Thursday is the holiday of Thanksgiving where I live in the U.S. As these things go, it’s a relatively modern one, instituted in the nineteenth century to help bring the nation back together after the Civil War (and please, let’s set aside the horrid historical revisionism about the Pilgrims and the native North American nations for the moment – I’m aware that many people choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving because of this issue). But the concepts on which Thanksgiving is founded are ancient. Essentially, it is the American harvest festival. And some of us find sacredness in that fact.
Across the world and throughout time, virtually every agrarian society instituted some sort of religious festival to celebrate the completion of the harvest. In many cases, these celebrations included the honoring of the Ancestors, both those recently deceased and those long gone. The Minoans were no different from any other ancient culture in this regard.
The Kalasha are the last remaining pagans of the Hindu Kush. Numbering about 4000, in three adjoining valleys in northwest Pakistan, they are known for their proud polytheism, the freedom (and beauty) of their women, and their wine-drinking.
Among the Kalasha, November is the month of the ancestors, and it is customary to remember them—for “the spirits of the dead are pleased when their names are remembered”—by recounting tales of their deeds.
In Kalasha society, it is impingent upon the wealthy to throw elaborate feasts for as many people as possible; only by sharing their wealth with the rest of the community do they gain prestige. Their Muslim neighbors laugh at them for their lavish, spendthrift ways, but this is indeed the way of the pagan ancestors: from those who have much, much is expected.
Holidays are not my thing. If you come to my house, you won’t see cute fall leaves (unless they are on the ground) or other holiday decorations. It has never been my thing. It seems like a lot of effort for little meaning or return.
Halloween has a lot of mischief, candy, horror movies, and bad images for witches.Even as a child I didn’t like this holiday.As an adult and a Pagan, I’ve found other ways to honor the season.
The Mighty Dead - It's a pretty epic sounding title. It sounds like a summer blockbuster movie to me, but really, who are the Mighty Dead? Well, it depends a little on who you ask but the most common answer to that question goes something like "those in the Craft that have gone before us, whose shoulders we stand on, those nameless persecuted witches, the founders of traditions, Pagan Activists..." etc, etc.
I like that as a definition. It serves well. I also like the slightly less grand version of the Mighty Dead - Those that I've known personally that have deeply affected my view of the Craft. And with that, here's my tribute to the person that always comes to mind when I hear the phrase "The Mighty Dead"
Yesterday, my friend Erick DuPree posted a very thoughtful piece on embracing the secular Halloween and avoiding the ancestor reverence that is so important to many pagans and witches this time of year. In a very touching way, Erick discussed his troubled history with his father and his wish to separate himself from the misogyny and racism that permeates his family line. That same misogyny and racism is likely to pollute the family line of every person of European descent, including myself, so that is a decision I can fully understand.
Yet, I feel like there are still reasons to do ancestor work. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve never been very good at ancestor work. I have an ancestor altar at which I pay my respects daily, but I don’t do nearly as much work contacting my family on the other side as many other witches do. I’m just processing my own thoughts as a person who (I think) shares a similar family history and was touched by Erick’s comments.
In today's PaganNewsBeagle, we have our Watery Wednesday community news. A watery festival in New Orleans; Paganism and depression; Jewitch ancestors; remembering Margot Adler; a new CSI episode features Wicca.
In today's faithful Friday post, we are concentrating on the upcoming season of Samhain -- high holy days for Wicca- and Wiccan-influenced Pagans. In today's Beagle, we highlight posts from outside our PaganSquare channel -- watch for our PaganSquare Samhain special edition next week, where we will highlight the Samhain posts of our in-house writers.