Sacred Cells: Embodying the Feminine Divine

Every cell in our beautiful and amazing bodies contains the whirling wisdom of the universe. This is the journey of one witch remembering that, and celebrating the sacred and divine in beings of all genders and manifestations.

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A Thank You Letter to My Beloved Dead

Dear Beloved Dead,


Thank you. Thank you to those I already loved before you died.  Thank you to those who were still restless ghosts when we met.  Thank you to those who already happily danced in the halls of ancestors when you first visited me.  These past few years I’ve come to understand that you truly are all beloved to me. I claim you, I see you, I have come to treasure you all whether you are part of my DNA lines or whether you were family of choice for those whose blood shines through my body.


Of course it is easiest to love those of you I already loved in life.  Grandpa Ed, even though we weren’t related by blood, you were the most dear to me when I was a child.  It was hard to lose you when I was twelve, it was hard to grow into adulthood and realize there was so much I wanted to know about you, so much I didn’t even know to ask as a little girl resting in your unwavering love.  So thank you for being with me so tenderly before your death, but also thank you for continuing to be with me after your death, for visiting me in dreams and making your presence known in times of trouble.


Grandma Peggy, thank you for being the constant in my life.  Thank you for confiding in me the wounds and delights of your soul.  Thank you for sitting up late nights with me struggling with the big questions, the ones that seemed overwhelmingly urgent.  Thank you for counseling me through relationships (mine and yours). Thank you for letting me hold your hand and sing to you as you died after your almost one hundred years of life.  Thank you for the way your love of brilliant colors, toe tapping music, and flirtatious smiles, blossomed in me.


Grandpa Russell, thank you for long summer evenings on the porch listening to you spin tales - some possibly even true.  Thank you for being a scoundrel, albeit a harmless one by the time I came along.  Thank you for leading me to your beloved dead who dance with me in trances and dreams through pine trees and alpine lakes, over the mountains and riding the moon, all to the sound of a fiddle.


Grandma Winnie, thank you for holding hard secrets tight in life, and restlessly guarding them in your after life until I was old enough, wise enough, brave enough to meet your whole family of restless ghosts.  Thank you for being brave enough in death to do the hard work together with me so that you are no longer a restless ghost, but a strong ancestral ally.


Daddy, thank you for music.  Thank you for hours of guitar twangs and harmony sung, even when that seemed all we had in common.  Thank you for growing up and helping us find so much more common ground.  Thank you for your trickster nature and goofy grin and sharing with me the treasures you cherished, especially near the end.  Thank you for being smart enough to marry Ember and becoming the best version of yourself.  Thank you for waiting until I got there to breath your last breath. Thank you for staying so present with Ember and Katelyn and I, even though you didn’t believe in that afterlife “nonsense” (lol - surprise!).


Cousin Larry, thank you for being my twin.  Thank you for letters of encouragement back and forth.  Thank you for that wild trip to Mexico the night before your mother died.  Thank you for your sons who I love so very much.  Thank you for keeping us together.


Great-grandma Anna, thank you for being the first to show up during a Samhain ritual so many years ago.  Thank you for coming to me as your curious and bright thirteen year old self, before the pregnancy, before your mother sold your daughter, before the ongoing battles with your husband.  Thank you for smiling at me in that ritual and wanting to simply hold my hand and dance.  ‘Cuz you know I had a hard time loving you when you were alive, but thank you in death for charming me completely, for melting my skeptical heart.


Thank you to those of you I did not know in life but have met in this process of historical genealogical work, this process of inward spiritual discovery, this process of dancing with you in trance and ritual.  Thank you Great-grandma Josie for being so chatty once I found you.  Thank you for introducing me to your first husband Alex (I think I may be a little in love with him too), and your eleven children, and letting me cry with you over the tragic deaths of four of them, and the devastation of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire that destroyed your whole neighborhood and eventually resulted in your death.


Thank you Great-great-grandma Eliza Ann for the faerie portal etched in my collar bone, the one that gives me quicker passage to find you and all my beloved dead.  Thank you for the story of your birth on a Missouri River boat, and sharing the pain of your mother’s time in the asylum.


Thank you Beloved Dead for sharing all your grief and pain. I find myself moved with compassion for those of you who were traumatized by war and economic struggle, religious persecution, sexual oppression and violence, mental illness and substance abuse. I can not change the past, but thank you for teaching me to be gentle with myself and know that healing the pain of your legacy is part of my personal healing, and by doing that I can help you be healthy ancestors, not simply restless ghosts.   Thank you Beloved Dead for revealing your egregious acts which move me to be deeply troubled by how our lines participated in the death and dislocation of Native peoples across the North American continent, the enslavement and mistreatment of Africans and African-Americans particularly in the American South, the racism and violence against Chinese born laborers and their children in Northern California.  I can not change the past, but I can recognize and support the issues and rights of the descendants of the folk you harmed.  Healing those legacies is part of my larger civic responsibility. 


Beloved Dead, thank you for all the legacies you’ve passed to me, the work and the joy.  Thank you for continuing to show up and dance with me in trance, swirl with me in ritual, whisper to me in grocery store lines, laugh with me at the most deliciously inappropriate times, point me in the right direction to see the wonders of this world.  I am blessed because of you.




your grateful descendant


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Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.


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