As we approach the end of October, we come to Samhain, All Hallows, Hallowe’en, Scorpio time, the Death card month. Whatever name you give it, we’re reminded of impermanence as we enter the colder, deeper time of the year. Here is a process to help you and your close ones mark this special season, the gateway into the new year in the Old Ways.
A. Gather in a circle, whether around a table, on the floor, or wherever. Place a beeswax candle in the middle. Remove any card(s) from your tarot deck that reminds you of Samhain/All Hallows and what it represents for you, then place this card(s) in the centre beside the candle. You can also add miniature pumpkins, photos or other mementos of deceased loved ones, tokens of your ancestral heritage, fallen leaves, and other symbols to the middle arrangement.
B. Read a quote/poem that reminds you of Samhain to set the tone. Or sing a song dedicated to this time of year.
C. One at a time, each person receives the tarot deck as it’s passed clockwise. Each person, when s/he receives the pack, says one word or one phrase that lets the group know how s/he is as s/he enters this game(e.g. “I’m feeling grateful for X this evening.” or “Tired, but happy to be with you all today.” or “Curious about what we’re about to do.”). Then s/he mixes the deck and picks four cards at random before passing the pack to the person on hir left. This continues until everyone has checked in and has four cards in their hands.
D. Four rounds are played clockwise (each round’s topic is below). During each, every player gets a turn to lay a card on the surface in front of hir and use its image to inspire a continuation of the open sentence provided. This can be done by consciously selecting a card from your face-up hand or by keeping your four cards face-down and intuitively picking which one will be your sentence-completion image. Each player can expand on the sentence as much as s/he chooses.
FIRST ROUND: “What is truly dead or dying for me is _________.”
SECOND ROUND: “I can honour that which has died by _________.”
THIRD ROUND: “What is sprouting from the compost of the past is _________.”
- FOURTH ROUND: “Ancestral gifts and skills that I carry in this lifetime include __________.”
E. After everyone’s cards have been played, allow a fruitful, respectful conversation to unfold, continuing until it reaches a natural conclusion. This conversation can include anything that has been said or heard during the four central rounds and/or remembrances of beloved ones who are no longer alive on Earth.
F. For the final round, the tarot deck is passed around counterclockwise. One at a time, people receive it, express gratitude for one thing they’ve heard or said during the game, mix their four cards back into the pack, and pass it to the person on their right.
G. After everyone’s cards have been returned to the deck, the central card is shuffled back into the pack. Read a closing poem/quote or sing another Samhain-themed song. If you’ve included small pumpkins or leaves in your midst, they can be distributed to people to adorn their shrines at home.
Image: Tod (Death), Trump XIII from the Margarete Petersen tarot deck.