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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in ancestors

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
When a Child's Pet Dies

 

 

Last night I received a heartbreaking email from a reader. He was emailing me because his child's cat had been hit by a car and he and his wife were at a loss as to what to tell her (the girl is about six). They have an active devotional practice and an active practice of ancestor veneration. They neither wanted to approach death as something wrong and to be hidden, or to lie to their child, but neither did they want to cause their little girl an iota's worth of unnecessary pain. They asked me what I suggested. With their permission, I'm going to share with you what I told them, but I want to preface that by a disclaimer and a story. 

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    wise advice. I agree, no point in hiding death from children. it is part of life.
  • Linda Armstrong
    Linda Armstrong says #
    Your article moved me very much. I'm a long way from being a child (67) but sooner than I would want, I'm going to need to say go

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Deep White and Silent World

We were lucky this time, here in the southern highlands of Appalachia.  The punishing winds and the ice and the sleet passed us by, as surely as if we had daubed the doorjamb with lamb's blood.  What we got was a lazy eighteen-hour snowfall.

From the snug window, we watched the small light flakes pepper the landscape, relentless, implacable. There were separate periods of light or no snow and then the snow-globe world would return. The streetlight reflecting on the snow made the front room almost as bright as day.

We were lucky because the hysterical weather people warned us of this impending snowpocalypse, this snowmaggedon.  Most folks around here got their beer/milk/bread/eggs frenzy early so that my trip to the grocery store the day before the actual event was calm and easy. The store manager allowed as how there hadn't been a single loaf of bread in the place at the end of the previous day.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Yeah, you know...the usual. I am loving the Resilient Gardener, by the way, and hope to be able to pick your brain for the Women's
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    Yawn...is it really time to wake up? Oh, right. I have to plan the garden. They say food prices are going to go way up this year.

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Celebrating the flowers

Imbolc, when the little snowdrops emerge from the earth, the first flowers, and the first sign that spring is on the way. Except if you’re dealing with floodwater just now, you probably won’t see them because they will be submerged. If you are a bit further north than I am, there will be no sign yet. People in colder climates can’t expect flowers at this time of year – my other half, who originated in Maine, continues to be perplexed by anything trying to grow at this time. Not everywhere has snowdrops, and not everywhere has winter.

There are no doubt a lot of Pagans out there who feel they should be celebrating Imbolc this weekend, because it’s the ancient Celtic festival marking the first signs of spring, and it’s here. Some will no doubt go out with scripts that talk of things which simply are not happening in their lives. I’ve done that myself. I stood in a hailstorm one year, trying to picture the gentle, generous spring maiden and her magical wild flowers, whilst getting cold, wet, miserable and confused. It was one of those key moments in my journey towards rejecting a dogmatic approach to dates and festivals.

As it happens, the catkins have been opening for a while now, and I saw my first snowdrops last week. The weather forecast is dire, and I do not fancy my preferred hilltop, in case we do get some of those predicted 150 mile an hour winds. I like to think the Druids of old had enough sense, and enough respect for the natural world not to be out in it unnecessarily when it might do them serious injury.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Importance of Remembrance

In Canada we call November 11th “Remembrance Day” and it’s a pretty big deal for us culturally.  It’s not just a bank holiday, like Veteran’s Day in the US.  Though it is that, we also take time as a culture, in our schools prior to it and at our daily grind otherwise, to observe a moment of silence for the dead of our many World Wars, to which we now must add the Gulf War and the War in Afghanistan.  As children in school, we make construction paper poppies and listen to the stories of soldiers.  As adults, often we stand in the rain as our veterans stand solemnly in their uniforms and their medals, and we try to give their experience meaning and find hope in a time of darkness.

I think as Pagans, it is especially important that we engage in this practice of remembrance.  Whatever your view on war (some traditions strongly respecting the warrior path, such as the Asatru; some being adamantly opposed to war, such as Reclaiming Witches,) our empathy for the experience of it is a valuable service we can contribute to our culture and the world.  The many reasons connect to the uniquely Pagan experience of our spirituality.  Now granted, these are all generalizations; and as such, not everyone will fit these moulds.  But we seem to have these commonalities that make remembrance, especially of powerful and terrible events such as war, much more immediate and intense.

Respect for Our Roots

Many of us are called to Pagan paths because we feel a strong ancestral connection.  Even the modern religion of Wicca draws its roots from the ancient Pagan practices of Europe.  All but the most dedicated Reconstructionists agree we can’t exactly practice the same religion that our ancestors did; cultural and historical context, technology and needs are completely different.  But something about those “Ancient Ways” draws us anyway.

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  • Carlee Barnes
    Carlee Barnes says #
    As a retired US military member, I take offense at the first paragraph. We have more than a bank holiday. There are parades, fla

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Samhain and the Ancestors

What with the rage of the storm St Jude passing over our area on Monday morning, we were without power for a couple of days (as well as being without land line phones -mobile masts were also out).  At this time of year, when the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in, the change can be quite dramatic, especially when you are living without power.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you for the timely reminder.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_409px-Jan_van_Bijlert_-_Young_Man_Drinking_a_Glass_of_Wine_-_WGA02184.jpg

 
As you carve those pumpkins,
as you dress in costume,
as you trick or treating go,
as you seek entertainment,
as you avoid the wild shades,
do not forget to raise a glass
to the departed Persephone.
Tonight at the witching hour,
the gates of the Underworld
clang loudly shut with dread finality.
Closing securely within not only her
but also the restless dead.
Do not forget to raise a glass
to the patiently brooding Hades.
For his love has returned to his arms
after a lengthy, lonely separation.
Do not forget to raise a glass
to Demeter the mourning mother.
May her lament be not too harsh
upon her mortal children.
Do not forget to raise a glass
to your beloved dead.
May they rest peacefully
until their time of return.
Raise a glass and be thankful
that you are not with them
in the dark realm of below.
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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Ancestor Vigil

We've been doing the Ancestor Vigil here for about 20 years and every year it is a little different but the intention is always the same. It is not a Samhain ritual, it is not a celebration of Hallowe'en, it does not glom onto the trendy love of Dia de los Muertes. It is a ritual commemoration of the Recent Dead, the Beloved Long Dead and the Mighty Dead.

We set up a central altar, a candle-lighting station and a place to get more info on Mother Grove Goddess Temple and to leave your food donations for the food pantry. People are invited to place mementos on the altar and there is a place in the ritual where we speak the names of the dead that are closest to us.

I keep a Samhain list every year and I read that aloud, too.  There is a section of the ritual devoted to victims of religious persecution and a segment there on the European Inquisitions.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Honoring Our Ancestors

When we lived in Seattle, we hosted a Halloween/Samhain party each year for both pagans and non-pagans. We invited friends of all ages to join us for pumpkin soup, roasted turnips, hot cider, apple bobbing, and seed bread.  The children were gathered for trick-or-treating (real food before the candy), and after we returned and the kids compared (and sometimes traded) loot, we'd begin the real party, starting with the sliced apple to reveal the star, and tales about the history of Samhain.  At this point, non-pagan families who choose not to share in the divination, speaking with the dead, or honoring them, left.  The rest of us joined in quieter work.

Now that we live in a rural town, people are less inclined to make the long drive for a celebration, but there are some traditions we continue.  The kids still trick-or-treat in the neighborhood, and we still come home to do our good work for the holiday. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The thought of ancestor worship makes me flinch.  It is not that I do not respect my ancestors or think that they are not deserving of honor, because they do.  It is the phrase “worship” that gives me pause.  The only ones deserving of worship are the gods. 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Ancestor Worship & Dealing with the Dead

Ancestor worship has become a popular topic in the Pagan community, but it is worth noting that it is not universal, or necessarily normative. It can also lead to some problems. . .

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  • Neil Pitchford
    Neil Pitchford says #
    There is one aspect of ancestor interaction that you haven't raised here (possibly because you are not familiar with it) and that
  • Shodo Hathos
    Shodo Hathos says #
    When you have no ancestor practice or training in ancestor work to then give advice on ancestor practice seems presumptuous at bes
  • Phaedra Bonewits
    Phaedra Bonewits says #
    I think the custom of naming our spiritual and intellectual influences as "ancestors" is an artifact of not having ancestor revere
Tidying Up and Baking Cornbread for Themselves

Readying for Samhain is a long and delightful process around here. Last week, I tidied the Ancestor Altar at Mother Grove Goddess Temple and poured some wine into the silver chalice on the third shelf.  This morning--in spite of the distinct possibility that we have some temple mice--I added some bread to the little feast.

It's the alarm clock that we usually use to wake them up. That isn't necessary now--as I've written here before, the Veil is so thin these days as to be non-existent. It is a loving, albeit symbolic, gesture.

My home Ancestor altar stays up year-round, too.  I gave it a good cleaning just after Harvest Home and added some corn liquor, and a fresh piece of chocolate.  My morning meditations include a nod and a shout-out to my great-grandmother whose dinner bell sets there, near her daughter's (my grandmother's) clip-on sunglasses.  It brings them all so close, as the world and the days grow darker.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_ID-100112631.jpg

For me, Autumn is far less about the dying away, and far more about the stocking up. Granted, the leaves beyond my window are turning, shades of yellow and brown creeping in amongst the greens. It’s late this year, but then, so was the spring.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Face To Face with Neglected Ancestors

And they are kind of cranky.  Let me give you the backstory, if I may.

About once a month, a small group of us get together for some trance work.  Sometimes we hold trance postures, sometimes we dance.  We crank up the "tunes" and turn off the lights.  Some of us cover our eyes.  We have a separate room where we can sit it out for a bit--or write what's coming in for us.  Then we can choose to return or not.  When we are all in the separate room and sitting quietly for a bit, someone will ask if we've all returned and we do a self-check to make sure we're fully present.

Fairly standard for this sort of thing.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

I like to travel several paths. As a seeker, I know that I am not alone. I welcome you to this blog and invite you to journey with me. Our paths may be different—or maybe not. I can best introduce myself as a traveler. Although you and I may be different from each other, perhaps we travel the same road.

Curiously, I like to be in the borderlands. Between here and there. In such crossing spaces I feel both like an outsider and an insider—familiar, and yet, stranger. This duality has accompanied me all my life. At first, finding my way was difficult. When I was a child, I tried to believe what I was taught. However, my religious education fed my mind at the expense of my heart. I was thirsty for something that I did not know. It was not until I became a woman that I found myself. Spirituality, instead of religion, seemed to quench my yearning. My forebears’ teachings showed me the way. Mind, heart, and body connected when I remembered my ancestral knowledge. I am indebted to my ancestors’ exploration.

I come from a tribe of seekers who traveled with empty pockets. My ancestors journeyed with their hearts full of wonder and their souls deep with dreams. Throughout their travels, they incorporated diverse traditions into their beliefs. My forbears spiced up their life with a mix of Christianity, Native American (Taíno), Gypsy (Romany), and African (Yoruba) practices. Whenever I summon them, I try to reconcile multiple traditions by searching for their common elements.

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  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    An interesting thought, "a tribe of seekers who traveled with empty pockets." We could all stand to travel a little lighter... tha
  • Lillian Comas
    Lillian Comas says #
    Hi Hunter: Thanks for your comment. Yes, we could all stand to ravel a lighter lighter. Happy journeying.
Online Course: Getting Started in Ancestor Work

I thought some of you might be interested in this: 

Online Course - Ancestor Work 101: Getting Started

Instructor: Galina Krasskova, krasskova@gmail.com

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  • Christine L Berger
    Christine L Berger says #
    sounds great. Hopefully you will offer it again when I can afford it.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Another Ancestor Q&A

...When honoring the dead makes your skin crawl

 

"Every man is a quotion from all his ancestors." ----Ralph Waldo Emerson

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  • Virginia Carper
    Virginia Carper says #
    I agree. There are Ancestors who are willing to help you with the toxic ones. I had to go back a few generations to find Them. Onc

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
"Because There is No Veil..."

Several weeks ago, I was honored to help a team of folks create funerary rites for a recently-deceased member of our community. The primary facilitator lives several states away and we spoke over the phone a few days before he was scheduled to arrive for the memorial.

He and I are in different traditions and it was helpful to hear how they do things and to figure out the best way for me to contribute, to help. He told me early in the conversation that the intention for the ritual was to dance the deceased through the Veil--something that might be tricky so far from Samhain. It was to be a joyous celebration with song and poetry and drumming. I offered to help with the drumming (I play a big frame drum) and we chatted a bit longer about the general shape of the rite.

We seemed to be hitting it off so I also told him an observation from my little place in the big world--there hasn't been a Veil here in several years. I'm sure he didn't quite believe what I was saying--why should he? And it didn't have any import in the work we were to do together. Once he got here, though, I think he felt it--this wispy and threadbare barrier between us and our Ancestors.

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  • Tess Dawson
    Tess Dawson says #
    "But the Ancestors haven't been apart from us here in years. You have only to sit in a quiet place and you begin to hear their mur

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_stela1-100dpi.jpgThe ancient, sacred city of Abydos hosted an annual ritual drama about the mysteries of Osiris.  Along a processional way the festival crowd re-enacted the abduction and murder of Osiris by his brother Set, and inside the temples, priests conducted uber-holy rites away from the public eye.  Every good Egyptian hoped to go on pilgrimage to Abydos at least once in her life. Nearly as good was to have a tablet (called a stela, plural is stelae) set up on the processional route stating your name, titles, a statement of offering (and usually an offering picture) and a request for passers-by to stop and recite the offering prayer on behalf of the deceased.  Many thousands of stelae have been found in Abydos, which was also the burial site of predynastic and First and Second Dynasty kings. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_stela2.pngIn Abydos Osiris is most often known by the name of a jackal-headed god who came from that locale and eventually took on Asar’s identity, Khenti-amentu, “first of the Westerners.”  Any mention of the west was an oblique reference to having died (like the sun, which sets in the west).  Stelae like the ones at Abydos came to be used at lots of pilgrimage sites, as tomb markers (just like our modern tombstones), and even inside burial chambers.  The picture usually shows the deceased standing in front of an offering table piled with bread, beer, geese, the leg of a bull, alabaster and lengths of linen.  A typical inscription, known as an “offering formula” among Egyptologists, might say something like:

"An offering of thousands of bread, beer, meat, fowl, alabaster and lengths of linen, and all good, pure and beautiful things, which Pashed gives to the great god (neter aa) Khenti-amentu, first among those at Abdju, for the soul of Pashed."

b2ap3_thumbnail_stela4.jpgLast week I was worrying a little about how the whole world get to enjoy ancient Egyptian heritage because moderns have basically robbed thousands of graves.  Then I thought about how the Egyptians counted on their descendants and/or priests to perform rituals, “say the prayer,” for them in perpetuity.  Obviously, that system broke down in the same centuries that brought Christianity then Islam to Kemet.  And yet, here we are all these centuries later, reading and admiring the stelae, contemplating the original owner, pondering what his or her life was like.  If you are a student of hieroglyphs like me, you find yourself reciting the offering formulas over and over again in lessons.

To me, that is part of the power and mystery of hieroglyphs, that somehow they have emerged from a time almost before memory to continue to remember the ancestors and honor their wishes.  I wish I knew more about people like Pashed, but it’s clear that what he wanted most after his death was to be remembered as constant in his devotion to Osiris.  May I be at least in part as dutiful in my respect for those who came before me.

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Decoration Day-A May-time Dia de los Muertos

Earlier this month I was researching the meaning of May-talk about a magical month rife with folklore and folk magic traditions! I noticed and recollected that many of the themes of May deal with similar themes that we encounter during the opposite time of year-as the sun enters Scorpio and we head into the season of Samhain, All Saint’s Day, and Dia de los Muertos.

 

Fortunetelling and forecasting are performed at both points in the year, faeries and the Hidden Ones are believed to be more active as the veils between the world are especially thin, the changing (and changeable) seasons offer both blessings and risks for those intrepid enough to venture out into the green wood, stark desert, or city streets.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Memorare

I have a picture of my dad from the 1940s, looking pretty cocky. He went into the Army when he was 19 and they sent him to North Africa, Sicily and then into Italy. Somehow he also got to France, where he drank champagne for the first time.

So, I'm thinking of him on Memorial Day. And of my Gaga, my step-grandfather, who was gassed in France during WWI and never really recovered. And of my maternal grandfather Bill Boyd who was a sailor during WWI. I have a photo of my grandmother wearing his sailor suit after the war.

There's a Westmoreland Ancestor who may or may not have fought for the CSA and a Boyd Ancestor who definitely did.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thank you, Galina. And the same to yours. Blessings to you--both bright and shadowed.
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Beautiful, Byron. May all your ancestors be remembered, and your military dead honored on this day.

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