Many in the Neopagan and Witchcraft communities state that at this season, as Samhain approaches, the veil between the worlds is becoming thin. Personally, I have a difficult time with that concept seeing as the veil tends to be continuously in motion around me. Basically, I think no veil exists. If it did, communing with my spirits would be a difficult thing.
I think a lot of people would agree with me on this. There has been an objection raised that what is meant by the term “thinning of the veil” is that even people who are not involved in the Neopagan and Witchcraft communities can sense there is something “else” in the air. I still don’t know about that. Roman Catholics have their sacred days at the end of October and the beginning of November. Many Christians have Harvest Festivals. Mexican-Americans and other Hispanics such as Bolivians have their Day of the Dead. I guess it seems like everyone has something about the Otherworld to celebrate; to bring the ancestors close to us. I just find it funny since, as a Hellenist as well, the dead aren’t necessarily celebrated right now. So it’s a cultural thing methinks. Besides, technically Samhain is a Celtic holiday which made its way into Wicca. Since Wicca is not a Celtic path, there is room to mix and match here. Anyway, the main thesis of this post is not to downgrade the season. Rather, it’s about to emphasize something important: veneration of the dead.
I once wrote that if my family got together and spoke to me once a year and walked away thinking I’m all better for it, they better think again. How do your ancestors feel? Samhain/Shadowfest/Feast of the Dead shouldn’t be the only time we commune with our beloved Dead. They have a right to commune with you, to be fed and honored.
A Part Of Us
Ancestral veneration seems to be in inherent part of humanity. We don’t just have special days designated for them, but we also instinctively seem to want to do it. As an example, when loved ones pass away, some folks build a small “shrine” with photos and mementos where they can be seen. People will toast to their memory on their birthdays. They’ll say “They were here today watching over you,” or even “So-and-so is an angel now.” None of this involves magickal rituals, just remembrance. For a particular person who might have had an extraordinary life or tragic death, a non-profit might be named in their honor to raise awareness of something dear to them. For major celebrity figures, a statue might be erected, or their home might have flowers, cards, alcohol, and other memorabilia stacked. This happened when Princess Diana passed away. Another celebrity was Harry Caray, a sportscaster who was known very well for his undying support of the Chicago Cubs. He once said, “Sure as God made green apples, someday, the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series.” As the Chicago Cubs entered the Play-Offs in 2016, people began putting green apples on the statue of Harry Caray, hoping it would bring “luck.” Something must have worked, because that was the year the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
The Holy Days of Memory
The capability of the imagination and its link to Memory is something powerful. We build egregores and monuments. We light birthday candles sometimes or say, “Happy birthday Grandpa.” All of these are instinctual actions that help us venerate the dead, and we shouldn’t limit it to once per year. They need to be honored and fed. We need to talk to them. We need to celebrate their achievements. Why? Because when you honor them, you are honoring yourself. You are a part of a remarkable lineage of people who survived so much to be here: war, famine, plague, slavery, persecution, poverty, rebellion, and so much more. You have a lot to offer this world. Your ancestors made sure that they survived so you can be here. There is something inherently spiritual about that.
Memory is very tangible. It was so important to be remembered that many folks in the ancient world adopted others into their family if they had no children just to be remembered. Memory is what keeps us alive. We become part of the stream of consciousness that, like a river, is ongoing in the subconscious of our human race.
Before the Gods
I think Samhain and other holy days set aside for the dead should be simply when an entire community of strangers come together to honor everyone. I know that this is the definition of Samhain for many (a DUH from some), but you’d honestly be surprised how many forget about the ancestral dead after Samhain.
I was taught by Hekate to honor the ancestors in ritual before honoring the Gods, because it was the ancestors to whom knowledge of the Gods was discovered and to whom the sacred lore was passed down to. In turn they passed it down to the next generation, and they in turn to the next, etc. In addition, the ancestors are the closest thing to us who understand our trials and tribulations. While I honor the Gods, I also honor the ancestors. I pray to them constantly because they know my plights more than the Gods. The Gods, being Gods, might not sympathize with humanity as much. They have their own time table. They may not understand why we need that donation, or that paycheck. They may not understand how we need to cry and release our depression. Gods tend to separate from humans because of pollution (miasma) until we are purified again. But the ancestors? Being human spirits, they know what it is to be stuck in the metaphorical mud (sometimes literal). They know our suffering and desperation.
Remember: Honor your past so that your present has meaning and your future is blessed.
Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)