The Halloween of Cross Bones was conducted every year from 1998 to 2010. Over these 13 annual performances, the ceremonial drama evolved its own ritual forms. There’s an Altar to the Ancestors, on which are placed personal mementoes or photographs of lost loved ones, along with morsels to feed the hungry ghosts. A Goddess Priestess conducts a samhain ritual in honour of the pagan new year, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Then John Crow opens the ritual honouring of The Goose:
Spirits of the dead… Spirits of the Living… Kindred… Welcome…
There follows a ritual drama – a performance of songs and poems from the Vision Books of The Southwark Mysteries - a kind of vision quest or guided meditation in which The Goose initiates John Crow into her hermetic teachings in order to reveal:
The Spirit in the flesh, the Sacred in the profane, Eternity in time…
The form of the ritual embodies these contraries: combining a sense of awe and reverence with a bawdy humour befitting The Goose. It presents a syncretic vision of healing and transformation, rooted in native pagan animism and Crow’s idiosyncratic Goddess worship, and encompassing elements of ‘left-hand’ Magdalene Gnosticism, Buddhism, Tantra, spiritualism and the Western Magical Tradition. However, Crow has always asserted that The Goose’s teachings are not a doctrine, creed or belief-system. They can best be understood as a spiritual practice in which conflicting ideas can co-exist within a spiritual or astral state of ‘Liberty’ or ongoing process of liberation. The Southwark Mysteries and other teachings of the Goose-Crow source are revealed in poetry and song, as allusions and emblems of that which cannot be spoken, rather than as literal, ‘gospel’ truth.
Participants are given a ribbon recording the the name, address, profession and year of death of someone buried in Cross Bones. These records were retrieved from the London Metropolitan Archives. People are asked to tie the ribbon around their wrist and to adopt their spirit for the course of the ritual.
Each performance flows seamlessly into a candlelit procession to the Cross Bones site. There, the ribbons and other totems are tied to the bars of the iron gates, the names of the dead read aloud and prayers said to light their 'open pathways'.
These ritual performances have been conducted in venues all around the Borough - The Drome (now SEOne), Green Angels, The Ragged School, The Ship Inn and, most recently, The Hop Cellars in Southwark Street - each followed by the procession to the shrine at the Memorial Gates.
The first 11 Halloween of Cross Bones rituals were conducted by John Crow, variously assisted by the Irish poet and musician Niall McDevitt and actor-singer Michelle Watson, who played the part of The Goose for 7 of the first 10 annual performances. Jahnet de Light led the tantric pulse for the first 10 Halloweens, and trained her Whores d’Oevres to hold the space for this third aspect of the triple ritual at the eleventh.
At the 11th Halloween of Cross Bones, held on 31st October 2008, John Crow announced that the Cross Bones rituals had entered a new phase:
'The Portal and pathways are open to all who honour the dead and the living
in The Goose and the Crow
in acts of selfless service
in our firm foundation
in emptiness incarnate in us and our all works. '
The 13th Halloween of Crossbones, on 31st October 2010, completed the magical cycle. As we called out the Goose blessing at the gates, a chevron of five wild geese flew directly over the graveyard.
In 2011, the Halloween / Samhain observances are being made at the monthly vigil, at 7pm on 23rd October.