As we move through the time of the year when the ancestors are traditionally honoured, blessings to your dead folk. It is said, at Samhain / Halloween / All Saints / Dia de Muertos the veil between the still living and the no-longer alive is thin, permeable, navigable. For some, this time of year is a spooky, fun, party event. For others a time of reflection of those gone into mystery, and I count myself in these people.
The year, this decade thus far, has not been an easy one. For many, there are family members who passed too early, falling victim to an unseen viral pandemic. For all of us there are ancestors stretching back into the mists of time, and not all are going to be people who would find us satisfactory. Our customs are very different, our perceptions and understandings might be anathema to their own fiercely held beliefs.
To my left, I place a goblet of salt water. To my right a lit candle. Before me pebbles collected from many a day’s wandering. Land, sea and sky are held in my mind, as I bring forth the images of my known ancestors. My father, his mother and her husband. My mother’s parents; my gran and grandad. My niece and my wife’s mother. Behind them a family tree of thousands add slices of history, like the bokeh background to a family photo. Names are spoken, and a glass is raised.
While their names are remembered, spoken, they are not truly gone. And they come. Memories are ignited. Not only of family, but of friends and mentors over all the years of my life. School teachers, beloved friends, druids and guides – some known and some who wrote in inspiration. I do not assume the dead are waiting, across that veil. If (as I believe) we carry the song of our living into an other place it is as notes into a symphony beyond our current ken, and perhaps that is just as well.
As our inglorious leaders come together this week at COP26, to eat, drink and blah blah about the impending climate catastrophe we have brought onto ourselves and our planet – and potentially the only sentient life throughout the universe(?) – I’m not sure the ancestors would view us as lovingly as we remember them. If they remained as our people rather than assimilated aspects of the all, they might have something to say about our wasteful complacency.
Hail the ancestors, blessings at Samhain. Happy Halloween (Boo!)
Bring on the pumpkin soup!