Portland All Souls River Procession
Cast of Characters
(and other processional roles)
The All Souls River Procession is both a performance art piece and a community ritual.
There are many characters within its framework. Some have specific functions (i.e. greeter, leader), while others are more symbolic (spirit of oak and maple).
Acting experience is not necessary, just enthusiasm and a willingness to embody the energy of a particular character for an hour or two.
Positions that are still waiting to be claimed have links to our volunteer form.*
We hope you will feel called to join us!
Greeter at the Gate
The threshold guardian at the Green Anchors gate. The Greeter invites visitors and guests into the gardens and points them to the correct path. A playful character with an original style (i.e. up to the volunteer) and demeanor.
Tender of the Book of Souls
The Tender collects the names of the departed before the procession begins, and writes them in the Book. At the river ceremony, the Tender will read the names aloud.
Embodying a different form each year, the Ritual Leader might appear as a Water Dragon, or else as a Spider at the center of the web. But regardless of her guise, she is the one who guides the ritual and holds the space at its center.
Photo by PPR via KOIN 6 News
Spirit of Willow
The Spirit of Willow guides the front of the procession with a large sculpted willow lantern on a pole. They are familiar with the route and make sure the rest of the procession follows it, while also setting the pace and steering the procession away from low hanging branches and other obstacles.
Willow is important to our region where it holds the river banks together and provides habitat, and it is also important to our procession where it is a major material used for our lantern making. It also has connections to death and the otherworld, through the historic (and reviving) creation of wicker coffins for the dead, and by being a tree or shub that prefers to grow from liminal sites between water and earth.
This role also remembers the beautiful Cathedral Park willow tree that used to grow beneath the St Johns Bridge before being destroyed in a windstorm on November 9th 2022.
Willow Lantern Carriers
Several willow lantern carriers are scattered throughout the procession to provide ambiance, as well as helping to illuminate the dark night. Suggested attire includes robes and masks but individual creativity is encouraged.
The Reliquary Keepers
The Reliquary holds a bowl containing messages to our beloved Dead. It is carried on a litter to the river's edge where the bowl is removed then placed into the river. There the messages are set alight as the names of the Dead are read aloud from the Book of Souls. The Reliquary Keepers also collect the messages from participants before the procession.
Coyote / Guardian of Fire
Sparky trickster. Dressed in fiery colors and carries the coyote lantern. Sets alight the Messages to the Dead in the floating river bowl.
Photo via @jahnaviveronica
Owl / Guardian of Air
Quiet intensity. Dressed in white and carries the owl lantern. Asists the Fire Guardian in setting alight the Messages to the Dead in the floating river bowl.
Salmon / Guardian of Water
Calm and flowing. Dressed in watery colors and carries the salmon lantern. Minds the floating river bowl containing Messages to the Dead as they burn.
Photo by @jahnaviveronica
Photo by @melissa_wellspring
Mushroom / Guardian of Earth
Grounded energy. Dressed in earth tones and carries the mushroom lantern. Washes away the ashes of the Messages to the Dead from the floating river bowl.
Old Bone Mother
A towering skeleton queen. She guides the recently departed Souls to the river where the threshold between the realms of the living and the dead awaits their passage through. She also requires 4 people to carry her in the procession.
Spirit of Oak & Spirit of Maple
Representing the deciduous trees in our region whose falling leaves capture the essence of the season of Autumn. Both characters dress in earth tone colors and carry fabric banners printed with oak or maple leaves.
Photo by @adoremire
The Old One who watches over All. Easily carried illuminated paper mache face mounted on a pole.
Characters of the Past
The Autumn King
The Autumn King was the main character of our 2022 procession. Carried on a litter to the river's edge, he then transformed into the Winter King, symbolizing the shift from the bright colors and abundance of the harvest season to the darkness and decomposition that comes after.
Photo by @mellorama
The Ghost Salmon was the main character of our 2021 procession. A large, illuminated willow-frame lantern, it was carried through the procession to the river's edge where a tandem kayak awaited to spirit it away downstream.