Campus furthers inclusive endeavors by organizing Gaelic Pagan ritual


(Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)

Dorian Hardgrove (right) and Grace Hartung-Latham (left) share their interests and beliefs before the event officially began. Hardgrove hosted this celebratory ritual just before dusk to bring together fellow pagans to celebrate Samhain, though the event wasn’t exclusive to just pagans.

On the evening of Nov. 1, the Samhain Sumbel was hosted from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the Claire Kolodzey Memorial Garden. Samhain is a Gaelic festival of the dead that marks the end of the harvest season into the beginning of winter. There’s an ancient notion that the veil between the realm of the dead and the living world is thinner, facilitating contact and communication with lost loved ones or ancestors. There are many ways to celebrate Samhain, and a Sumbel is one of them. It’s a ceremonial toasting that connects people to their ancestors, their community, and to a degree with themselves.

Hardgrove wants to create a community for all practicing pagans on campus and plans to host more events similar to the Samhain Sumbel. (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)
“It’s all about love,” Hartung-Latham said. “It’s about connection. It’s appreciating the things and people around you. This event symbolizes me being able to sort of come out and celebrate what I believe in because I was never able to do that where I’m from.” (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)
Ivan Masterson (middle) pours out his offering after toasting to an expression of gratitude while David Galligan (left) and Hartung-Latham (right) observe. After the toast is made, all participants respond with “hail” and pass the can to the next participant. (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)
Hardgrove explains the second round: a toast to a spiritual influence The ritual occurs in rounds after an introduction is read aloud. The first round is an expression of gratitude, the second is to a spiritual influence and the third is to oneself. There can be multiple rounds, but a typical Sumbel has three rounds. (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)
Hartung-Latham pours out her offering after toasting to her spiritual influence as the second round concludes. The ritual honors the ancestors and forms bonds between the participants as they share their toasts to the group and pour their offerings. (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)
Hardgrove explains the third round to everyone. The Sumbel comes in both high and low forms. Hardgrove hosted a low-form Sumbel since it was open to all beliefs and was explicitly secular. The rite is exclusively for the benefit of the participants. (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)
Galligan (left) contemplates what to say for his toast in the third round, the toast to oneself. In this round, participants shared personal triumphs and things they took pride in. “There’s stuff to learn about what my ancestors used to believe in,” Galligan said. “Finding resources and things for it is difficult, and this helps me feel like I’m connecting with them in some way. And that maybe somewhere in the past, one of my ancestors did this.” (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)
“I’m really excited to get connected with more people that share my beliefs,” Hartung-Latham said. “I love that we can do these things because it broadens and shows acceptance for a lot of other religions, especially on a Catholic campus.” (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)
Students gather for a campus first, a pagan drinking ritual that honors the dead. (Morrigan Lucas / Hilltop Views)