Monthly Archives: October 2009

Reflections on Samhain and Ancestors

Baron 3

 

Blessed Samhain to all those who celebrate it. May your journeys to the other realms be effective and protected. May your Ancestors of the Blood and of the Spirit warm you and inspire you with their love.

Samhain is my favorite holy day. Which actually strikes me as humorous, given my history with the dead.

I am a fourth generation Spiritualist, or I was before I left that church and discovered that I was pagan. My parents are/were both Spiritualist mediums and ministers. I grew up well churched — it was what you did several times a week. But unlike mainstream religion, our services included talking to dead people, and spirit guides….or really listening to them talk to us.

I remember people who I barely knew asking me if I was going to be a medium like my parents when I grew up. My response usually landed around “hell no!” There was no way I was going to always available for people to call me and ask me what the spirits wanted them to do. I didn’t want that responsibility! Living my own life on my own terms was difficult enough, thank you.

I also saw the underbelly of the Spiritualist church. Those unethical mediums who took advantage of older people desparate for contact with their loved ones who had died. Jaded, cynical psychics who saw themselves as spiritually (and many time, intellectually) superior to those without much psychic talent. People willing to turn over their free will and critical thinking abilities to those who spoke for the spirit world. People who did whatever spirit told them to do and believed whatever the medium told them without ever questioning it.

But we never used the words “dead” or “died” or “death” except to say that it didn’t really exist. They had “transitioned” into their “spirit bodies.” Or they had “passed on” to their “spirit life.”

So, why does this always come up for me around this time of year? Because I still haven’t made my peace with it. And yet, here I am celebrating a festival to honor and communicate with the Ancestors. At times, I have even put myself into trance to allow those same spirits to speak through me, although never to the extent one would see in the Spiritualist church. There was always some part of me still there and aware of what was happening.

While I love the holy day, I also have a bit of ambivalence toward the concept of the personality existing beyond death. Do our spirits survive? I believe so. I have never been able to accept that “this is it.” What a waste of consciousness if all we are given is less than a 100 years!

But does that mean our persona as we experienced it in life continues to exist? I’m not sure. I would posit that our perspective would change after death, and in a fundamental way. And in many cases, we’re learning that our personality is affected by our biology — I certainly hope that my recurrant depression doesn’t stick with me in the afterlife! I’m not even sure if our beloved dead stick around to watch over us 24/7. Don’t they have their own spiritual evolution or agenda to attend to?

grandma_grandpa_me_1970

 

These are my maternal grandparents; they were both Spiritualists. My grandmother, Jane, passed away died a year and a half ago. My grandfather, Robert, died over 20 years ago, when I was 16. I honor my grandfather every year at Samhain. I pour out a libation, tell him how much I love him and miss him. I update him with what’s going on in my life and how I hope he is proud of me. And I ask for his protection and guidance.Now, there is a part of me who is strongly moved to do this year after year, and I believe that a part of him hears me and touches me. But I really hope that his spirit has moved on to greater and grander things, that he is walking his path — whether in other realms on returning back to this one.  Or maybe his spirit has returned to the great ocean of spirit, while his subtle forms have disintegrated like his body has.

I think again, this year, I have to admit that I don’t know. And I never will until I die too.

But until then, I will keep honoring the past, celebrating my Ancestors because without them, we are cut adrift with no roots and no foundation. And in our culture and in this generation, we desparately need roots and foundations to grow true and right relation to the world we live in and each other.

Blessed Samhain. May our roots be strong and resilient. May the memory of our Ancestors provide us with firm ground on which to build, and may their spirits guide us by their example — in this life and beyond death.

Inspiring Elegance

Red Hat Grande Dames

I have no idea what I want to say about this picture, except that I would love to have such style and grace even when wearing the most ridiculous of hats. When I saw these ladies, I stood transfixed before following them around and trying surreptiously to take their photo. Yes, I could have asked them, and they probably would have assented. But I just wanted to unabashedly watch them. They glided through the crowd with a stately grace and poise that I don’t think I ever have.

This is just one of my favorite photos, and I wanted to share it with you all.

Photo by Angela, April 2008, The Villages, Florida at the 10th Red Hat Society Anniversary.

No More Denials: Anger, Forgiveness, and Letting Go

Geburah: No More Denials

Today I learned that an ex-boyfriend is moving out of the geographical region we have both inhabited for the last 12-13 years. Although we have many mutual friends and have been considered “movers-and-shakers” in the DC pagan scene, we have barely spoken to each other in the last 7 years. Needless to say, from my perspective we had a particularly dramatic and brutal break-up.

Over the years, I have learned to be publicly cordial to him, to be “adult” and not drag my issues out for the whole community to deal with. Yay for me!

But I have to admit, that deep down, I am still not over it all. Over him, yes. Over my experience of our relationship and breakup and betrayal, no.

And now, he is moving across the country. What takes me by surprise is that I have for the last year or so thought, “Maybe I should forgive him. This anger and pain is heavy in my heart.” But I still have not let all that go yet. And that bothers me. I want to forgive him — not for his sake, but for mine. I don’t like who I am when I look into that wound — the blind rage, the searing pain, the loss of trust, and lack of compassion. And yet, there’s a part of me that is desparate to hold on to all of that because she is afraid that she might forget both the highs and the lows if she lets go.

And then I read a post on repressed anger by Brooks, a woman I’ve never met who I found through a link from Christine over at Bliss Chick:

I have gone through the motions of forgiving this person a couple times already, but I now see clearly that there is anger. My body told me. I saw it. And I am not ignoring it. However, seeing the depth of this particular wound humbles me. My mind can say, “I forgive you,” and this might be a lie. There is a deeper reality where even if you want to forgive because it looks like life would be easier if you did, you can’t choose forgiveness from the mental realm. There is a truth, a heart truth. I’m mad as hell, and I can’t talk or think my anger away. Since it looks like I can’t choose not to have this anger I find myself wondering if the solution lies in faith and prayer.

I know there is a ritual that I can do to “cut the cords” between us, that will allow for the severed ends to heal. I know that this ritual would be effective. But what if, even after all these years, I am not ready to let him go.

Doesn’t seem to matter because he is going anyway, and actually has been gone for quite some time. I think it is time. I feel it is time. Way past time. I can’t imagine that all this is good for either of us, but frankly, I’m more concerned in this matter about my own health and life.

Acting like you are not hurt in public is not the same as being healed. When will I have the courage and the compassion to walk toward healing?

Image: Geburah: No More Denials by Angela Raincatcher, 2007

A Green Canvas

Vine on Fence

Yesterday the weather was warm enough for me to walk the mile from the museum where I work to Union Station. Almost every day I pass by the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art. Even through I am an artist and was an art history undergraduate, it is not the artwork in the garden that draws my eye, so much as the garden itself. The organic forms of the vine twisting around the solid fence posts. The fact that each winter they cut these vine back to the central posts, and each summer the vines grow back in new, strange ways. The shade the leaves provide in the hot summer on my walk to catch the trains home. The variety of green.

One of the things I love most about this city is the greenspace — parks, gardens, walking paths through wooded areas next to streams. Only 30 minutes away, you can see the Great Falls of the Potomac River, which always revives and inspires me. I just realized in typing this that it has been over a year since I’ve visited Great Falls. Hmmmm, perhaps I should go after Samhain but before it gets too cold.


Great Falls Rapids, originally uploaded by Dabe.

No Heat

We’ve had a cold snap in the mid-Atlantic region. We also discovered that the furnance doesn’t work in our new house. Sure, we could have it serviced every 2 weeks through the winter, or we could use the new home-owner tax credit we got to buy a new furnance. We opting for choice #2. But that means getting estimates and pouring over customer reviews.

To all that, our 16-year-old cat Mia says:
Mia
And I agree.

So, we bought a few electric space heaters to go along with our four cats, who act as space heaters with the added bonus of “cat gravity,” a phenomenon that make the cats laying on top of the covers four times heavier than the mass of the sun, and twice as hot.

Here are some cute cat pictures of Mia, Hermes (orange), and Titan (grey) to illustrate the process.

Sleeping Mia
hermes_titan

The only picture missing is an action shot of me flailing and struggling to get some free space on the bed in the middle of the night, which is another story in itself.

Soul Divers shouldn’t work alone.

Water Altar

Every once in a while, someone asks me what I get out of my work with Reflections Mystery School, where I have been a student for the last 5 years. I usually find this a difficult question to answer because the work I have done is so personal and intimate and, at the same time, infuses every part of my life. I flounder with the words and usually land somewhere around “I got my art back,” which is true, sounds like nothing, but is everything to me.

Today, Katrina Messenger, the founder of Reflections and my teacher these last years, put some words around what it is we focus on in the school.

At Reflections, our focus is soul work. We offer classes on magickal and spiritual topics yes, but our primary area of concentration is evolving the soul.

She talks about healing our wounds, strengthening our cores, dancing with our Shadows, engaging with our growing edges, listening to our inner voices and dreams, answering our vocational calls, learning the language of Mystery, and walking with and supporting each other on our journeys.

And somehow…”I got my art back” engages all of those threads.

Shrine for Yemaya, Ocean Mother

[tags]soul work, Reflections Mystery School, art[/tags]

Rejection Letter

Earlier this month, I put in a proposal to create an art shrine for Ofrenda, Art for the Dead, a show in Alexandria during Halloween weekend.  I didn’t have anything already created to enter, so I wrote up a short proposal and sent them some images of past shrines I have created.

Last night, I got a rejection email.  My proposal had not been accepted. *pout*

Notice this: I did not say “I was rejected” or “I was not accepted” or even “They rejected my artwork, talent, and creativity.”

No.

They just didn’t accept that particular proposal.

So?

There is already a spirit knocking on the door for that shrine. I’m commited to make it anyway.  It’s going to be really, frickin’ cool!  And a challenge to some of my skills and internal edges.  I am very much looking forward to working on it this winter and giving it the time and care it needs and deserves, rather than rushing through it in one month.

And next year, I’ll be able to submit the finished piece for consideration…if I haven’t sold it already.