‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for October 25th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

When there’s thinking to be done a person does well to have a little private retreat….a place where there’s no worry that any minute someone will interrupt. And at the very ease of knowing that here is a little time to do nothing but just think.

Except that I must carefully direct those thoughts so to never let them roam to things that serve only to disturb. But where does one find a place these days that affords a time alone?

It doesn’t take much room to think. Some have little special places hidden from view….a hillside maybe….a sunny spot along a path….a closet not so large….a park bench….or they may even take a drive.

But that place that is always available to us is that place within our own selves. This is the secret place within the heart where desires are stored. And no matter what we do, where we go, thoughts are productive.

Here is where thankfulness is stored….here is where love is born….here is where the very life of life is built and rebuilt. This is our retreat when there’s thinking to be done.

___________________________________

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – October 25

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – October 25

“What does it matter how long I pray, so long as my prayers are answered?”

–Sitting Bull, HUNKPAPA LAKOTA

Too often we worry about the words we use in prayer. We focus on the words. What really counts is the spirit and intent behind our words. It is the spirit and intent that the Creator responds to. He reads and listens to our heart. Prayer isn’t only when we fold our hands and pray. Prayer is when we talk to the Creator even when we are walking down a path or sitting on a hill or walking in the mountains. The Elders say, walk in prayer. We should be willing to talk with the Great One.

Great Spirit, today I will pray to You all day. Listen to my heart.

October 25 – Daily Feast

October 25 – Daily Feast

At one time, most of us thought we knew it all, and later on, we wished we had kept quiet until we had learned something. Discovering the depth of one thing makes us think we have tapped a reserve of wisdom and knowledge. What we really learned was how much there is left to learn. We want to know; it is our nature. But most rebel at being taught, especially the things of the spirit. What we learn should always be carefully examined – but never with the intellect alone and always with the spirit. Life, itself, is the spirit and it should never be allowed to suffer malnutrition.

~ The roots of the tree of his life have not yet grasped the rock and soil. ~

STANDING BEAR – LAKOTA

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Daily OM for October 25th – In Line with Spirit

In Line with Spirit

Staying on Track

by Madisyn Taylor

In a world where we have routines to get everything done, we rarely have a routine for our spiritual self.

In a world where we have routines for nearly everything—our route to work, our physical fitness regimen, and our weekday schedule—it’s amazing how many people forget to create a routine for meeting their spiritual needs. We run around in an attempt to be at our many appointments on time and meet our many obligations. In our efforts to be as productive as possible, however, our spiritual needs tend to take a backseat. After all, taking care of our spiritual needs doesn’t directly pay the bills or tone our abdominal muscles. We may even wonder who has time to meditate or write in their journal when there are more pressing matters to see to. The truth is that nurturing ourselves spiritually is what gives us the energy and grounding that we need to make sure that our lives stay on track.

How you choose to nurture yourself spiritually is a personal choice. For some people, meditating once a day may be what they need to stay centered. While spending 10-20 minutes with your eyes closed and your brain devoid of thought may seem like a lot of time doing nothing, this state of nothingness actually allows you to stay calm and focused so you can be as productive as possible. Writing in your journal everyday lets you stay in touch with yourself so that you are always tuned in to your feelings. Repeating affirmations for success, happiness, and well-being on a regular basis can help you live with optimism and enthusiasm and create what you want in life.

Having a routine for nurturing your spirit that you do each day lets you feed energy to your soul and can serve you well if your life suddenly takes an unexpected turn into a difficult period. This kind of routine grounds your spirit in your body so that you stay anchored in yourself as you move through each day. Nurturing yourself spiritually allows you to not only stay on track in your life, but it allows for your life to stay on track with what your spirit wants.

The Daily OM

To My Witchlings and Newbie Pagans

To My Witchlings and Newbie Pagans

Author: SonneillonV 

I want to talk about that time period when you first discover magic (or magick, if you prefer, but I don’t use the ‘k’ spelling) is real.

There are a million ways it could happen. There are a million directions it could come from. Perhaps you tried a spell from a book and… something… happened. Something you couldn’t explain, something terrible or wonderful or just plain weird. Perhaps you saw something in the deep woods one day that had no business being there. Perhaps you know a Witch or other practitioner, and they brought something into your life that kept defying your vision of reality until finally you had to adjust it. Perhaps you always knew magic worked, but for reasons philosophical or religious or practical, you denied it to yourself until the lure of it made you cave. Maybe you picked up ‘To Ride A Silver Broomstick’ or a ‘House of Night’ book and suddenly felt like you’d come home. Maybe you’ve been glimpsing ghosts for as long as you can remember, or sensing the spirits that live in the creatures and land around you, and you’ve finally decided to quit turning your face away.

However it happened, wherever you came from, you see it now – the threads that bind us to each other and to the world, the synchronicities and symbolism that run through our lives. The music of the spheres. You realize that the complex interrelations between all the elements of our universe go much deeper than you previously assumed, that there is such a thing as sympathetic reaction, that a rose may not be merely a rose, nor a tree a tree, nor a missing set of keys a missing set of keys; there are layers of meaning, circles upon circles.

And now that you realize it, you’re seeing magic EVERYWHERE.

You may not realize it, but you’re probably annoying the crap out of practitioners or Pagans in your life. They’re saying things like, “The gods are not your imaginary friends, they don’t care what you eat for breakfast, ” or “It doesn’t necessarily mean anything that you tripped and dumped coffee all over yourself today”. They insist that Loki has better things to do than to hide your keys, and that every time it storms, Zeus is not specifically yelling at YOU. When you find an exciting congruence and ask them what it means, you can’t see why they say, “probably nothing” or why they hesitate to give you the benefit of their wisdom regarding correspondences, and why they won’t litanize a run-down of the uses for every weed in your yard.

It’s okay; don’t feel self-conscious. We’ve all been there. Or, at least, I have been there, so I totally understand what you are going through. Everything seems shiny and new, like you’re looking at it through new eyes.

You may suddenly feel connected to your environment in a way you didn’t before, or you may think you sense things from other humans that you never sensed before (clinging astral nasties are particularly popular) . You may start talking about ‘negativity’ with great esteem, as in, “I’ve decided not to hang out with zir anymore, zie was bringing too much negativity into my life”, or “No negativity allowed – we only nurture positive thoughts here!” You’ve come under the conviction that absolutely everything affects absolutely everything else… which it does. But those effects aren’t always significant, and that’s what your fellow practitioners, those who’ve been around a little longer and become a little more jaded (and perhaps a little less jaded…. time can open your eyes to new wonders) have been trying to tell you.

Let me give you a simple example: Some people make a big deal about astrology and about the position of the stars when we are born. The view of the stars at different times of the year is supposed to affect everything from your temperament to your ultimate destiny. Note that I’m not calling astrology a crock of bull because I don’t believe it is, but when you drop a hot pan on your foot, that doesn’t mean the stars are misaligned and out to get you. From a purely physics-centered standpoint the effect of distant stars on human physiology is so small as to not be worth charting – if we calculate the force of Mars’ gravity specifically on you at the time of your birth, if you are an Aries, we find that the force of gravity from the midwife who delivered you would be 150 times greater (source below, read it, it’s fascinating) .

Likewise, the light that may have been shed upon you by the planet Mars IF you were born outside under a clear sky and perfect visibility conditions would still be much less than the fluorescent lights that probably shone down on you when you were delivered indoors, in a hospital. So the question is less, “Can the constellations of the moment of my birth effect me in any way?” and more “Can the constellations at the moment of my birth effect me in any way that would reasonably be noticeable when compared to all the other forces (light, gravity, electricity, heat, friction, ) which were also having effects on me at the time?” You have to find your own answer to that (and if your answer is ‘yes’ the next question is ‘how?’) , but the point is, you have to have some perspective.

Now, perspective is a tough thing to get hold of. Time is the most reliable way – the longer you live, the more things you see, the greater your perspective can grow. But time isn’t the only way of gaining perspective – some people live 110 years and never get their heads out of their own asses, and some people have lived 17 years and passionately try to ease the systemic injustices of the greater, wider world. Exposure helps, having someone who’ll talk to you about how things affect other things and why that matters, or being able to listen to people who are affected talk about their experiences. You can increase your own exposure, and I highly encourage every new witch and Pagan to do this, because you can’t go wrong by listening – just make sure your critical thinking skills are being applied to what you hear.

You should be open-minded, but you don’t have to be credulous.

When someone makes a claim, you should be asking questions: who, what, where, when, why, can this effect be reproduced, can it be controlled, how does it work under other circumstances, can it be reproduced using different techniques. We are talking personal gnosis here, which doesn’t always get along well with rigorous scientific inquiry, but the point is to experiment. Test conclusions. Test techniques. Examine what’s presented to you.

Question your teachers. Question peoples’ claims. Develop your own belief about sympathetic magic and correspondence theories, and whether the innate nature of a thing, whether it’s an herb, a stone, or a person, can override or be subsumed by the forces that thing is subjected to in the course of its life. If a piece of rose quartz is improperly mined using slave labor, does it still resonate with love? If the wedding ring worn by your ancestress and passed down through her finger was worn by her when she died violently, is it ‘clean’ enough to make a reliable pendulum? Will a scrying mirror you buy for a high price in a new age store work as well as one you make with a piece of convex glass and black nail polish? Does it matter as long as you cleanse and dedicate the tool yourself?

You can find out these things by testing them. Until you’ve tested them, don’t make claims. Trust me, if you apply that simple rule to all of your magical practice, your fellow practitioners will be MUCH happier with you. That is, the ones who bother testing claims and examining critically.

This is probably a bright and wonderful time in your life (or, conversely, it may be a terrifying and paranoid time in your life) , and I understand how exciting it is to feel like you can see all kinds of connections that weren’t there before. But another part of having perspective is fitting yourself into the grand scheme of things in a way that isn’t self-aggrandizing, and makes sense.

If you’ve dedicated yourself to Loki and now you think he follows you around hiding your keys and making snarky comments about people in the mall, ask yourself why. Ask yourself, ‘does this really make sense considering who Loki is – not just a mischief-maker and king of sass, but also a DEITY, a JOTUN, someone of immense power who, incidentally, is chained up under the foundations of the earth, whose agony and insanity make it tremble when he’s in pain, who is destined to bring about the greatest catastrophic event in his mythos? Likewise Apollo governs the blazing sun, the source of light and life on our planet, which must rise and set each day for us all to survive. Do you really think he spends his evenings preening in front of your mirror?

I am not saying that gods and spirits never reach out and touch people. I am not saying they never speak to people, maybe sometimes even about inconsequential things. I am not saying they never take an intense personal interest in one individual’s life – the existence of godspouses would prove me wrong. What I am saying is that even today, these deities have thousands of devotees not to mention their traditional responsibilities and/or portfolio, and you are only one worshipper. So, especially when you are starting out, it’s important to keep that in perspective – I am only one worshipper, I am only one witch. There is more going on here than just me. And perhaps most importantly, the greatest actor upon my future and my development as a magical person is myself.

Also, as you explore, you will encounter all kinds of entities from all kinds of cultures… demons, daemons, spirits, kami, faeries, free-range repeaters, and so on. People around you who follow specific cultural paths will use words you don’t understand to describe how they interact with the supernatural or the unseen. It’s wonderful and fascinating to learn about all these new things, but it’s important to keep in mind that aspects of a culture may not be lifted from that culture and appropriated for your use. This is what people mean when they refer to ‘cultural appropriation’ – they mean that it’s inappropriate and disrespectful to take pieces of a culture or mythos you know nothing about and claim to ‘use’ them for your own benefit without understanding the real people who lived in that culture or having their permission to use those elements.

Some traditions are culturally ‘closed’, others are open, so it is important to treat every culture you learn about with respect and examine your practice with discernment. I know everything is new and wonderfully shiny, and you don’t mean any disrespect by dipping your toes in, but some things are not yours to take or to use, and it’s important to be respectful of that. Listen to the people who belong to that culture; seek them out and be respectful when they speak. If they tell you their practices are not for you, back off. If they advise you may practice only after you have participated in cultural immersion and extended study under a reliable teacher, then that is what you must do in order to be respectful. Deities, spirits, and ancestral ghosts that belong to a particular culture do not usually look kindly on someone who does not treat that culture with honor. They will remember someone who is both ignorant and arrogant, and so will the people.

A new Pagan or a new Witchling may attract some attention from forces around them. Spirits may want to get to you before you’ve learned to be cautious. Other entities may want to deceive you into thinking they’re someone else just because they can, and you haven’t learned yet how to tell whether they’re lying. Some entities may just want to whirl around you in a celebratory dance, blow up your skirts, tip over your flowerpots, and maybe hide your keys. The world is a many-splendored place. That’s why reaching out and learning about it is so important – and critically examining what you learn is even more important.

So, rather than attributing every occasion in your life to forces beyond your control, or searching for the meaning in the arrangement of spaghetti-O’s in your bowl, remember that you are just one person moving through a vast and magnificent multi-verse, it’s not all about you, and you have just set out on an adventure, so you had best find some good guides and an even better towel.

 


Footnotes: Neil Degrasse Tyson – http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/read/1994/05/01/horrorscope

Forging Your Own Path: My Journey

Forging Your Own Path: My Journey

Author:   Bear Stormcrowe 

Ever since I was a wee lad, I knew that I had a special relationship with Mother Earth and the elements around me. I always had this magnetic attraction to all things mystical, offbeat, and natural. I remember quite well the times I used to ‘trick’ my parents into buying trees from the Arbor Day Foundation in order to plant them as an homage to Mother Gaia. I would sit outside and plant them, whispering softly to the planet; “Here you go. Thank you for giving us what you give us.”

When my family finally got the Internet, I remember sneaking onto my computer at night; silently hoping the dial-up connection sounds wouldn’t stir my family. It was there that my journey began. I searched earth-based religions high and low…and I came to the realization: I’m a Witch.

I had always been more mature than others of my age group, and since my epiphany I’ve referred to myself as a Natural Witch. I began seriously pursuing the Well-Worn Path soon after that epiphany and started my path as a solitary practitioner in full force. At the time, I was still green on the subject of Witchcraft, even though I was naturally inclined to it; So, I began researching books from the library and following their paths and their beliefs but something didn’t feel quite right. In any religion, a personal means of practicing helps you get that more personal connection with your deity. In my case, it was multiple deities but namely, Lugh and Danu. It was then I realized that I could forge my own path…my own solitary journey.

Since beginning my own personal journey, following the rules of the Wicca, and showing reverence to my amazing deities, I found my connection and my own personal practice. When it came to Sabbats I followed a loosely based outline but added my own flair in the mix, it all worked just the same if not better because all of my mind, body, and spirit were put into my craft. I came “out of the broom closet”, so to speak, to my friends in high school—then to my friends and professors in college.

After much networking and a twist of fate I owe all to the God and Goddess, I met a woman who is now my fiancée and a group of friends with whom I created a small active coven. They were all well seasoned in the Craft already but I found myself answering their questions with a knowledge I had no idea was hiding deep within me. The advice and techniques I offered proved a success and I realized that I had an even deeper calling: High Priestdom. After meeting and discussing the future of the coven, they all agreed unanimously that they felt I would take the high priest position and honor it well.

So, what’s the point of this story? You ask. In my personal experience I’ve found that crafting your own spells and following the path that your heart and soul vibrates well with yields better results. In my case, a closer connection to the deities I’ve aligned myself with.

How do you find your own path? The simplest way to do it is follow your heart. However, if you are unsure of what your heart is telling you here are some simple techniques that have helped me when the answers my heart had given didn’t really satisfy my spirit.

Meditation: Simple two-step meditation works wonders.

The First Step is to open sacred space. This is the brief equivalent of casting a circle. How I open sacred space is by grounding and centering me then I say:

“By the Grace and Power of the Great Ones, Within and Without, I allow love to enter this space, but keep evil and ill intent out.”

Your sacred space is now open. Feel free to change the invocation of positive energies to something of your liking.

The Second Step is to clear your mind of all things but your question at hand. This takes a lot of practice so do this on a day that has been relatively uneventful if at all possible. Clearing your mind and focusing on your own path and what fits just right for your individual Witchiness should yield some result the first few times you try it.

Scrying: Using a scrying mirror or bowl is another way to get some answers. Be prepared to look deep into the mirror/bowl for some time. As with most divination arts, symbols are left to the diviner to interpret so have a notebook and writing utensil (or computer for those tech-savvy Witches) to record the symbols for interpretation after the scrying session. It’s been my experience to wait until the end of the session to interpret symbols and messages because if you take your focus to one symbol, you may miss other important ones. Once you’ve finished scrying, interpret symbols, make connections, and have fun with it.

To end this article, I’d like to say that if you follow a set path founded by someone else and you feel at home in that path, then by all means continue on the path you are most comfortable with. You may get things from different paths in order to forge your own way. That is perfectly acceptable. It’s all what feels right to each individual witch.

I write this article in the light of Lugh and Danu and with love to all of my fellow Pagans and Earth-Children. May bright blessing and prosperity come your way and as always—Blessed Be.

-Adam Osborne (Sacred Magick)
Eclectic Pagan, High Priest, and Lightworker.

Beyond Wicca 101

Beyond Wicca 101

Author:   Talma Stormphoenix 

One of this month’s topics is Wicca 101 and the complaints about all the books that are about it. The thing is if you’re going to complain about something then you have to know what’s wrong with it. So let’s start at the beginning. What is Wicca 101 and what does it cover. I’m sure everyone knows but just humor me on this and lets get a basic run down of just what Wicca 101 is.

Some of the things you get in some books a smattering of Witch history. You know, the cavemen doing their rituals to ensure the success of the hunt and there is very often a discussion of the burning times. The why behind the Witch burnings and tortures not just the when and who. There is also a discussion about the clothes that you can/need to wear or not wear (depending on the trad) along with a discussion on jewelry that can be worn and what can’t (watches). Another big part of Wicca 101 are your color correspondences. This covers what color your clothing (if you’re wearing any) should be and also the colors of candles and other stuff. We can’t forget the gems because of their vibrational properties and what they are best used for. Herbs can be one of the healing Witch’s best tools. You could go buy them but what about growing them yourself? (hey don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb just go to the store!) Proper meditation techniques have to include opening up your chakras (of course). And we can’t forget our divination tools and techniques.

There are so many tools to choose from here I could possibly list them all but as we all know some of the best known are the tarot, runes, numerology, palmistry, tea leaves I ching and scrying. That last one includes crystal balls and fire, not necessarily together. We can’t forget sacred space. The place you do ritual can be conductive or destructive to your magickal work so it’s important to have peace and quiet so you won’t be disturbed. Dedications, rituals and circle casting, this could be considered the core of magickal teaching. First you dedicate yourself to the God and/or Goddess then you design your ritual and cast your circle to do ritual. Oh yeah did you pick your pantheon yet? I’m just kidding. As you can see there are many things that are included in Wicca 101 and if you’re like me you have a couple Wicca 101 books and could back in ten minutes to tell me what all I forgot but I’m hoping you see the point I’m trying to make. If Wicca 101 covers so much what on Gaia’s green earth could Wicca 201 cover and who would be experienced enough to write the books?!

The answer is this. The books are already here and written but there are people who are just looking for an easy ride up the Wiccan education ladder. (groaning from the gallery) What, did you think there was some magickal secret that I had? I’m sorry you feel like you got ripped off but if that’s the way you feel then I’m sorry but it’s going to get a whole lot worse for you.

This is how I see it. Wicca 201 is here and has been here. There are folks out there who are already doing Wicca 201 and just haven’t realized it yet. There are others that just want to to jump to the end of the book so to speak so they can talk about what they know to anyone and everyone who will listen. They want to read these books and not do the work that goes into doing magick. The one’s who are trying to get a quick fix are in for a rude awakening because if you thought Wicca 101 was hard you ain’t seen nothing yet! Now don’t get upset and start jumping up and down in your seat now. Hear me out and I’ll explain just why Wicca 201 is already here.

We’ve just taken a glance at some of what makes Wicca 101 so it should really be obvious as to what Wicca 201 is. Okay, if Wicca 101 is like a basic introduction to everything it’s like going to a clothing store and finding the clothes that fit you and look the best. You and your best friends could go out to find a new outfit to wear to the club on Friday but just because you picked out the lime green hip huggers with silver glitter and a matching top doesn’t mean that they’re going to get the same thing. Friend A may not feel that the color just isn’t her and she opts for the pink one with the gold The second friend looks doesn’t go for either. She goes for the basic little black dress. Wicca 101 is the club but the outfits are Wicca 201.

Everyone starts out with basically the same education of magick. You find out just what’s out there and as you learn you find yourself drifting toward certain subjects that appeal to you. You say ‘Hey I like gardening so I’ll be great at using herbs’ but your best friend kills anything green she touches or maybe you were curious and bought a tarot deck and became very good at using it other folks go for the Runes as their tool of choice. The thing is most people have already delved into Wicca 201. All Wicca 201 is are the advanced studies of whatever has become your study of choice. I love the tarot. I have been doing it for almost seven years but if you asked me to use runes I’m going to need the book! I also have a love of plants and am slowly moving into herbs and other plants so my newest books is Cunninghams’s encyclopedia of herbs but I know I won’t be stopping there. I live in the northeast and luckily I live near a park that’s big enough support a nice array of wild life big (mule and white tail deer) and small (moles, squirrels etc.) This is Wicca 201. Working to perfect your skills and come closer to finding deity however you view it.

Samhain Spirit Incense

Samhain Spirit Incense

By , About.com

Spirits In The Smoke

By the time Samhain rolls around, your herb garden is probably looking pretty sad. Now’s the time to take all those goodies you harvested and dried in September, and put them to good use. This incense blend is perfect for a Samhain séance, divination session, or for any other autumn working.

This recipe is for loose incense, but you can adapt it for stick or cone recipes. As you mix and blend your incense, focus on the goal of your work. Do you wish to contact the spirit of a long-dead ancestor? Are you hoping to bring some visions your way in a dream? Or are you maybe looking to enhance your own meditative abilities? Focus your intent as you blend your ingredients.

You’ll need:

 

  • 2 parts Cinnamon
  • 1 part ground cloves
  • 1 part Dragon’s Blood resin
  • 1 part Hyssop
  • 1 part Patchouli
  • 2 parts Rosemary
  • 1 part Sage
  • A dash of sea salt

Add your ingredients to your mixing bowl one at a time. Measure carefully, and if the leaves or blossoms need to be crushed, use your mortar and pestle to do so. As you blend the herbs together, state your intent. You may find it helpful to charge your incense with an incantation. For example, if you were going to use your incense during a seance, you could use this:

The veil has thinned, the moon is bright and I blend this magic on Samhain night. Celebrating life and death and rebirth with these herbs I’ve harvested from the earth. I send my intent by smoke in the air and call on those whose blood I share. I ask my ancestors to guide and watch over me, As I will, so it shall be.

Store your incense in a tightly sealed jar. Make sure you label it with its intent and name, as well as the date you created it. Use within three months, so that it remains charged and fresh.

Samhain Ancestor Meditation

Samhain Ancestor Meditation

Calling Upon the Ancient Ones

By , About.com

A Time of Darkness

Samhain is known as the night when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. It’s a time to sit back and honor the spirit world, and call upon those ancestors who came before us. After all, if not for them, we wouldn’t be here. We owe them something, some gratitude for their ability to survive, their strength, their spirit. Many Wiccans and Pagans choose Samhain as a time to honor their ancestors. If this is something you’d like to do, you can celebrate with a ritual or by hosting a seance or dumb supper in their honor:

In addition to these more formal rituals, you may also want to take some time alone for a quiet meditation. This is a point in the Wheel of the Year when the spirit world is a bit closer than normal, and if you’ve never tried to contact your ancestors before, now is a good time to do it.

When performing an ancestor meditation, people experience different things. You may find yourself meeting a specific person that you are aware of in your family history — maybe you’ve heard the stories about great-uncle Joe who went out west after the Civil War, and now you have the privilege of chatting with him, or perhaps you’ll meet the grandmother who passed away when you were a child. Some people, however, meet their ancestors as archetypes. In other words, it may not be a specific individual you meet, but rather a symbol — instead of adventurous great-uncle Joe, it may be a non-specific Civil War soldier or frontiersman. Either way, understand that meeting these individuals is a gift. Pay attention to what they say and do — it may be that they’re trying to give you a message.

Setting the Mood

Before you perform this meditation, it’s not a bad idea to spend some time with the tangible, physical aspects of your family. Bring out the old photo albums, read through wild Aunt Tillie’s diary from the Great Depression, get out your grandfather’s old pocket watch that almost sank with the Titanic. These are the material things that connect us to our family. They link us, magically and spiritually. Spend time with them, absorbing their energies and thinking of the things they’ve seen, the places they’ve been.

You can perform this ritual anywhere, but if you can do it outside at night it’s even more powerful. Decorate your altar (or if you’re outside, use a flat stone or tree stump) with the symbols of your ancestors — the photos, journals, war medals, watches, jewelry, etc. No candles are necessary for this meditation, but if you’d like to light one, do so. You may also want to burn some Samhain spirit incense.

Claiming Your Birthright

Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Think about who you are, and what you are made of, and know that everything within you is the sum of all your ancestors. From thousands of years ago, generations of people have come together over the centuries to create the person you are now. Think about your own strengths — and weaknesses — and remember that they came from somewhere. This is a time to honor the ancestors who formed you.

Recite your genealogy — aloud if you like — as far back as you can go. As you say each name, describe the person and their life. An example might go something like this:

I am the daughter of James, who fought in Vietnam and returned to tell the tale. James was the son of Eldon and Maggie, who met on the battlefields of France, as she nursed him back to health.    Eldon was the son of Alice, who sailed aboard Titanic and survived. Alice was the daughter of Patrick and Molly, who farmed the soil of Ireland, who raised horses and tatted lace to feed the children…

and so forth. Go back as far as you like, elaborating in as much detail as you choose. Once you can go back no further, end with “those whose blood runs in me, whose names I do not yet know”.

If you happened to meet a certain ancestor, or their archetype, during your meditation, take a moment to thank them for stopping by. Take note of any information they may have given you — even if it doesn’t make sense just now, it may later on when you give it some more thought. Think about all the people you come from, whose genes are part of you. Some were great people — some, not so much, but the point is, they all belong to you. They all have helped shape and create you. Appreciate them for what they were, with no expecations or apologies, and know that they are watching over you.

Samhain Cemetery Visit

Samhain Cemetery Visit

Honoring the Dead in the Midst of Life

By , About.com

In many cultures, the late fall is a time in which the dead are honored with great ceremony. A wonderful example of this is in Mexico, where Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations are a joyful and festive part of the season. Rather than being sad and mournful, families go to cemeteries where they honor their loved ones with picnics, colorful altars, and even parades.

You don’t have to be part of the Hispanic community to celebrate the season in this manner, though. Many non-Hispanic Pagans see Samhain as a time to honor their dead with happy remembrance. There are a number of ways you can do this, and incorporate a visit at your family’s cemetery into your Samhain festivities.

Headstone Cleanup

Start by cleaning up headstones. Pluck or trim any overgrown grass or weeds from around the gravesite or sites. To clean a headstone, you should be sure to check with the cemetery operators (if you can find them) about any cleaning policies. In general, a good guideline is that if a headstone is made of marble, limestone or or sandstone, you can use water (bring a couple of gallon jugs along) and a SOFT nylon bristle brush.

For older headstones, which may crumble from age when you clean them, water alone may be your best bet. A headstone that is cracked or damaged shouldn’t be cleaned at all, at the risk of causing more damage. Do the best you can with what you’ve got – but for more detail on how conservationists suggest you clean an old stone, read here: Association for Gravestone Studies..

If you’d like to make a grave rubbing of a headstone, read here: How to Make a Grave Rubbing. Keep in mind that you should always follow the rules of the cemetery. Remember that while doing a rubbing usually doesn’t cause damage to headstones, particularly newer ones, there are certain precautions that should be taken. If a stone is worn or crumbling, pass on it. Rubbing an already-damaged stone can cause it to flake and chip to the point where it’s irreparable. Instead, choose stones which are in good condition – the best results come from either polished granite stones or solid slate markers. If there’s any doubt about the condition of the stone, don’t use it for a rubbing.

 

Ancestor Altar

Many people like to have an ancestor altar in their homes during the Samhain season, but you can set one up at the cemetery as well. It can be as simple as a few candles, a photo, and some flowers, or more complex. If the grave is an older cemetery, you may want to bring a small flat object to use as an altar – bed trays work well for this – so as not to damage the headstone. Be sure to check with the cemetery for guidelines, if you choose to leave your altar in place after you’ve left. If you do take it with you when you go, be careful to pick up any stray bits and pieces that may have scattered around. Don’t leave a mess behind.

Flowers and colorful ribbons are also a popular addition to headstones during this season – if you have wreaths, feel free to add those as well. In Mexico, another offering is travel items – razors, a bowl of water, and soap are a great addition, because your deceased loved ones can use these items to clean up after their journey.

For more about how different cultures venerate their ancestors, read here: Ancestor Worship. The concept of ancestor worship is not a new one for many Pagans today. Ancient cultures often venerated those who came before them, and even now, in our contemporary society, it’s not uncommon at all to find celebrations that honor the ancestors in a variety of different ways.

 

Sugar Skulls and Candy Coffins

You can make a batch of Sugar Skulls, which are confectionaries traditionally made at Day of the Dead celebrations. If you’re not sure about how to make them – or don’t feel confident in your own candy-making skills – check at your local Hispanic marketa – they almost always have them in stock in the fall. Another popular item is the candy or chocolate coffin – again, if you aren’t able to make them, an alternative is to use small boxes made of cardstock or lightweight cardboard to create coffins, and fill them with candy, trinkets, and tiny skeletons.

 

Cemetery Supper

For many people who celebrate Day of the Dead, a huge part of the day involves a meal. You can pack up a picnic supper, and visit your family at the cemetery while you eat. Some ideas you might try:

  • Bring loaves of sweet, dessert breads, which are traditional in many cultures, as a Samhain offering.
  • If you know a particular family member really loved a favorite dish, include that as part of your picnic supper.
  • Be sure to bring an extra plate for each of your beloved dead – they are with you in spirit, and should be offered a seat at the table (or picnic blanket).
  • You can either make your picnic formal and serious, like the Dumb Supper, or joyous and fun – it’s up to you.
  • Consider singing songs – if you have drums or a guitar, bring them along, and after you’ve eaten, sing your family’s favorite tunes to serenade your ancestors. If you know the traditional folk songs of your family’s culture, this is a great time to share them – and if you don’t know them, now is a good time to learn and pass on the traditions.

 

Saying Farewell… For Now

Finally, before you leave, be sure to say a last farewell to your ancestors, thanking them for joining you, and letting them know you will honor them all year long. If your celebrations have spilled over onto other gravesites, you may want to leave a small offering of thanks for those residents as well – broken pieces of bread are a good symbolic offering. Spend a day visiting with those who came before you, remember them well, and let them know that someday, you will see them again.