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.
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Life As The Witch – Other Places To Gather Graveyard Dirt, Hmm..

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Yesterday’s article in regards to graveyard dirt brought many replies. I believe the most comment I received was in regards to not being close to a cemetery. Individuals living in big city, their cemetery relocated and had no way of obtaining graveyard dirt.

Yet named graveyard dirt, it can come from other places beside a graveyard. You can obtain dirt from certain buildings that will work just as well. Getting the dirt from a building is basically a give me. Consider what your needs are and then consider what kind of building correspondence. For example, a Law Office, the dirt would be used for justice, the same can be said for the dirt from a courthouse.

Below you will find examples of other places to obtain “graveyard” dirt. It will work just as well as dirt from a cemetery if you stop to think what kind of person you are taking the dirt from. And what kind of building are you taking it from.

*Note: Do not be obvious when collecting dirt from public places. Look around, stake our your surroundings, then find a nice, quiet place to collect your dirt.

Bank: Collect and use this dirt to bring money into your hands or to receive payment of a long overdue debt.

Church: This dirt is wonderful when used to invite the assistance of positive spiritual forces. It goes a long way toward protecting against evil spirits also.

Courthouse: Use this dirt for anything remotely involving legal matters. This could include contracts, court cases, general justice, and even money that’s owed to you. If your intent would benefit from the discerning eye of the Law, this is the dirt for you.

Educational Facility: Whether it comes from a school yard or a college campus, this dirt is excellent for efforts involving knowledge acquistion and retention. It can also be effective in magick to encourage study.

Enemy’s House: Gathering this dirt is a bit trickier and may involve some skulking around to collect. There’s no better way to cut your enemy off at the knees than to use dirt from his/her house against him. Unless you want to cause possible harm to everyone living on that property, be very careful how you word your spell.

Home:  This dirt is to protect all the occupant of your home and guarantee their safe return. The best way to accomplish this is to sprinkle a bit in every pair of shoes in the house. To ensure that someone else visits you again, sprinkle a bit in his or her shoes.

Hospital or Doctor’s office: Dirt from these locations are for efforts involving healing. There are a couple of things you should keep in mind. First, no magick in the world is a substitute for medical care or prescription medication. And second, be certain that healing is exactly what you have in mind when you add this dirt to magick.

Garden or Flower Shop: Often used in love spells, this dirt has the tendency to make love sprout and grow roots, bud and blossom. Unless you’re playing for keeps though, it’s inadvisable to add this dirt to magick.

Jail: Keep the police away from your door, especially if you are a criminal. It will make you invisible to the police and cause them to overlook a bench warrant, add hematite to the dirt.

Mall:  Attract large amounts of cash to yourself if you gather dirt from here. There’s nothing better than this type of dirt when used in efforts to obtain gainful employment or increase your cash flow.

Police Station: Dirt from this area is often collected and sprinkled along the baseboards of the home and along the edges of its structure to keep your family safe from harm. It is not a good idea to use this dirt if you’re involved in any sort of illegal activity because it will bring the police straight to you.

Workplace: There are lots of uses for this sort of dirt. It works great when included in spells for you getting a raise or promotion. It can also help you to foil a co-worker or for getting the dirt on the company

Putting The Dirt To Work

Putting The Dirt To Work

When working with dirt, there is no need to cleanse it, charge it or do anything else you might do when using another ingredient in your spells or rituals. Why? Because the Earth is very old, ancient in fact, making it very stable. The Earth has collected all the consciousness of those who have walked here before us. The Earth has collected their knowledge and their power. If you had collected the dirt from a cemetery, it would contain all the energies and qualities of the person whose final resting place you got the dirt from. Altogether, you have already made a magickal operation. Now to apply it.

There are several ways you can do this, but they all start out the same. You just need to decide which dirt samples to combine. You can mix as many or as few as you like, the only rule being that the combination must be to your benefit and not harm you in any way at all.

Once you’ve decided this, the only left is to figure out exactly how you intend to apply the dirt. There is no right or wrong way and that you can’t mess it up.  Just be comfortable with the method you choose and let the dirt go to work.

Here are a few ideas on applying your dirt:

Sprinkling:  The easiest and quicest way to incorporate the dirt’s energies into your life is to sprinkle it along the bottom of your walls, under your throw rugs, along the outside of your house and then at the end of your property. Be sure to include all door mats and around the front porch. The only problem with its presence inside the house is the vacuum cleaner. Just be aware that you’ll have to replace the dirt every time you clean.

Charm Bags:  The bag can be made out of the traditional red flannel, leather, beadwork or any material that you prefer. The dirt is combined with snippets of your hair and fingernail clippings. By doing this, it indicates that you are the person to benefit from the spell. You can also include any other items that you might consider important to your spell working. The mixture is then placed in the bag, which is then worn around the neck or placed some where on the body. The bags can contain nail and hair clippings from other family members also. If you decide to do this, the bag should be buried rather than worn and rest close to the front step of the home as possible.

Good Luck Bottles:  Some knows these as Witches’ Bottles, which means you will have to have a jar with a tightly, secured lid.  The dirt mixture is placed in the bottom of the container and sprinkled with herbs that vibrate to good fortune (cinnamon, basil, lavender, as excellent herbs to use, the combination brings love, money and spiritual protection.)  Fish hooks are also added to hook good luck for you, as are nine dimes in payment to the spirit world for its protection and rewards.  Once the jar is at least half full, it should be filled to the top with your urine, capped tightly, and buried on your property.  Again bury this close to the front door as possible.