The sermon completes the section on the Hallows (Hallowe’en) in The New Pagans’ Handbook:
Because, of all the festivals, The Hallows is the most structured and has the most ’set’ speeches and prayers, it requires less in the way of a sermon. Nevertheless, a summary of our main themes and a few observations about its significance as a marker in our annual cycle may help to reinforce and enrich its message.
At the Hallows we meet the Crone, the Goddess in Her death aspect. The festival recognises our own dark side, the fears and terrors we must know, in order to be made whole in ourselves. It honours our ancestors and all others who have joined the ‘Mighty Dead’. We dance with outstretched hands to welcome these powers, for, properly understood, they are not against us, but of us and can be our help. At the Hallows we hope to learn how to walk from the top to the bottom of our minds and be undismayed at what we find there. This is an heroic enterprise. Each must harrow his own hell. Each must pay due honour to the Crone, for She will claim us at the last; and we should love and respect Her, for only through love and respect can we reach trust and be unafraid in understanding.
The Regency viewed Hallowe’en – ‘The Hallows’ – as the culmination and conclusion of the ritual year.
I think it was the festival that meant most to Chalky on a personal level. Death was a mystery that much concerned him, as some of his poems reveal.
The skull in the photograph was used in the ritual every year for many years. It was given to Chalky when he was an art teacher by a pupil whose father was a builder. It was found during construction work in London: a museum specialist identified it as the skull of a medieval plague victim, buried in a plague-pit or mass grave.
Here are the preamble and ritual for the Hallows:
Anciently named Samhein by the Celts, adopted as All Saints Eve and Day by the Christians, also called All Souls, I have called it by the more general pagan name of the Hallows, for the term fits it well and shows its holy intention.
It is the end of our annual pilgrimage and the ending of life’s exploration. At it comes the grand climax and combination of our themes in the land where the living and the dead meet. It is a brave and noble ceremony. We have moved in our ritual passage through the stages of our lives. Now we move to contemplate our repose in our deaths, and to consider those many who have died before us. It follows from the assessments of the Autumn Equinox, that, at the Hallows, we consider the paths we have trodden, and the lessons we have learnt from the round of the year, and ponder deeply our state at the end of our lives. Yet this is not to be a gloomy session of self criticism despite its sombre theme. It is a festival offering courage, and with courage goes encouragement to go bravely where our terrors and fears reside; to go deep into the places of the mind and face out these archetypal fears. This is the time to talk with the dead as well as with death in ourselves; to bring out these hidden things and ask them to join in festival dance.
The Hallows is one of the great pagan feasts and ushers Winter in. After this date the leaves will rapidly fall from the trees. The frosts will come and the November gales will hunt wildly across the land.