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Azhdaya Ravenwolf
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By Cait Johnson, co-author of Celebrating the Great Mother (Inner Traditions, 1995)

Samhain, the Celtic Halloween, is a day to honor the dead. It marks the beginning of winter and the New Year, and is traditionally the day when the veil between the worlds is thin, making our beloved ancestors feel very near, and enabling us to receive guidance from them.

Here are some ideas for ways to connect with our deep roots, honoring death and our own beloveds who have crossed beyond the veil:

* Visit a local graveyard, even if you don’t have a loved one resting there, and spend a little time tidying it. There is a very old graveyard almost next door to my house, and it’s a favorite hang-out for local teens. Although I like to do my bit to keep it tidy all year long, it feels especially meaningful on Halloween to take a plastic bag with me and pick up the soda bottles and potato chip bags left behind by young partiers.

* Put out photos of deceased loved ones and light tea lights in front of them. Share stories about them with young ones who may or may not remember them, to help keep memories alive.

* Cook up an Ancestor Feast. On Halloween, some of us like to set a place at the family table for departed loved ones, and serve a favorite food of theirs. (I often make my grandmother’s corn sticks, using her cast-iron mold shaped like little ears of corn.) One year when my son was young, we dressed up in vaguely Celtic clothes to honor our Irish forebears and played a CD of Irish music as we ate.

* Try some memento mori. The Latin phrase refers to a practice common throughout the centuries of using visual reminders of death (like skeletons or skulls, for instance) to help us befriend and face our own eventual demise. We like to make a game out of it, hiding little paper skeletons and clay or wax skulls in drawers or cupboards to surprise anyone who opens them.

* Write a tribute. Post your remembrance of a loved one.

* Find and read some death-honoring poetry, like this beautiful excerpt by Birago Diop:

Those who are dead are never gone:


they are there in the thickening shadow.

The dead are not under the earth:

they are in the tree that rustles,

they are in the wood that groans,

they are in the water that sleeps,

they are in the hut, they are in the crowd,

the dead are not dead.

October 2, 2009 at 1:11 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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