We battled our way past the hordes of zombies and demons racing down the street towards us as we started our trek to Tout Quarry for the Clan Dolmen Samhain ceremony. Fortunately for us they were only interested in what lay behind the welcoming doors along Wakeham. We were wrapped up well but the air was unusually warm over Portland for this time of year. It was a clear evening with Saturn and Mars about to descend below the horizon hot on the heels of Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and the Sun. The Moon was still a long while from showing her face over the Purbeck Hills.
The white limestone path through what used to be Bottom Coombe Quarry alongside the active Perryfield Quarry guided our way through the night to St. George’s cemetery at the top of Reforne. The Georgian graveyard was bathed in darkness revealing a glow on the Portland Stone headstones that lined the path past the church towards Tradecroft and the Circle of Stones.
October 31st is the time when the veil that hides the portals to the underworld, the abode of the dead is at its thinnest. It allows the spirits to walk again as the sun sets in the world of the living. It is the occasion that the living can honour and remember those that have gone before.
Communities around the world observe this day each year. In Mexico on ‘The Day of the Dead’ locals celebrate by spending the day at cemeteries to pray, eat, drink and decorate the graves with candles and flowers. In India they celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights which is a declaration of hope and focuses on friendship and goodwill. In modern Britain we celebrate Halloween, an American tradition that supports commercialism and profit through trick and treating for sweets and chocolate, dressing up as ghouls and scaring the living daylights out of the neighbours. For me, Samhain is a special time to remember those souls that I have loved and are no longer with us, who have passed on to the next great adventure after life. I think of my mum who left us two and a half years ago, my dad who went ten years earlier and my grandparents all who had a big hand in making me the person I am today.
A horn signalled the start of the procession into the quarry and the two dozen souls marched together with torch light to the stone circle. We assembled around the altar stone of roach[i] and opened the circle, calling in the four directions and opening the portal to the realm of the spirit. Taloch and Diane led the ritual with chant and reflection and bought into the circle blessings to the loved ones that have passed away. The light of the Mother Goddess gave way to the dark of the Father God before personal issues were dispersed in the dark of night.
While the others made their way back to their cars, me and Trez went to the edge of the cliff to take in the view. The glow of Underhill spewed out along the causeway to Wyke and Weymouth, stretching along the horizon as far as Lyme Regis before spilling out to sea as ships sheltered in Deadman’s Bay from the thunder flashes lighting up the western skies from time to time.
The Descent to Underhill
Sometimes it is nice to just walk, to clear the mind and experience the world at a slower pace. We could have got a lift Underhill to Diane’s but it was a warm night and we were inspired by the ritual. We made our way through the dramatic sculptures looming out of the shadows, strange stone shapes guiding us along the limestone path towards the glowing light of Underhill. Ancient quarry stacks mingled with modern stone geometric forms and carved guardians marking the path through the darkness.
Diane’s gathering was in full swing by the time me and Trez arrived but there was still plenty of food and cake to be had, and interesting conversations going around the table. What is gravity, and how does it affect time? Does time slow down near a black hole and what was it doing at the moment of the big bang? Individually and as a group it was a time to let go of anything that has held us back over the past year and embrace the things that help us to move forward and face the ‘New Year’ with a positive mind. Think positive and the outcome will be positive.
[i] A stone full of small fossils that swam in the shallow sea 145 million years ago.
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