ancestors

Celebrating the Old Ways In New Times

November, 2018

Celebrating the Old Ways In New Times November 2018

Bright Blessings,

It’s close to the end of the fall season here in Central Ohio, and I have just a tiny bit more garden cleanup to do. I planted the mums and spring bulbs I wanted to, and will probably leave the wood asters to overwinter under our elm tree instead of cutting them back.

The days are shorter already, and we are about to Fall Back, which means it will get dark earlier very soon. It’s already as low as 29 degrees in the night and early mornings before the sun rises, and my arthritis is already ticked off by the cold. Before I know it, it will be snowing, and I‘ll be praying I don’t slip and fall on my round backside while I am walking the dog on the ice. Falling used to be hilarious when I was younger, but now, it hurts, and I know as I get older, it will hurt even more.

My husband is turning 55 this week, and he’s on the last phase of his preventative medical screening he has to do every few years from now on. It’s upsetting him to have to think of everything that could go wrong. We began discussing retirement as well. We will probably do the stereotypical thing and move to Florida instead of staying here in the cold Ohio winters in ten or fifteen years.

My face and body have started to change. I don’t recognize myself anymore when I look in the mirror, and I think I see new wrinkles every week. I do have some gray hair, but it’s all organized into an attractive witch’s lock, so I can’t complain. My husband has a full head of luxuriant silver hair, and I am wondering if he will keep all of it, like his Uncle John, or go bald like some men do. We don’t have the amount of energy we used to years ago. We sleep more, party less, watch what we eat and drink, and don’t go around sick people unless we have to. All of this just means that we are getting older, and truthfully, I don’t like it one bit.

It’s not as glamorous as it is in fantasy paintings of crones and dark grandmotherly goddesses. We are wiser, alright, but our backs, feet, and bodies in general are declining with middle age, and we are well aware that if we get old, well, we will get old!

Having worked in nursing homes, I know what that means. It means like a machine, our bodies will break down, and that isn’t fun. It means a lot of good things too, like finally ending the chase of youth for “Who am I, and where do I belong in this World.” At our age, we have nothing left to prove. I have found peace with myself, and I just don’t care anymore about things that used to drive me absolutely bonkers when I was younger.

In other words, when you get older, a real perk is you might have more worries, but you know what isn’t worth worrying about anymore. You know what things and people are not worth your time. You have learned how to say “No”, and not feel guilty. You know how to tell people off when needs be, and when to keep your mouth shut when it isn’t worth it to stir the pot. Middle age brings a dignity the unbridled strength and desperation to attain every desire of youth does not allow.

Our middle-aged bodies are like the garden in Fall, and moving towards the Winter of our lives means we have to accept we won’t live forever, and already, we have lost some loved ones to death. Countless friends and relatives’ lives are drastically changed by age, having children and grandchildren, and all of the things that happen over the years of having life. We weather these changes together, thankfully, and the sorrows and joys of the years we experience together serve only to make our spiritual harvests all the more glorious.

The reality that we will eventually be parted from everybody we know and love by death is not made any easier by the fact that as Pagans, we believe death is a new beginning. We don’t believe in the finality of a heaven/hell, and we believe we will all someday be reunited either in a new life on this plane, or a special place everybody goes where their beloved ancestors await them. We still grieve the loss of our loved ones, and we still fear the pain of illness or injury that triggers death. We may believe we will go someplace good, but the human animal is wired to fight to survive no matter what, and that instinct cannot be soothed away by religious beliefs.

It’s terrifying to think of losing somebody we love to death. It’s scary to think of our own death, and by the time we are middle-aged, we will have either had some pretty bad health scare of our own, or we will have lost somebody we love to death.

Pagans and Death

As Pagans, we often believe in reincarnation, and some of us believe we find our loved ones in future lives also. We speak to our dead, and don’t find it weird, unnatural, or scary to do so. It’s part of our religion, and considered very natural to speak to our ancestors, and any other spirits we encounter. We build ancestor alters, give the dead gifts, and some of us even feel bad for people who don’t include these practices in their own lives.

Many Samhain observances include gifts for the dead as well as memorial ceremonies, and rituals to honor those who have crossed the veil before us.

Mom

I was raised by a woman who sold cemetery property and directed funerals. I used to play outside the cemeteries when I was a kid, and at one cemetery, the groundskeeper was an older gentleman named William. He and I used to go for walks together at the cemetery when I was little. I went into people’s homes with Mom when she did plot and marker sales, and I colored lots of pictures, played with lots of dolls, and spent a lot of time in the cemetery offices, being quiet as a child while Mom was working.

I never once found it scary, creepy, or anything other than normal.

Imagine my surprise to find out how many people think cemeteries are cursed or scary places where monsters carry the living off to gobble them up. I sometimes wonder if these same people are unable to sleep with the lights off in their own houses.

The cemetery, and funeral home offices were always a beautiful place where people come to honor their dead, and to mourn them. Cemeteries are a permanent place where people can visit the last remaining piece of their loved ones- their bodies, and they are a place of focus for communication. There is nothing scary about that at all.

My Granny decorated the graves of her relatives for many years until she couldn’t do it anymore, and one of my Aunts took over that tradition. My Granny is now buried in that cemetery with her relatives, and my Aunt visits the graves.

Their Wishes

The focus in our Pagan circles at Samhain is often on group ritual to create a meaningful experience for attendees. Mom would have said that is because the ceremonies, including funerals are NOT for the dead, but for the living. The focus on our connection to our dead is often focused on our relationships with them, the times we had together, and maintaining communication although many of us believe they would have most likely already reincarnated.

The fact that someday we, too will become an ancestor is seldom mentioned, because let’s face it- while we honor our dead, most of us just don’t want to die, and that means we don’t like to think about it.

Part of our Samhain observances seldom mention the wishes of the dead we are remembering and honoring. Sometimes, that is because it is a VERY personal thing you just don’t want to share with a group, and it’s likely to make you much more emotional than something else, but if you think about it, that is a very good way to honor our dead.

Something Different

I include some history and interesting (to nerds like me, at least) facts in my articles monthly, but this month, I am not going to do that. I also include more structured ritual most months, but I’m not going to do that this time either.

I’ll just tell you there is no right or wrong way to honor your loved ones who have crossed the veil, and his month, instead of writing out a ritual, I have a suggestion. Do something in honor of your loved one they would have wanted, or carry out a wish they had. I can’t tell you what that is. Only you know, and while the veil is thinner, communication can be easier with the dead at Samhain, but you can do your thing your loved one wanted anytime. It doesn’t have to be at Samhain time!

If you want a suggestion for a simple group working, you can each take turns, and light a candle in your loved one’s honor, and tell a story about them before your potluck. Pagans LOVE a potluck, you know! Leaving a plate for the dead can be part of the festivities as well. You can take it a step further, and bring a food to the potluck that was a favorite, or otherwise significant of your loved one who you will be honoring.

Then, outside of the gathering, do something to honor that wish they had. For me, this is something I have already done, and will someday do again.

My mom always wanted me to be Catholic for her. Not going to happen. This Wiccan is devoted, happy in her faith, and not converting to suit anybody.

But Mom also asked me to light a candle for her at a Catholic Church if I ever had a chance to. Included in this article are two pictures of me lighting a candle for her in 2015 in a Mission Church in Arizona. Someday, I will light more candles for her.

The Cycle of Life

One day we, too will cross the veil, and there will be living people who honor us, reach out to us, and miss us every day of the rest of their lives. Each of us has to decide for ourselves how we want to be remembered, and we do that by how we live our lives now. Also, how LONG we are in these bodies are partially dependent upon us, and the daily decisions we make. We can poison our bodies, whittling years off our lives, or we can take care of them, in efforts to be with our loved ones for as long as possible. Beyond living longer, when we are healthy, we feel good, and quality of life is much better.

We can’t control our genetics, and we can’t prevent every tragedy, but we can try to influence things in our favor as much as we can.

Most Pagans today believe in reincarnation in some capacity, even if it’s not belief in The Summerlands, proper. Many of us believe, that after we cross the veil, we continue to communicate with our loved ones we left behind. For some people, the moments our loved one reaches out after they have died is beyond comforting, and sometimes, it is the difference beyond accepting our loved one will always be with us in some capacity, and being unable to accept their death at all.

Each of us who now reach beyond the veil to continue sharing with our loved ones will be an ancestor someday as well. We will remain in one another’s lives, and some of us will reincarnate together!

Have a Blessed Samhain no matter how you celebrate. May your loved ones smile upon you, stay near you, and may you reach old age happily, and with a lot of good experiences.

Blessed Samhain,

Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.

The Ancestors Walk in The Footsteps of the Living

November, 2018

For today a reminder that we will be Ancestors for a much longer “time” (Outside Time) than our lifespan on Earth. Perhaps life on earth is a training for becoming a wise or compassionate ancestor? Let’s make personal and global decisions that we can be proud of once we join our Ancestors!

Some tribal peoples (especially in Siberia) believed that the Ancestors literally walk in the footsteps of the living, in an “upside down realm”. If this is so – our every footstep affects them and pulls on them…. just as they in turn can influence every move we make (if we let them).

As I am publishing a book about Sacred art soon I might try to reinstate the Painting of the Day posts on Facebook (for the days I can manage this anyway).

 

My new book can now be pre-ordered on Amazon:

Sacred art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where art Meets Shamanism)

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About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016 and her second book Sacred art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where art Meets Shamanism) will be published in March 2019.  She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in both 2016 and 2017 and is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently in the editing stages of her third book “Medicine of the Imagination” and has started her fourth book “Evolving Gods: The Sacred Marriage of Tradition and Innovation”

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist

(YouTube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages on Amazon

 

ÁLFABLÓT (The Sacrifice to the Elves)

November, 2018

Brief description

International teacher of sacred art and Northern European Tradition shamanism Imelda Almqvist describes the small Álfablót (Sacrifice to the Elves) Ceremony she performed on her land in Sweden on October 31st in 2018. This is the indigenous Scandinavian version of (or closest thing to) Samhain/Halloween.

 

ÁLFABLÓT (THE SACRIFICE TO THE ELVES)

One day even our children (and their children) will be ancestors…

Today Halloween is celebrated in many English-speaking countries. It originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain.

I was in a large supermarket, here in Sweden, yesterday and the first thing I saw upon entering the shop, was an abundance of shelves stacked with Halloween decorations and sweets. That is a relatively new development!  Halloween is not indigenous to Sweden and the phenomenon only arrived in the 1990s. For good for bad, we live in a global village…

In the car on the way home there was a story on Swedish radio titled “Bus eller frukt” (meaning “trick-or-fruit”) Apparently some children had gone trick-or-treating over the weekend (a bit early by British standards!) and received mandarins for their efforts – they were not at all pleased and they had responded with trickery!

As a mother of three I understand that children yearn for scary costumes and collecting candy but, actually, Scandinavia has a perfect valid tradition of its own, for this period. It is shame that this has (largely) dropped into collective oblivion – though Heathen people have always kept the tradition alive and many Pagan people have rediscovered it today).

My students of Norse Shamanism often ask: “Did the Old Norse people have a festival or ritual comparable to the Day of the Dead, at this time of year?” The answer is yes, the Álfablót, The name literally means “The Sacrifice (or offerings) to the Elves”. This requires a bit of explanation.

The Elves (or Alfar) in the Northern European Tradition are not “fairies” but the souls of male dead ancestors who live on as nature spirits. They often live in burial mounds, though we also find them under big rocks, in caves or in the mountains. We can still communicate with them and making offerings is a respectful way of doing so.

By making offerings we acknowledge that they too once walked the land and that they have now become part of the spiritual Weave of the land. They do not (necessarily or automatically) fit a term often heard in core shamanism: “helping spirits”, though they can choose to be helpful. By honouring them we ensure that they are “on our side” and that we have their cooperation and protection during the harsh winter months (remember that Scandinavian winters are harsh and severe).

In the Old Norse way of thinking every gift (gåva) required a return gift (gengåva). There is nothing cynical about this, it follows the spiritual law of keeping all exchanges balanced. (Today we often speak of the principle of fair energy exchange).

In the past on farms animals would have been sacrificed and their blood poured out as a sacred offering (the word blót is the old Old Norse word for blood) but today many practitioners feel that alternative offerings are acceptable (seasonal foods, drink, the favourite food or drink of ancestors we used to know in real life, or other – as guided by the gods and spirits).

Let me also explain that the Alfar are the male ancestors. The female ancestors (Disir) have their own special day in the Yule period (Modranatt or Ancestral Mothers’ Night) as well as a Disablott (Offering ritual to the female ancestors) in the Spring.

The fertility god Freyr (twin brother of the goddess Freyja) is known as the Lord of the Elves and his otherworld domain is called Alfheimr (the Realm of the Elves)

When we bought our house in Sweden I promised the landvaettir (spirits of the land) and the “tomte of our tomt ” (the spirit of our property, not to be confused with Father Christmas – who also goes by the name of Tomte in Sweden!) that I would observe the ancient festivals and traditions as faithfully as my own understanding allows.

Over the summer I was guided to build a small cairn on our property. I carved a Bone Woman from antler bone and dedicated the cairn to her. (This was inspired by the Icelandic phenomenon of the Beinakerling

https://guidetoiceland.is/connect-with-locals/regina/laufskalavarda-add-a-stone-for-good-luck-before-entering-the-skeidararsandur-glacial-outwash

Today I waited for nightfall (which came at 4 p.m.) and made a small pilgrimage to this cairn. I brought my Rune Drum, a candle and offerings of ale and meat (the traditional offerings for an Alfablót).

I drummed and called in the Deep Ancestors (whose names we do not remember), the Ancestors of Place, the Landvaettir, the animals ancestors of all local animal species and the ancestors that live on in local memory and stories.

As a teacher (and lifelong student) of Norse Cosmology I also called in the great skalds and the writers of the Eddic poetry (including Snorri Sturlason, who gave us the Prose Edda!)

I drummed and chanted. I poured ale over the cairn and offered the food.

Odinn’s name literally means “The Spirit” (Odr + the definite article “inn”) and he is associated with the wind, sacred breath and The Wild Hunt.

The most powerful thing about my small blót was that every time I called in a round of ancestors – the wind responded by making a howling noise and curling around me.

I felt that my Álfablót was well-received!

Imelda Almqvist, Kärrshagen, Sweden 31 October 2018

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016 and her second book Sacred art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where art Meets Shamanism) will be published in March 2019.  She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in both 2016 and 2017 and is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently in the editing stages of her third book “Medicine of the Imagination” and has started her fourth book “Evolving Gods: The Sacred Marriage of Tradition and Innovation”

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist (YouTube Channel with art videos and Rune Drum videos)

Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages on Amazon

 

 

MagickalArts

October, 2018

Remembering to Re-Member

I recently did a tarot reading for myself that resulted in the cards clearly relaying the message of re-membering and reassembling my present gifts to enhance the relationships I currently enjoy. Particularly the relationship I have with the various parts of my SELF.

This process is about the alchemy of strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones that offer opportunities for collaborative and creative sharing.  For most of us it is an easier task to attend to those relationships outside of ourselves. The hardest is facing and biding the space of dialogue between the various parts of our Inner Selves. This inner landscape can be frightening and aversion is the go-to when we should instead be diving in deeply.

This turning within to remember and reassemble those parts of self is the first act of collaborative self-relationship. When we claim our natural state of balance – the place where both our light and shadow natures intertwine and become as one source of strength, we begin the act of memory of our Divine potential. When we gather together those gifts of heart and mind and body and align them with our Soul’s purpose we begin the alchemy of reassembling what had been scattered and separated.

As that inner relationship is tended and nurtured we can begin to expand and extend the joy found in that process to infuse those outer relationships we hold so dear. And, the positive energy that flows from a mutual exchange of life lived in totality brings with it the shared experience and sweetness of grace for all that was freely given and all that was gratefully received.

This time of the year, in particular, offers the space of alignment and memorializing both the ancestors who have passed beyond the veils and the current relationships we have with our beloveds that should be cherished while still part of our corporeal experience. We are familiar with the admonition that in the event of a plane crash, the parent, should place the oxygen mask on them self first and then on the child. The reason being that they can be of no help to the child if passed out on the floor. Use this strategy for your process of gathering all of who and what you are together. Re-member to attend to the synthesis and unification of your self-awareness so that you may better commune with those who surround you.

This month I will use the gifts of the harvest, the chill in the air as the seasons change and the parting of the veils, allowing access to my ancestors to spend time reflecting on those parts of myself that have lain dormant and unloved. I will embrace them as my own and use them to build a stronger foundation upon which I may more generously give to those who live and commune with me. I will infuse all of my being with the memory of deep connection to all of life and the blessed quiet of unnecessary chatter that keeps me from being whole in all of my selves. What will you re-member?

***

About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

 

The Inner Chamber Volume One

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the Spheres (Volume 2)

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia

The Eternal Cord

 

Temple of the Sun and Moon

Luminous Devotions

 

The Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1)

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year

Aligning the Parts of SELF

 

The Enchanted Gate

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

 

Sleeping with the Goddess

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection

Musings for the Year

 

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

30-Days of Samhain Offered by Robin Fennelly

October, 2018

30-Days of Samhain Offered by Robin Fennelly

A Witch’s Sacred Journey

The final harvest calls, the Ancestors await and the veils between the worlds have thinned offering the gifts of healing, transformation and deeper communion with the cycles of nature.

Last year I decided to explore the mysteries of Samhain using a daily format of postings and suggestions to deepen your awareness of this sacred time of the year. I am sharing this again for this year’s celebrations and will be adding some other material as we move through the 30-Days of Samhain. Let the journey begin…

The countdown ends with Astrological Samhain, so Day One begins on October 9th and Day Thirty ends on November 7th. Enjoy…

Day One begins here… Welcome and Introduction

For Quick Links visit: 30-Days of Samhain-Index

***

About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

 

The Inner Chamber Volume One

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the Spheres (Volume 2)

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia

The Eternal Cord

 

Temple of the Sun and Moon

Luminous Devotions

 

The Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1)

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year

Aligning the Parts of SELF

 

The Enchanted Gate

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

 

Sleeping with the Goddess

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection

Musings for the Year

 

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

Book Review – Elen of the Ways: Shaman Pathways

December, 2017

Elen of the Ways: Shaman Pathways

Elen of the Deer Trods

Author Elen Sentier

Published by Moon

Copywrite 2013

Length 89 pages

I love sitting and listening to elders talk about what they know about life and the teachers that have taught them all they know. And this is one of those authors that writes in a style that makes you feel that you are having a cup of tea with.

Ms. Sentier is a true story teller in that she relays all she has learned and been guided to know with such ease. The writing flows and it does take you to the times and the places she describes. She talks about being an awenydd, a spirit keeper, and taleweaver and she comes from a long line of awenydd.

In Shaman Pathways: Elen of the Deer Trods, the author talks about the history of the nomadic peoples and explains how becoming farmers lead to a harder life with less enjoyment and a true separation from a spiritual side of life. As we drifted from that, we became greedier and lost our true selves and our health to disease.

Ms. Sentier also speaks of true sovereignty of the Goddess and the test she set up for the God so that he could prove his worth as a guardian for Her and her land. I loved the way she told the stories she heard from the awenydd of her village and the wise ones who shared their wisdom with her and the younger generations.

The author talks about elders and ancestors of the place where you live. She tells how to go about getting to know the nous of the land. How they are there waiting to tell you about the life that lives there and how you can connect and interact with that energy. She has a wonderful way to really describe what she sees and knows. It is an easy and relaxing read. This is one of those books, that gives you the desire to listen to the spirits of the land whether it be in a park near you or your own farmstead, and then go back and reread the book.

I know I will be going out to the park and spending time with the nous of the area. And I will be rereading Ms. Sentier’s book after I have learned more about the ancestors of the town that I call home.

For Amazon information, click image below.

 

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About the Author:

 

 

 

Dawn Borries loves reading and was thrilled to become an E-Book reviewer for PaganPages.Org. Dawn, also, has been doing Tarot and Numerology readings for the past 25 years. Dawn does readings on her Facebook page.  If you are interested in a reading you can reach her at:  https://www.facebook.com/NumerologistDawnBorries/.

 

 

 

Death Masks

November, 2017

At this time of looking back, memories and retrospect I want to share a wonderful experience I had a few years ago. I received an intriguing invitation: a workshop in making a death mask on Samhain with a small group! I didn’t have to think long and decided I’d definitely want to be there. We ended up being with 6 ‘wyld & wicked women’! Some had met each other before. At the time I only knew the hostess beforehand, so I had the privilege to get to know 4 wonderful women.

First we had dinner at a beautiful Samhain-decorated table. We had a very yummy salad, delicious pasta with pesto and salmon, an exquisite quiche and very tasty pizza! The dessert was even better: heavenly cheesecake and divine pecan pie with vanilla ice-cream. We started by reading ‘The Charge of the Great Mother’ out loud. Everyone had placed an extra plate on the table for someone behind the veils. We shared stories about those people and animals while eating in their honour. Lovely stories about beautiful memories… Some put a smile on our faces, some made us get all teary-eyed. It was very intimate and touching; it felt as if I got to know the people and animals, as if they were really there, sitting with us. I dedicated my plate to my dad. I told about our special bond, about my childhood memories and also about his death.

In the temple space we prepared everything for the workshop. We made the masks in pairs. One person was lying down, while the other one put plaster bandages on her face to make a very personal mask, a mask of our own faces. To protect our skin and to make the mask easier to release we covered our face with a lot of cream. I had a nasty cold, so I was a bit nervous whether I could persevere the plaster. I decided to put some straws in my mouth, so I had both nose and mouth to breathe. Still, it wasn’t easy! I started thinking a lot of “what-ifs”. That wasn’t going to help me persist so I went into a meditative state and that was the right decision. I did it!

Then it was my turn to make a mask. I soon felt I was very tired and the cold didn’t make it any easier. I wanted to finish the mask, so I kept on putting plaster bandages. I struggled. I realized it wasn’t working and felt so bad… Finally I asked someone else to take over. That was so hard, I felt I had failed miserably. In the kitchen I cried, but everyone was so kind and comforting! My mask partner got a beautiful mask nevertheless and she wasn’t disappointed (as I had feared). On the contrary, she accepted her own lesson in this with grace; we talked it over and hugged. Looking back now I can see it as it is: a wonderful experience for both of us, and a lesson too… I’m still very grateful for it.

deathmasks

 

Afterwards we all talked about what making the masks had done with us. Generally speaking death-masks are made after a person dies. To do it on a living person can feel strange, especially when the eyes and mouth are covered. You literally shut them up… and the other way around your mouth is covered and shut. Although I had the straws in my mouth, it still felt like that. We shared our experiences and feelings. Meanwhile, it was very late so we set up the beds and dived in! I slept next to the veils in the temple space. In the morning we had a long breakfast / brunch together, closed the circle and said our goodbyes.

Masks of deceased people are part of many traditions around the world. In some European countries it was common for death masks to be displayed at state funerals. Death masks have been a matter of practice from as early as ancient times and making death masks was routine until the late 19th century when photography took over in popularity. However, some death masks were still made in the 20th century and are made to this day. Death masks were sometimes used as a way to identify the dead and at other times the death masks were used as a way to remember the dead person or to use as a way to build their memorial on their grave. Death Masks usually involve the eyes of the deceased being closed but in a few rare exceptions the eyes are left open. This video shows the death masks of many famous people:

 

 

Sources & further reading/watching:

Affairs of the Pagan Heart

November, 2017

Adding a Spindle to the Wheel of the Year

As I wrote this, I was finishing up work for the day to head home to get ready to celebrate my 5th wedding anniversary with a quiet dinner at one of our favourite fancy restaurants. Though my husband is not pagan, we did a handfasting with cords of orange, brown, green, and silver in a beautiful loft space gallery that used to be a piano factory. It was an overcast day that rained on and off, and we didn’t care, as long as we had each other and were surrounded by our friends and family. We bound ourselves to one another, and by the grace of the Gods, the rain paused just after our ceremony so that we could run outside to get some outdoor photos amongst the glorious fall colours of late October.

I didn’t have my parents there to celebrate with me. They both passed away years before, and never even met my husband. It breaks my heart every time I think about how much my husband and my dad would have gotten along, or how easily my mum would have welcomed him into the family. I never dreamed of how my wedding would be, and was not that little girl who walked around in my mother’s shoes and a veil on my head and “played wedding” as easily as “playing doctor” or “playing school” or “playing tea time”. In fact, though I wholeheartedly believe in love and wasn’t opposed to marriage, enough time had passed by that I guess I thought it just wasn’t for me. So I never had those dreams of my dad walking me down the aisle, or getting ready in the morning with my mum.

However, when the time came, their absence was sorely missed. My parents were still married for 46 years when my father died, and were not at our wedding in person to witness their youngest getting married. But I know they were there in spirit, as were my ancestors before them, and I know they come forth when the veil between the spiritual plane and the living is most porous or at its thinnest. Each year, our anniversary has felt like the start of that thinning, the overlap between summer and fall, or Mabon and Samhain and forward to Yule.

And as I think on my ancestors and my immediate family that have passed on, I don’t think of them as lost. I think of them as pillars of love and endurance. They have faced so much in their lives, living through wars and social progress and political strife and so much more than what I have experienced, and if I can get a glimpse of them through the veil at this time of year, or gain a portion of their wisdom or obtain a sliver of their bravery, perhaps I would have even more inspiration to keep my heart strong for my marriage.

We mark and celebrate our anniversary as a reminder of how we fell in love, to look back fondly on the day we were married and celebrated our commitment to one another in front of our family and friends, and to take stock of our relationship. I also take the time to evaluate how my spirituality plays into the marriage, and how I can improve myself for myself mentally, physically, and spiritually.

If we think of the wheel of the year as a ship’s wheel, we see the evenly spaced spindles that indicate each season and sabbat. It’s important to can add to our own wheels with anniversaries and special occasions so that they are actually that – special occasions. They are things that we celebrate specifically for us, separate from what others are marking, so that we can spend energy on why that day is important to us.

This time of year has a lot going on for me. I honour my ancestors, I miss my parents, I celebrate my wedding anniversary, and I acknowledge the turning of the wheel as the year progresses, as sure as my heart beats.

***

About the Author:

Rev. Rachel U Young is a pagan based in Toronto, Canada. She is a licensed Wedding Officiant and under the name NamasteFreund she makes handfasting cords and other ceremonial accessories. She is also the Chair of Toronto Pagan Pride Day.

Shadowfest

October, 2017

 

As I close my eyes and breathe in the rich scent of Autumn, my mind turns to those I have loved and lost. Those who have traveled on to the Shadow-Lands. Shadowfest, or more commonly known as All Hallows Eve and Samhain, is fast approaching. This is the Season of the Witch, but most importantly, the Season of Spirits. The veil between this world and the Un-Seen (Other-World, Shadow-Lands, Elphame, Summer-Lands, Avalon, Annwn, Elysium Fields, etc.) is thinnest at this time of year. Spirits, human and non-human alike, roam the Earth reaching out to those who are willing and able to acknowledge their existence.

 

One of the most prominent aspects of Cottage Witchery is the veneration of ones Ancestors and working with Household and Land Spirits (Brownies, Lares, Land Wights etc.). Shrines are lovingly set, offerings of food and drink are given, and interaction between the living and the dead on a daily basis happen within our walls. I speak every day to my now deceased brother. Fiercely protective and loving while alive, I find him equally so in death. I have personal items of my brother, grandparents, both of my dads, and trinkets that represent the Ancestors and Spirits that I did not know in the living realm displayed on my shrine. It is here that I petition the Spirits for aid in magical, healing, and mundane needs. I find that my Ancestors and Household Spirits enjoy the love and devotion I bestow upon them. The more I interact, the more helpful and present they are.

 

As Samhain approaches, veneration of the Dead among Witches and Pagans is more predominant than at any other time of the year. With the falling of the leaves and the decaying of the Earth, death can be felt more effortlessly. While this is true, the Dead and Spirits can be reached at any time. They are just a prayer away and are very keen to aid those of us in the Realm of the Living. We just have to be willing to open ourselves up to their presence and love. Creating a space for our Ancestors and the Kindly Spirits of the Shadow-Lands is the perfect way to start.

 

The Ancestor Shrine

 

ancestor

 

 

Set in the North (Land of Bone and Stone) or the West (The Blessed Isles), the Ancestor Shrine can be one of the main focal points of the Witches home. It is often laid atop the fireplace or hearth but can just as easily be held within a book case or on a small table. Pictures and baubles held dear by our loved ones are lovingly placed on the Shrine. A fresh glass of water is given every morning to “feed” the Spirits and food offerings are given once a week, or on Holy Days and Birthdays. Candles are lit as a daily offering to the Ancestors and Spirits. Charms and Enchanted Waters can be left on the Shrine for our Kindly Spirits to Bless.

 

Keep in mind that it is not just the Ancestors of Blood that can be honored, but those from history who have inspired you or the Ancestors of Place, those who once lived on the land you now inhabit. A very informative book that gives more understanding of the different Ancestors and Spirits of the Dead is– The Mighty Dead, Communing with the Ancestors of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak

 

 

 

The Spirit/Shadow Stone

 

stone

 

 

The Spirit/Shadow Stone is an enchanted stone that I use to reach the Shadow-Lands. On it I paint or draw a special glyph/sigil that I created for Spirit work. Any symbol can be used as long as it connects your mind to the Spirit Realm. It is in the Shadow-Lands where I visit my Ancestors and Household Spirits. By holding the Stone within my hands it keeps me connected to both the Realm of the Living and the Realm of the Dead. I also use the Shadow Stone to aid me in any magical working that I wish the Spirits to Bless. By placing the Stone over a charm or within a mojo bag will add power to your spells.

 

Offerings

 

apples

 

 

I give weekly offerings of apples and honey to my Beloved Dead. Both are appropriate foods for the dead as are pomegranates and many other foods. On Holy Days and Birthdays I offer more elaborate meals. Food that your loved ones enjoyed while living are the best to serve. The food offerings are left for a full night and are to be disposed of the next morning. There are varying ways of disposal and depending on where one lives some are more appropriate. It is up to you what feels best to do. You may throw it away, bury it, or leave the offering in the wild far from your home. I personally throw it away. I do not want to inadvertently poison or sicken wildlife. Some will disagree with this approach. Again, do what feels right to you. It is not disrespectful to throw the offering away, the Spirits and Ancestors have already absorbed the energy from the offering and have no use for it after that.

 

Petitioning the Spirits

 

Candle

 

 

The writing down of a petition or prayerful need is something that can be done with Ancestor work. After putting my words to paper and marking it with the Spirit/Shadow Sigil, I burn the petition, placing the ashes within a special vessel. Before petitioning the Spirits for help I “warm” the Shrine by lighting many candles and waiting for at least a half hour. This “warming” of the Shrine aids the Spirits and Ancestors in feeding them the energy they need to answer your prayers.

 

For more information on what Orion Foxwood calls an ash pot and ways to honor your ancestors please read his books The Faery Teachings, The Tree of Enchantment, and The Candle and the Crossroads. I highly recommend all three.
As Shadowfest draws near, and we gather with our loved ones to celebrate, we know that our Dearly Departed are with us as well. Through loving devotion we remember all that they did for us while alive and thank them for what they continue to do for us in the Shadow Realms.

 

To my family on the Other-Side, I love you…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Neon Pagan

September, 2014

A Nagging Question

Ancestor worship is important. Without our forebears, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t exist. Think of all the living and dying that had to go on, just so you could have that Friday evening ice cream! It’s only fitting that ancestor rites should play an important role in our Pagan ceremonies.

I guess I’m just forever the contrarian. Lately I’ve been wondering why I revere my ancestors.

Take my great-grandmother’s grandfather, for instance. He ran an iron forge in Western Maryland that used slave labor and was notorious for its inhumanity to its workers. I have a baby daddy great-great grandfather and a baby daddy grandfather. One hit the road when he heard he was going to be a father. The other one bragged about his prowess, all over my small Appalachian home town. My husband recently did his genealogy and found three generations of alcoholic, gambling, unfaithful men.

Who am I pouring libations for?

Sometimes I take the position that the ancestors I’m praying to are better ones, farther back on the timeline, who lived exemplary lives and looked out for their progeny. Oh, for the love of fruit flies, who am I kidding? They were human! Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Some all of the above.

It’s also egotistical to take the position that it doesn’t matter what kind of people your ancestors were, because their actions led to your existence. Let’s call this line of thought “letting the baby daddies off the hook.”

This nagging question occurred to me when I found myself venerating certain good ancestors while ignoring the bad ones. We all have saints in our family trees, but my sense of democracy won’t let me apply the gloss.

Here is my solution to this conundrum. Instead of praying to my ancestors, I pray for them.

Sorry, so sorry for the slavery. Sorry for the infidelity. Sorry for the drinking, the running away from responsibility, the human nature that you, my ancestors, showed. And, sorry to say, I am no prize either. I’m a chip off the old block, a conglomeration of the goodness and the badness that made all of my forebears human.

Perhaps veneration of ancestors should begin with forgiveness: to them, to ourselves, to the vicissitudes of history, climate, biology, and economics. Perhaps this veneration should include a humble understanding of the foibles of human nature. Pretending our ancestors were holy and god-like may elevate our self-esteem, but it’s dishonest. They were just people. Anxious, conflicted, complicated people: just like you and me.

My ancestor practice includes this forgiveness (and extends it to the people who my ancestors did wrong). It also includes the intention to do better. I don’t want to set myself up as a paragon of virtue, but I do want to learn from, and prevent, the mistakes of the past. The more I learn about the people who went into making me alive, the more I know where I’m likely to err. This is a holy thing. This is what those complicated human beings can do for me.

 

 

Anne Johnson is a public school teacher and the author of the humor blog The Gods Are Bored.

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