Hello and welcome everyone. My name is Dayna Schmidt-Johnson. I'm the community manager of the Writual society as well as the house astrologer. Today we're going to be talking about the pagan celebration of Samhain. Or what you may know better is Halloween. Samhain begins the Wheel of the Year, it's perhaps the most well known pagan Sabbat, and it's said to be the single day of the year when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. We have brought in Pagan Priestess Rory Lula McMahan to share her wealth of knowledge about the holiday. Welcome, Rory, thank you so much for being here today.
Rory Lula McMahan
Hi, Dayna. It's really, really nice to be here with you. And with the Writual community, I love communities. So thank you for welcoming me into this one.
Yes, we are so excited to have you. Tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do as a Pagan Priestess.
Rory Lula McMahan
That question always makes me giggle a little, you know that, like, who are you? Yeah, I'm a Pagan Priestess. So I do a lot of community work. I teach classes, I do divination, that's one of the main things that I just love to do, and do a lot of a lot of work with people on expanding into their more authentic self, being able to really be themselves and feel whole around that. I teach a year long Coven training, I teach classes around town. So I do a lot of different things. In that in that arena, I also lead a lot of ritual, I'm out and about leading rituals for people and, and putting rituals together and then putting those into place so that we can celebrate these amazing turns of the of the wheel as the year shifts, right shifts and shifts. And we're definitely shifting now.
We certainly are. Yeah, and I think you're the perfect person to have here with us, because of your experience. How did you even get started in all of this, and you've been practicing your whole life?
Rory Lula McMahan
Oh, gosh. You know, I. So I would say that from the time I from as far as I can remember back, I've always been really fascinated with spirit with spiritual oriented concepts and thought systems, I always had a really big pull towards those spiritual spaces. And so I think a lot of how I quote got where I am, is the fact that I've always been curious, I think our curiosity can really guide us, right. And so my curiosity led me to always reading about different practices and learning about different practices.
And then I had a big life change in my 20s, like a lot of us do, I packed up and moved somewhere new and I had this epiphany that I could choose my friends, you know, rather than my friends choosing me, and I think as we, as we started to move through that part of life, that can be a really life changing revelation. And because of that, I started seeking out people who were also interested in, in spirituality and in, in what I would call witchcraft, I mean, I think I always, you know, the little girl dream of like, I want to be a witch when I grow up.
And and kind of the the magic of that no pun intended, but just that vision that we have, but obviously as I got older, I started to dive into more of the practicalities and what that really meant as a way to move through my life. And it's just always resonated with me the idea of the ideas that come come wrapped up in nature based spirituality practices, so, you know, I'll laughingly refer to myself as a witch. And it's, it's a really good term, I think, for the way that I practice. And I think it encompasses a lot of, of the ideas that I hold, but I really tend to talk more about being pagan and, and being a nature based practitioner, because that's, that's really where I think we veer off. And I find that these nature based practices tend to hold us more in a space of experimenting and discovering and evolving and transforming, as opposed to some of the more dogmatic practices but you know, everybody has their their best way of connecting so, so I definitely am connected to a few more dogmatic practices as well.
But I just I've found as I moved through life and have moved through time that the deepening of this practice around more pagan concepts, more witchy concepts of how the world is put together, how we receive sign and symbol, and for me personally, just being very empathic and intuitive and doing a lot of that kind of work with people, it's just always been a really good place to evolve and transform.
But really, I think what pulled me most is this is a, this is a place and a path and a way of being that allows us to continually evolve. Rather than trying to hold ourselves to a dogma, right, I'm a little bit of a science geek too, like a little bit science fictiony geek, as well. And I love the overlap that we can have between studying the world around us and the amazing things that are revealed. And then how those show up in micro form in our own lives, right, that micro macro connection, that reflection, and I think there's a lot of reflection to be found in these particular spiritual paths. So yeah, I guess that's how I got here. I don't know if that really answered it.
It is an amazing journey to go through over time. And I love that it just started with curiosity, what is this? Where do I want to go with it? And what's next? And really, that is a great place to start when we're looking at Samhain as a Sabbat, because it is the beginning of the Wheel of the Year. It's it starts, the evening of October 31, goes through November 1, but it's not our traditional New Year, right, that we have come to know and with the calendar. But we're starting something new, and we're going through a new cycle. So what's really important for people to know about this Sabbat?
Rory Lula McMahan
I think, I think one of the important things to know or think about or one of the interesting and curious things that can kind of open us up to these spaces I mean, you can really see what's happening out in the world around you everything is the harvest is finished. We're not bringing food in anymore, we are noticing the world get quieter, there's more of a sense of internal space, rather than that abundant external creation. And so I think that's a big piece of, of Samhain. And of this time of year, this turn of the wheel in general, is we're really making that shift from being in a place of action, and more into a place of contemplation.
And that doesn't mean you know that we have to go off onto into onto a hilltop and and sit away from everybody. A lot of us are very social during during these times. But I think it's important to realize that we have an opportunity to look at what did we plant at the beginning of the year? And what did we harvest? And what are the things that didn't work and being willing to to look at that and explore that. And then using Samhain as a time to release and let go of the things that didn't work and make room and plans for the things that we might be able to plant the next time around.
So with that cycle view of of time that witchcraft or paganism can hold, we have that sense of the similar vibrations, the similar energies will return again, but they're going to feel different every time right next next Samhain will feel different than this Samhain will be a little bit of a different person will have been through different things. And that adds this beautiful continuity and ability to say what do I want to leave behind? What am I ready to let go of? And what do I want to bring back in when this cycle comes? Again? Where do I want to be?
And I think it's really different from some practices or ways of being in our world that really look at time in a more linear fashion where we're, it's this constant, you get one chance, and then it goes away instead of this kind of beautiful cycling of, of each time we come around to that same energy we are open to a new perspective. So for me, that's really one of the most important things about this time of year is being able to take a minute and not not be self judgmental around Oh god, I planted that and it didn't work. And I'm terrible because it didn't work or I didn't put enough time and we can get really self judgmental around the things that we've put in play that haven't worked out. And I think this just adds a beautiful perspective around take the judgment off and use it as wisdom to see what really worked and why and and also what didn't work, because we get as much information from what doesn't work for us as we do from what does.
But like I said, in our modern world, we're really taught to be kind of self judgmental about that and say that we did something wrong, because it didn't work out and instead of saying oh maybe that was out of alignment or maybe that was the timing was off? Or, gee, I really learned that yeah, if I don't water my garden, it's not going to grow. You know, I mean, it can be very basic things or very conceptual things. But having the space and time around Samhain to really connect with, with where we've been, and where we hope to go, and having a gentleness around exploring those internal spaces that that can open up.
That's so beautiful, giving us the time, like you said, to even focus on what doesn't work, because so often, that gives us even more information, right?
Rory Lula McMahan
It really it does. I mean, if we, if we want to help ourselves move towards being more authentic and being more ourselves and feeling more whole, we need to be willing to have that more expansive view about the things we try, that don't work out. Because there is there's loads of information, right and in that, but I just feel like we're really taught to dismiss that and see that as a negative. And, again, with these more circular views of like the turning of the wheel, that's why we call it the wheel, it constantly circles back into into its seasons again, and again, and knowing that our perception can open up and change over that. And it's not these markers of accomplishment or failure, it's markers of transformation.
Speaking of transformation, and you alluded to this a little bit, what are pagans celebrating at Samhain or honoring, you know, it's also the same time as Halloween and Day of the Dead, and all of those things are happening at the same time. Is it a similar type of honoring and celebrating? Or is this very different?
Rory Lula McMahan
That's a great question. And I think, without going into a whole, whole talk about the interesting interconnections and overlaps between different practices, at at their root, you know, most most spiritual practices, no matter what they are, at some point, took their cues from the natural world. Right? And so that's why, you know, it's like, oh, it's so weird that Halloween, and Samhain and Day of the Dead and, and All Saints Day, or, excuse me, All Souls Day are all right at the same time. Well, yeah, because throughout time, we've seen that, oh, this is a time when things are transitioning, when things are moving from life to death, when things are moving from action to rest. And so that becomes the overlapping theme of this time of year. Right. And so, um, so there are all of these beautiful connections that you can see throughout many, many traditions, if you if you look around and finding one that feels comfortable for you will open up that ability to sink into that space, too.
But one of the components that I really work with a lot when it comes to this time of year is the connection we have with our ancestors. And then you kind of alluded to this a little bit when you talked about this being a time when the veil is thin, right? Like that's what we all hear about, when we're when we're learning things and and as we move through these, these practices and learn more about them, this idea that the veil is very, very thin at Samhain, and at this time of year in general. And what that means is that there is less definition between between the spaces that exist if you want to kind of put it in that big conceptual way. Right, the the walls are down a little bit. So it's a lot easier in those times to communicate and receive messages from other places. I of course work with that in terms of ancestors and, and spiritual guides and concepts like that. But that component is accessible to anything that you want to try to speak with.
Some people find it really effective if they're interested in working with the Fae, for instance, that varies it's a really active time because that's open a little bit more and so you can communicate a little bit more, or you just may get a little bit more when you go out and walk in the woods and just take that quiet time.
There's just this ability for an exchange of information and message and sign and symbol that's a little more prevalent at this time of year, or a lot more prevalent depending on on how you're built personally or your personal experiences with it. So that access we have to honoring the other than human beings around us is very open at this time, and so it is a time of honoring, traditionally, it's, it's very much associated with honoring your beloved dead, those who have passed on, those who either that we've lost through that particular cycle of the year or ancestors that go back much further. So it's a, it's a time to really be able to sit with that, that beautiful sense of, of what we come from, and, and the people and, and the communities that have helped us get to the places we are, and to honor that and to say thank you and to have gratitude and, and kind of having that extra boost of feeling like oh, and they can really hear me right now. And I can really hear them because there is that thinning, that thinning between those spaces.
Because just like in the outside world where that's happening. We're transitioning in that way that provides this kind of energetic boost to that's what's happening everywhere, right, I'm really big into the micro macro thing. But that idea that what's happening in our, in our world, and especially in our natural world, is a reflection of what's happening on those smaller scales inside of ourselves. So that energy is flowing through everything, not just through like the trees that lost its leaves, but like everything, and our spirits and our souls and, and our paths are also at that place. And so we just have more access to it a little more clarity around being able to, to have that gratitude and honor and, and take that time to just kind of say thank you.
So amongst all of this celebration, and gratitude, and recognizing the things between the veil, what does a Samhain celebration look like? If someone was going to one for the very first time? What might they experience?
Rory Lula McMahan
Yeah, um, so as it as many pagans, or witches, as you ask that you're going to get so many, you know, answers to that. And that's something that I'm just starting off by saying that because I always like to encourage people to really find what resonates for you. So definitely try, like experiment, try out other people's ideas, try things but find things that resonate for you, that feel authentic for you. That's where you're really going to get that connection. And there's no right or wrong in doing that. I think we can get again, really caught up in that.
That being said, the way that I like to celebrate sound and have for oh, gosh, should I even say it decades probably now. And the way that we celebrate Samhain in the Coven that I that I teach, we do all the Sabbats there. And so this is the way that I celebrate with them. And it's very traditional, it's called a dumb supper. So D-U-M-B. And that referring to the fact that it's a silent supper. So traditionally, what everyone does is bring a dish that they've prepared. And we always love when it's something that actually relates to our ancestors, like, oh, these were my grandma's favorite cookies, or, you know, my, my great grandma always made this pasta dish, it was her favorite thing. And so it's encouraged to bring dishes that either relate to our bigger ancestry, or that relate to what we're connected to at that point. Or that literally, are this these are my mom's favorite cookies, you know, and so everyone brings these ancestral dishes, which makes for a really, really fun potluck, by the way, because you never know what you're gonna get. And it's just always this amazing variety. And then everyone, we we make a sacred space. And everyone takes a little bit from each from each dish, you try to try to honor by by everyone, you know, taking a little bit and sharing in that with every everybody. The first thing we do though, is take a plate for the ancestors, and we put a little bit of food from each dish onto that ancestor plate. And they have their own space at the table. So they have a chair, they have their plate with their food, they have a drink and they partake in everything that we have. So there's this empty chair, empty, sitting at the at the table and everyone sits down and you eat your meal in silence.
The purpose of that I guess you could say is because the veil is thin and because you're inviting your ancestors in dish share this space with you. By being silent, it allows you to be more receptive. Or hear more, you're able to, to let your thoughts wander and to, you know, receive messages. And, by the way, I'm doing a tangent here for a second, receiving messages can have all of these movie style, you know, images in our head. But sometimes it's just as simple as that we're daydreaming about a memory. And we remember something somebody said to us, or we just feel happy that that we had that moment. So it's not always these profound like voice in our ear messages. But sitting in that silent space with the people you love, a group of people that you that you trust and want to be with your friends. For some people, it's family. For some people, it's Coven groups. And sharing that time in silence allows you both to send out your prayers and your intentions around your thankfulness and gratitude, and then also allows that space for those messages to also be returned to you.
And so that's, that's the ritual that I find most, most sacred at this particular time of year. Like I said, I've been doing it every year for ages. It's, it's always interesting, I'll just give a heads up, it's, it's really interesting to sit and eat with people and not speak, we are not taught to do that. In general, in our culture, we were taught to fill empty spaces with voice. And, and so you tend to go through a whole cycle where at first you just feel really awkward. And then you're like, wondering if you're doing it right, and then you're just, you know, like, oh, the food is good. And then and then you're like, Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be intensioning. So it can be it can be this real whole cycling through of letting go of that physicality and that awkwardness of being with people and not speaking, it's not uncommon for people to giggle and you know, and laugh because it does, it feels so different. But it's this beautiful practice that I feel like pulls kind of all of the pieces together, you have the harvest food on the table, you're celebrating the abundance that's come in, and then you're also honoring and, and thanking and respecting and asking for help from your ancestors and from your guides and trusting that they're sitting there with you that you've made space for them too.
So that's my favorite, I love that particular ritual, but there are so many ways that we can we can celebrate these times, you know, and, and I've done done dumb suppers alone, as well. So this is it's not like you have to have people with you, you can make a special meal and do it for yourself.
And then some other simple things that people can do, you know, go out and leave some flowers somewhere that feels special to you, as a thank you to your ancestors, there's a very traditional, pour some water out or a drink out onto the ground, to honor your ancestors. Think of small ways, you know, maybe dust off all of the pictures of your old pictures of your family that you have. So they're clean and sparkly in your home. So there are there are so many ways that you can you can do that honoring, but that's a really traditional one. And that's one that I just find is very profound and sacred and, and really, to me it feels like it pulls all the pieces together around that transition from harvest time to more contemplative time.
That's so beautiful. And I think it's really important that you mentioned that do what works for you and incorporate something you know that there are smaller ways if we're not ready to take a leap like that or have the time or anything like that right because it's also a busy time of year in general.
Rory Lula McMahan
So you know, I'll just hop in too and say like I don't have I don't spend every day like in robes doing amazing rituals and like setting up big altars and stuff. You know, a lot of times for me it really is just a day to day a quick like, Oh, I forgot to say thanks. I'm gonna pour some of my water from my water bottle out on the ground and say thank you or, or, you know, running out and waving at my altar as I leave the house like Oh, thank you. I'm in a rush. I'm running late, you know? So it's important that that spirituality is part can become part of a daily walk right? And if that's the way you're built, where spirit is something that you're you're pulled toward. It's not.
It's one of my mentors said, who I just adore. It doesn't - What if it's easy, it doesn't have to be hard. What if it's easy? What if it's really just about being aware and and moving through your day with that awareness? So it's lovely to do big rituals, but there are always very simple ways. Go sit under the moon, you know, for five minutes after you're done putting your kids to bed or whatever crazy thing you just finished up, take five minutes, step outside, take a breath, and just have that moment and that's just as beautiful and sacred and important as having some big ritual with you know, 20 people.
Rory, thank you so much for being here today and talking us through a little bit about Samhain. We are so excited to invite you as our October teacher in the Writual society, so I can't wait to hear so much more. I know there's so much deeper into this that we're gonna get so in the meantime, where can people find you?
Rory Lula McMahan
I am most reachable on Instagram at Rory Lulu and that's really the best way to get a hold of me at this point I post on there and everyone's welcome to direct message me or whatever. That tends to be my main my main flow on that officially my my work space I don't know how do you say like company that feels weird for like a spiritual thing. Right? My company is The Sacred Table. But honestly, I'm running pretty much everything through at Rory Lulu, and then through private work and things like that. So if you want more info, you can DM me there. And I'll be happy to get back with you with more personal things like my email and and stuff like that.
Amazing. Well, we're excited to see you in October in the Writual society. Thank you so much for being here today. And we will see you soon.
Rory Lula McMahan
Absolutely. I'm really looking forward to it. Thank you, Dayna. Bye, everyone.
About Rory Lula McMahan