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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in the dead

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.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Tending the Tales of Grief

Every so often, I offer a workshop or discussion on Ancestor veneration. I hadn't done one in several years, but felt the urge to do it this year.  Last night was the chosen evening and we drew in together at Mother Grove's little chapel to talk about the Dead and our Dead.

It was informal--more of a conversation than a class.  I started out with some general information about honoring our Beloved Dead through altars or memorial displays. We went on to discuss the layers of the Dead that we may choose to honor--family and friends who have died,  all those folks we find on Ancestrydotcom and those intentionally selected heroes and inspirations who have no blood or cultural tie to us but who have inspired us through their story.

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  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Beautiful words.

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
  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster says #
    I think the problem lies in when we do a thing only because those before us have done that thing. Perhaps that is a hook for some,
  • Elizabeth Creely
    Elizabeth Creely says #
    One more thing...what is the title of the picture accompanying the article and who is the artist?

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
"Summer is over"

"Summer is over," Odin said to me, a couple of weeks back.  I think it may have been on one of the 95+ degree days of our recent heat wave.

I blinked at Him.

He repeated it: "As I said, summer is over.  The Hunt is on the move."

"Well, They should fix the weather, then," I quipped.

"Oh, They are working on it," He assured me.

I tried to laugh this off, or blame it on a moment of poor signal clarity, but that very same day, or the next, when I repeated His words to a dear friend, she offered that the leaves on her dogwood tree were changing color and that He had called her attention to that.  We both agreed we could hear hoof beats in the still, heavy summer air: the Host is gearing up earlier than usual this year. 

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  • aought
    aought says #
    My Forsythia bloomed twice last year, and twice again this year. Not the usual course of events. A year ago when I was hiking in t
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    And then there's this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/alaska-summer-weather-2013_n_3495850.html
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    And saw this today as well. Thought it was interesting, given your post: http://www.climatedepot.com/2013/08/03/unprecedented-jul
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    That squares with my experience as well. Not specifically about summer being over, but about something very odd and very portentou

My mind shifts at this time of year from the thick-blooded heat and lethargy of summer into a fervor of magical practice. In my part of the United States, we tend to have lingering heat even into October and November, but it is tempered by the crispness of evening air. When the darker days come, I feel energized, renewed, and eager to work magic and tap into the current of enchantment which emerges when summer has been left behind. And while the greenery of the floral world retreats, a different kind of stirring seems to happen below the soil. The Dead are waking up.

It seems everyone has a festival of the dead in autumn. Of course, Halloween is probably the dominant cultural paradigm for those of us living in the United States and Canada, but Hispanic folks have Dia de (los) Muertos, people of Asian ancestry have holidays like the Ghost Festival or the Chung Yeung Festival, and Catholics have All Souls’ Day. While some cultures do not seat their ancestral reverences in autumn, so many do that working with the dead during the cooling months comes naturally to a lot of folks, myself included.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
And so it begins

I've written before here about how, in our household, Samhain starts early.  For us it begins at the end of September, during the week when we've repeatedly lost beloved pets and on the day when, two years ago, I pledged my service to the Wild Hunt.  This year, that day was marked with an inadvertent bloodletting when the Hunt, not satisfied with the efforts I had made thus far on their behalf, aided me in slicing open the knuckle of my right index finger almost to the bone with a pair of sewing shears.  (Followed, of course, with a expensive trip to the emergency room and several weeks of limited ability to do anything--including typing and crafting--with that hand.  The Hunt does not play.)  

It continued the following week when I made a trip to one of the city's oldest cemeteries (and bear in mind that here on the west coast, "oldest" means the 1800s, and the most ancient looking monuments, crumbling with apparent age, are not truly ancient at all but merely rain-damaged).  I brought with me home-brewed mead and bone meal, to feed the dead, and locally harvested apples for Sleipnir, Odin's giant eight-legged steed.  (Eight legs, by the way; have you ever thought about that?  Why does He--the horse, that is--have eight legs?  Spiders have eight legs.  So does a casket, when borne aloft by four mourners.  Sleipnir is, indisputably, a horse of death, a steed to carry one to the land of the dead--which, throughout the Norse myths, is exactly what He does.)  I discovered an area devoted to the Civil War dead, which startled me because it seemed the wrong coast for that, but the monument statue of a soldier in uniform and the plots of the military dead exuded an aura of welcome for me, a kinship with the "once human" contingent of the Hunt, with Odin's fallen heroes.  Here was succor and support, and so it was here that I marked the stones with my blood, freshly drawn from my finger (not the one with stitches!) using a lancet.  (The dead were especially interested in and enthusiastic about the mead, by the way!)

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  • Jolene
    Jolene says #
    Another excellent post! I'm looking forward to both our celebrations, and I'm thinking that splitting them up as we have this year
  • Soli
    Soli says #
    I found a small pomegranate at the store this weekend and bought it, so I should do something. Just no idea what. Some of it is be

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
"Death came suddenly and it was mercilessly painful. You are aware you have passed: you can hear the keening of the women in your family, taste the metal of the oboloi in your mouth. You are no longer cold, or hot, and there is no pain. Sensation is for the living, and your memories start to fade already. You are no longer part of the living. You are dead, and your guide is waiting for you. 
 
Hermes Psychopompos, the winged guide of the newly dead, descends and takes your hand. Below you is the ocean: Oceanos' divine body. You used to watch it glisten in Helios' bright rays, but today, everything is dull and lifeless. You are speeding west, guided by the blessed Immortal. Below you, you can see land again and a mighty river. The land draws you down, and you stand on the ground without feeling it. It is here that Hermes Psychopompos leaves you, in the capable hands of Kharon, on the bank of the river Acheron. 
 
The ferryman looks old and ageless at the same time. He holds out his hand, but you can't understand what he wants from you. Then, his hand closes around a coin, and he steps aside to let you into his boat. Without moving, you are suddenly on the boat, looking to the shore where shadowy figures of the dead gather, longing to make the journey with you. But they have no coin to hand over, and are forced to wander the bank of the Kokytos river year after year, until the ferryman takes pity on them. Today is not their day.
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