"Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered valleys and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely-hearted living and often return to visit and comfort them."~ Chief SeattleI think the most wonderfully magickal time of the year is when the Ancestors come back to visit us. We don't really know what goes on beyond the Veil. We only have our imagination until it's our time to cross over. At Samhain- All Hallows, Hallowe'en- we get a glimpse of what lies beyond when the Veil is at it's thinnest during the year. It's a time that's held mystery and magic in the human mind for ages, a mystical journey each of us eventually takes alone. Until then, our imagination stirs to project our fears of death and the unknown on this last night of the Ancient Celtic Calendar.
I love Hallowe'en, our Sabbat of Samhain. If I had my way, I'd live in Hallowe'en year 'round-but then again, like all things, it would cease to be special and I guess I wouldn't look forward to it as much as I do. Autumn, from Mabon to Yule -but especially Hallowe'en- is my happy time of year. Even if you drag it out like I do and celebrate the entire season, it's only ten weeks, tops, and it's not nearly enough. I love living in the time of All Hallows, when the trees are flaming torches of red, green, gold, and the dry grass bows low in the chilly mornings, the frost coats the fallen leaves like sugar and the pumpkins are bright orange orbs in the fields.
Autumn is the season when the daylight becomes scarce and the night grows longer. The sky is often a witch's brew of colors, but at the twilight of the year, my soul is tired after the high revelry of Samhain and I seek out places to nest, to curl in on myself: to read and reflect. It is my personal Dream Time. I often read by candlelight this time of year, because I so love how the shadows play around the room. I am more comfortable in the semi-darkness than in the stark cold of daylight, and I hunker down with a cup of hot tea and a soft blanket, surrounded by my books.
I love being alive and visiting Death. I am captivated by the mystery of what lies beyond and am called by spirit voices which beckon me to come and play in the graveyard with them, to run my hands over the cold, worn carved stones and discovery who is there still. I have loved this time of year since I was a child and have never feared what others fear. The Hallowe'en symbols of the season hold some of my dearest childhood memories, as again I am surrounded by the smell of apples cooking, and hot molasses cookies; I hear the clattering of bare bone branches and crinkling corn husks. Somewhere distant the Crone cackles, and the lines around her wisdom-filled eyes deepen. She tosses her shawl around me and I become old as she is and as as ageless as the youngest trick-or-treater at the door. It is a day that is not a day, a time outside of time. I keep Hallowtide in my heart the same as Charles Dickens wrote of "keeping Christmas".
I knew All Hallows was a holy time- knew it before I knew what holy was. I felt it in the deepest place my soul dwelled. Before it was named in my consciousness, the sacred waited.
I knew there was a sacred cycle, a holy dance we did around the wheel until we came back to Hallowtide. No one told me; I simply anticipated it's return. Long before I knew I was a witch, I knew this truth.
Life is a succession of 'little deaths' and rebirths- the dry husk of mortality crumbling so the kernel can be planted with hope of harvest. The seed winters in the earth until spring; life is reborn at the appointed time. We loose our dead to regain them anew; they are again alive in us, and we are the seeds of their immortality. If we carry those who lie at rest in the grave in our hearts, they will speak to us when we require their wisdom. The voices of the Ancestors come on the wind and they are clothed in Autumn finery. This is the triumph of All Hallows, the continuation of life beyond the supposed finality of the grave. The Ancestors come when the Portal opens and the Veil is pulled aside at the harvest of the year. They are young and vibrant because Death itself is the Ultimate Healing, transformed back into who they were when the were their most vital.
What if the soul lives in the present body as a mere outer garment, the better to sleep in until it is ready to go on once again living? When a tree's leaves wither and die, the root system is still alive beneath the ground, unseen by us. It sleeps and regenerates until it knows the Spring is near, when it can burst forth in the newness and celebration of Life.
These are the lessons of Life and Death. When we have lived long enough to be the last one standing, we come to the realization that Life is not a personal possession, it is a trusteeship, and we are but unknowing stewards.
This post originally appeared in the Fall/Holiday edition of Witches Hour Magazine. Copyright Broom With A View and AmethJera/Kate Dennis,September 2011. All Rights Reserved. No copying of this article by any means without expressed written consent of the author.