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?
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.