Four men got in a discussion. Each one said:
"Who knows how
To have the Void for his head
To have Life as his backbone
And Death for his tail?
He shall be my friend!"
At this they all looked at one another
Saw they agreed,
Burst out laughing
And became friends.

-- From The Way of Chuang Tzu

The Thursday night D&D game was short, and ended at around 10. This time around, Halloween somehow snuck up on us all -- though we had the party last Saturday, the actual day crept up quietly, without fanfare or plans. And yet the feeling was there, the everpresent, vague expectation that comes before a pop culture holiday, the desire to seize it, to feel it, to somehow make it meaningful.

We came to the game in costume, just because. Her Sinister Majesty the DM wore an elegant red and black dress, and a velvet demonic mask - of the masquerade ball type. I pulled on my furry pants, satyr horns, a ren-faire vest, and felt great.

The game ended, a low-key chapter in our hunt for the Unicorn (and that's a story for another day). It was time to go, to catch up on sleep before work tomorrow. And yet... Halloween, it was almost over. Slipping. You could see it in everyone's eyes. K., who was wearing a pretty, comfortable autumnal dress with a belt buckle shaped like a crescent, who happens to be the sanest Taurus girl we've ever met, and who is also a newborn and fledgeling (yet very intelligent and sincere) witch, brought it up first. Yet what could we do? We know enough to be dangerous, to know what we want or what we're missing, but not necessarily what to do about it. The usual Halloween answers - parties, Trick-or-treating - did not apply at this moment. And while the Wiccans (hopefully) have some satisfying Samhain rituals, none of us knew of any off the top of our heads.

Of course, if we had even a couple hours to prepare, we could've had a chat with Uncle Google, and, being creative and knowing enough of what matters, we could've thrown something together. So that's what we decided - we'd do something cool and meaningful tomorrow, or Saturday, when we have time to prepare, arbitrary dates on the calendar aside. But it wasn't enough - you could still feel it in the room. Halloween was ending.

What broke the impasse is not important. We grabbed some candles, and soon had a circle of flame going, and a circle of hands around that. J., with ghoul makeup on, who is not a witch in any sense of the word, but is instead on his very own kind of White (in the Iron John sense) path, also joined in.

Rituals, like good dreams, are hard to describe, and in any event what matters is their effect and not the details. We chanted, and felt our voices vibrate and harmonize in the firelit room. We took turns speaking, grateful for a new year and for the presence of friends, expressing our hopes for the coming winter. We basked in each other's presence. And then we broke the circle, and banished with laughter (which, in case you're wondering, is very easy to summon up, since every ritual, no matter how grave, has an element of the ridiculous).

The night ended. I took the DM by the hand and we went home. Although they're no substitute for structured rituals, spontaneous ones really do work with the right mix of people, and this one drew us together. I'm glad we did it.