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Posts Tagged ‘ancestors’

At Samhain we remember the Ancestors.  This is traditionally a time-out-of-time, when the veil between the worlds is thin.  So it is an ideal time to contact our ancestors, to ask for their guidance or to talk with them.  But before we get down to the full-on shamanic journey to the place of the ancestors, or even just the Samhain tarot reading, it’s a good idea to spend some time getting into the Samhain spirit, thinking about our ancestral heritage, and simply tuning into the energy of the season. 

Here are a few things I find useful to help me tune into the spirit of Samhain…

  • Walk in the woods, looking for fungi
  • Make a pumpkin (or turnip) lantern
  • Alternatively, turn them into tasty soup with a few more veg, a can of plum tomatoes, some herbs, bouillon cubes, a dash of Yorkshire relish…  now eat with homemade bread – delicious!
  • Do some family history research
  • Look at family photographs
  • Make a will (darn, still not done that yet – maybe next year)
  • Visit family places – ancestral villages, landscapes, graves
  • Visit burial mounds – West Kennet’s my local one, but there are many all over the country

In all of these activities, but particularly the outdoors ones, it is so much more powerful if we work ‘with awareness’.  What do I mean by that?  When I walk with awareness, for example, I am focused on the activity of walking, the touch of air on my skin, the sounds around me, the feel of the earth beneath my feet and the brushing of leaf against sleeve, the scent of damp earth and fungi, the taste of that damp woodland atmosphere as I breathe it in.  I am not thinking of the normal worries of daily life – this is a meditative state.  It’s difficult to maintain, of course, as the mind keeps throwing up thoughts as lures, but as with all meditation, once you realise what’s going on you gently go back to walking with awareness.

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We had the first frosts in West Wiltshire this morning. As I left the house I saw hoar-frost on the roof of my neighbour’s shed and on parked cars nearby. While getting my car out I commented on this to my neighbour Ken, and he said ‘That’ll fetch the leaves off the trees!’. Such signs of the turning year naturally prompt us to make mental preparation for darker, colder days.

There are two schools of thought about the timing of the seasonal festivals like Samhain. Many people go by the calendar, making Samhain fall on 31st October, whatever the weather. Others go by natural events, and say that Samhain falls at the time of the first frosts. I have sympathy with both approaches. I like the local focus of the nature-oriented approach, where Samhain falls at different times as appropriate across the country. But for a modern Pagan community, with calendar-based approach makes a lot of sense, allowing for forward planning and a nice even spread of eight festivals across the year.

I have to admit to operating an amalgam of the two approaches. While I celebrate Samhain on 31st October, I still find myself sneakily viewing the first frosts as the real start of the local season of Samhain. But I think that’s OK. It’s as if there’s both a date and a season, the second formally marking the first which might come before or after, depending on local conditions, which can vary from year to year as well as from place to place. This year in West Wiltshire the year seems to be turning pretty much in line with the calendar, with colder weather arriving just before Alban Elfed (22nd Sept), whereas last year things stayed warmer for much longer.

But whatever the weather, with the festival of Samhain approaching, it’s time to turn our thoughts towards the ancestors, and to ritual to honour our ancestral heritage. Of which more to follow…

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