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Pagans celebrate October ritual

There were four flags pointing to the corresponding directions of the solar rotary to represent the four guardians of earth, fire, air and water. The flags were essential to the ceremony because the participants called upon each of the guardians to assist them in their ritual.

Monday night, the pagan ritual of Samhain was performed at USF by the University Pagan Allied Network. The ritual is seen as a time of reflection, introspection and honoring of the dead, said Holly Muller, a graduate student majoring in religious studies.

The ritual took place at the solar rotary, located outside the Communication and Information Sciences building, because the location was relevant to the ritual, Muller said. The location was a spot that was circular and was open enough to have different markers of the locations of the guardians that were called upon.

The ceremony began with people entering the circle of the participants being waved down with a sage candle and being anointed on their foreheads with oil. Those who had been anointed were then asked to stand in a circle around the center where the spirits of the gods of life and death manifested.

The priest and priestess of the ceremony then commenced to call upon the various guardians to assist them in the ceremony by lighting candles at each of the four flags. After the candles were lit, the ceremony commenced with a story of their goddess of life into the underworld to pay her respect to the dead.

Muller said the ceremony represented what is typically considered a Wiccan ritual.

“The structure of the ritual is that of a typical Wiccan ritual,” Muller said. “The calling of quarters, calling of lords and ladies, the mead of the ritual, cakes and ale and dismissing of the lords and ladies is pretty typical of the Wiccan rituals.”

After the trip around the circle to the guardians, the ceremony moved on to a rope placed around the circle so that all evil could be taken out of the thoughts of those present.

Those in attendance were given cakes and ale to symbolize the giving of these things to their goddess so that she may never be hungry or thirsty in the underworld.

The ceremony concluded with dismissal of the guardians and gods.

Muller said the ritual is usually performed Oct. 31 to coincide with Halloween.

She added, though, that most pagans tend to distinguish between Halloween and Samhain.

“Most pagans celebrate Halloween separately from Samhain even though they are on the same day,” Muller said.

Gail Harley, a USF professor of religious studies, said UPAN was involved with the production in various different stages.

“They have written the script, designed the costumes and brought the food for this ceremony,” Harley said.

Harley said the reason for bringing her class to this ceremony is to provide her students with a better understanding of the religions.

“Witchcraft and paganism are both nature religions,” Harley said. “By engaging in a ritual reenactment that is outdoors, it develops the idea of the ambiance of nature as connected with religion.”