The Samhain Vow

In the old days and still for some, one of Winter’s vital tasks was to mend Summer’s tools—to mend the fishing nets, repair the hoe and shovel handles, and so on. Today, most of us don’t have that sort of work to do, but we all have inner work of equal importance to do. Perhaps there’s anger that needs healing so that a relationship can be restored. Perhaps there are prejudices that need education, so that we may do less harm in the worlds. Perhaps we need to confront some fears so that we can be more truly free, as the Goddess charges us to be. The Samhain vow commits us to reconditioning our attitudes and repairing the damage that anger, prejudice, and fear do to our souls, so that our own strength can wax with the turning year’s strength. In calling upon our “ancestors’ relief,” we’re agreeing to find some strength in all our inherited legacies. Many of us (most, I hope!) have been lucky in knowing at least one person—a teacher, a friend, a favorite relative—who deliberately helped us find our own strengths. Yes, sometimes confusion or frustration dominates our memory of a relationship, but as Wiccans we know that we can learn something from even the worst of them. The most abusive of family members have at least shown us the perils of the paths they chose. If someone betrayed you, they also made you aware of the need for compassion and empathy, and showed you the dangers of holding grudges or accepting judgments of worthlessness. Demand of your interpretation, of your own experience, that those before whom you were helpless inspire you to be encouraging—to yourself as well as to others. That’s the “relief” that all our ancestors—the kind or cruel, and those of spirit as well as of blood—can offer us, and it is within us all to accept it. This vow will be both more effective and less intimidating (though no less serious) if you take it before a burning Jack-o’-Lantern that you have carved yourself. If you like, toast the pumpkin seeds with a bit of brown sugar to treat yourself after you’ve sworn the vow. If you’re making the vow part of your Circle work, save the pumpkin seeds for Cakes and Ale. (To keep the rhyme tight, use the “sawwin” pronunciation of “Samhain.”)

The Samhain Vow

On the Wheel of the Year now does Winter begin;

the world is austere and we all turn within.

I vow there to face the shadows I find,

and work to unlace all their power to bind.

I vow to invoke my ancestors’ relief and release

in the smoke all my fear and my grief.

This task do I claim as I mark this Samhain,

and swear’t by the flame behind Jack’s cheery grin.