Samhain: An Underworld Tarot Ritual
by Yasmine Galenorn
November 1, Samhain — the Festival of the Dead. The year is waning, venturing towards the winter solstice, the darkest night of the year. Leaves lay crisp on the ground, their burnished reds and bronzes a reminder of the fallow fields of autumn. It is the time of spirits, the time of witches, the time of crackling bonfires around which we dance to the thundering pulse of the drum.
On Samhain we not only remember our ancestors, but we seek a better understanding of our psyches. The veil between the worlds of spirit and of mortal-kind is at its thinnest, and we can now see into the darkness of the void, into the shadows of our own self. We seek understanding, we ask for guidance, we remember our roots.
Late on Samhain Eve — October 31, near to the witching hour, set up your scrying altar. Cover it with a black cloth, preferably velvet, and in the center, prop up a magick mirror so that you can easily see into it. On one side of the mirror set an orange candle, on the other a white candle. In back of the mirror, raised so that you can see it, place a black candle. Prepare music (such as Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors) for your evening’s work. Set your tarot cards in front of the mirror. Light a stick of copal or myrrh incense and smudge the area. Cast a circle, light the candles, turn on the music and invoke the elements of fire and ice:
“Spirit of the Flame, you who are the passion of the bonfire, you who are transformation, come to me. Light my way into this, the night of the dead, that I might see beyond the veil into myself, into the corners of my psyche.”
“Spirit of the ice, you who are the chill of the mists, you who are illumination and clarity, come to me. Freeze-frame those images which I need to see, on this, the night of the dead, that I might understand and come to self-knowledge.”
Spend a little time in a meditation and lower yourself into trance. Then, take your place in front of the altar. Hold your cards as you look into the mirror at your own image. Keep your eyes focused about an inch above your head in the mirror so that you don’t strain them.
Take three deep breaths and knock three times on your cards. Ask aloud:
“What are the karmic lessons I need to learn in this cycle of growth?” Shuffle three times and remove three cards from the deck, set them face down on the altar.
Again, knock three times and ask:
“What are the strengths which I possess that will aid me in my growth?” Shuffle three times and remove three cards from the deck, place them above the first three.
Once again, knock three times and ask:
“What are the obstacles I face in my current cycle of growth?” Shuffle three times and remove three cards from the deck, place them above the second line of cards.
Knock three times and ask:
“What guidance will aid me in my journey?” Shuffle three times and remove three cards from the deck, place them above the third tier.
Lastly, knock three times and ask:
“What is the overall nature of the energy that I am working with this cycle?” Shuffle three times and remove one card, and place it at top-center of the third tier.
Now set the rest of the deck aside and turn over the cards 1 – 3. Meditate on them. These will show you the lessons you are supposed to learn in this current cycle. Cards 4 – 6 will tell you the strengths that you possess in order to meet the life lessons you are learning. If a card seems negative, you will want to look for ways in which the attributes might be blessings in disguise. Cards 7 – 9 will warn you of obstacles forthcoming, so that you can either avoid them or lessen their impact. Cards 10 – 12 will provide guidance. Card 13 is the summation card, providing a summary of what this cycle is all about.
When you are finished, you may wish to record the reading in your journal or Book of Shadows. Extinguish the candles, thank the elements of fire and ice for being with you, and open your circle. It would be a good idea to watch your dreams carefully over the next few days for messages and omens.
Bright blessings this Samhain, and may you walk between the worlds with caution and with brilliance.
Yasmine Galenorn writes the paranormal Chintz `n China Mystery Series, and the Bath& Beauty Mystery Series (written under the name India Ink), both from Berkley Prime Crime. She is also writing a contemporary fantasy series, The Sisters of the Moon Series, (Penguin Group, coming 2006). She’s written eight nonfiction metaphysical books, (Crossing Press and Llewellyn Publications). She lives in Bellevue, Wash. with her husband, Samwise, and their four cats and can be contacted via her Web site: www.galenorn.com.
This article previously appeared in the Llewellyn 2002 Tarot Calendar.