancestors of blood.  Many of them are simply ancestors of the heart.  I remember this year, my aunt who just passed, but also the friends who I have lost over the years.  I miss them all the time and think of them often.  But so many of them would have loved sitting in a circle full of drummers and dancers around a really HUGE bonfire.

Orion couldn't wait to tell everyone about it.

Orion couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it.

Welcome ancestors.

I have mentioned this event in an earlier post.  See Ancestors and Descendants

Reaching out to the ancestors through the fire

Reaching out to the ancestors through the fire

About lisaspiral

I've been writing and speaking about spirituality to small groups for years and am looking to expand my horizons. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to expand yours as well.

Posted on November 4, 2013, in Bio, fall, grattitude, magic, Pagan, seasonal, spiritual and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Sounds like a lovely event, Lisa. For the Day of the Dead here in Ecuador, family’s picnic on the graves of their ancestors. Yours looks like a HUGE fire! Also, I’m a huge fan of cinnamon. I’d be sad, if I couldn’t eat it!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • I do hope to see you write a post sometime about the Day of the Dead in Ecuador. Americans don’t seem to get that theres a difference between a big party and a cozy family celebration. 🙂

  2. I like that phrase “ancestors of the heart”. That really resonates–along with that corn effigy fella. How cool! What an opportunity to gather with like-minded friends and celebrate. As for that cinnamon allergy, that really must be challenging. Have you heard of others who react like that? My daughter can’t drink peppermint tea. She feels like she’s burning inside when she does. Odd, huh?

    • Those essential oils – cinnamon and peppermint – are odd allergies. There is some thought that it’s not the essential oil that causes the allergy but the substitutes manufacturers use and call the real thing. Who knows. Inconvenient is an understatement as we move into the season of cinnamon and pine. (check out how many of your local shops start burning cinnamon candles after Thanksgiving!)

  3. The ritual of dancing around a huge fire with friends sounds absolutely wonderful and beautiful; I can just imagine what a great experience it must have been.

    An allergy to cinnamon – that’s tough! So many people put a tiny bit in food without thinking of it!

  4. It sounds really wonderful, and that wicker man is amazing! I rarely feel anything amiss with my solitary practice but posts like this make me a little wistful. Maybe I will find a group to practice with sometime!

    • The nice thing about events like this is that they are community based. It’s not like joining a coven or a particular tradition. Many of these people got to know each other at a local pagan festival, or heard about it through the grapevine. One of the great things about Paganistan (the twin cities metro – which has been drifting into Wisconsin since the founding of PSG) is that there’s always SOMETHING public going on.

      • Yes that sounds great! Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anything of that nature around where I live, but I know there are a few Pagan monthly meet ups, which I should really check out some time – there might be more going on than I think.

  5. Sounds like an amazing tradition. Thank you for sharing it, but sorry to hear about your allergy. Reminds me of someone I knew who had bad allergy to peanuts. Peanuts, too, are in everything. For her, being touched by someone who’d eaten peanuts was enough to make her break out in hives and have trouble breathing. Very scary.

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