Well, have no fear, something Wiccan this way comes: a refreshingly authentic antidote to the typically commerce-coated scare fare of modern-day Halloween. The Religious Order of the Circle of Isis Rising is up to its old tricks. From Dianic to eclectic, pagan to pantheistic, high priestess to neophyte, neopagan to druid, dabblers in nature worship, vegan Wiccans, and hard-core sorcerers, the local coven conjures a veritable cauldron of kindred spirits at the third annual A Night Between the Veils: A Samhain Celebration.
Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) is a pagan holiday that marks the cyclical progression from summer to winter, from light to darkness, and a return to barrenness, a difficult concept for us Miamians to grasp in our perfect limbo of eternal sun and climate control. Still, even here this ancient ritual, prime time for honoring not only dying crops but also the dearly departed, is alive and well.
To get your blood flowing, members of the Circle of Isis Rising will perform their take on the tale of the Egyptian king Osiris, who was chopped into pieces by his brother and then resurrected (minus one vital organ) by his wife/sister Isis. Dramatic interpretations, cakes and ale (of the nonalcoholic variety), spiral dance, and pagan sing-alongs aside, coven mistress Cheryl Richardson explains that this is a sacred time for practitioners of the craft. “The main focus for us coming together is the religious ritual in honor of the season,” she says. To this end participants will be required to sign (in ink, not blood) an agreement stating they will respect the ceremony.
Part of that ritual includes taking advantage of the commonly accepted Wiccan belief that Samhain is an auspicious time for parting the veil between the spirit world and the physical world, thus the celebration's appellation. To facilitate divination, or supernatural sight, guests will be anointed on their third eye by a high priestess and take part in casting a circle, a prayer union to unite the powerful and potentially healing life energies of all present.
So why all the brouhaha? “When people step forward [into the venue],” says Richardson, “we are really going to try to part the veil.” And what or whom might they hope to encounter behind door number three? Perhaps the coven's founder, Lady Nicole Everett, who passed away last year? “She's always going to be invited [to our gatherings],” notes Richardson. A witch for ten years, Richardson explains that graveyard scenes and an ancestors table of mementos will assist in welcoming “people they know who have passed on to the other side ... relatives, friends, animals.”
And how mighty is the coven master's magic? “It's done me well,” Richardson replies with a hearty laugh. “Faith provides a lot,” she adds in a more somber tone. As for any stigma attached to the w word, Richardson's response is to the point: “We are outspoken as far as what we are. We are witches heart and soul.”
All this pagan pride is reminiscent of that purple-lettered bumper-sticker slogan: “The Goddess is alive, and magic is afoot.” A foot, a head, a breast, whatever the extremity, it's a bewitching notion.