At the Crossroads: Anyone Bring a Flashlight?

A day in the life of one witch’s attempts at community organizing, group leadership, public Paganism, and joyous shenanigans. Balancing inner work with external obligations, a professional career with public Paganism, and a full social calendar with gratuitous amounts of sleep.

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What is Remembered

“What is remembered lives,” the old Civil War captain said solemnly.  He clutched his gray hat in his weathered old hands. 

“What is remembered lives!” shouted his comrades – more civil war soldiers (both Union and Confederacy), Regulators, fighters from the American Revolution, escaped slaves, freed men and women, Red Coats who loved the king, and Victorian ladies with big hats and tight bodices.  Those of us among the living shifted on our feet.  We were a bit tired from walking, but warmed by hot cider and laughter and stories.  Around all of us, both the living and the dead, danced and chanted little white ghosts.  Their faces were painted white and their costumes were generously sprinkled with shimmering glitter.

“What is remembered lives!  What is remembered lives!  What is remembered lives!”

Oh, what a night it was - a beautiful October night!  If you read my previous post, you’ll know about my deep and endless love for this time of year.  October, Samhain, Halloween – this season has many names and many observances.  In some Celtic traditions it is the end of one year and the beginning of another.  It is the season of the Wild Hunt.  It is the time of the Blood Moon, and of the last harvest.  It is the end of summer and the beginning of winter.  It is when we let go of old things to make room for the new.  It is a time to engage in divination as the veils between the worlds grow ever thinner.  And, for some, it is a time for parties and families and decorations and candies and costumes.

It is easy to get caught up in the festivities of the season, but it is important to remember another aspect of this time of the thin veil.  October is a time to remember our Blessed and Beloved Dead.  Among all of the things that this turn of the Wheel of the Year has to offer, we honor our ancestors of blood, heart, land, mind, and spirit. 

It is easy to recall with fondness (or perhaps even trepidation) those in our families who have passed.  Our family trees are all full of parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and other family members who we knew in life but who are no longer with us, or even those who we never had the honor of meeting but live on in stories and memories.  These are our Ancestors of Blood.

But our ancestors just aren’t those of our immediate family lines.  They are those who raised us who might not be of blood relation.  A goofy “uncle”, a caring “auntie”, a kind lady next door or someone you remember from the community.  And they aren’t just people who we knew personally, but could be others we heard stories about – Great Grandpa’s best friend who was a bootlegger, your mother’s peer from middle school who died far too young, your cousin’s in-laws who helped raise someone else’s children.  These Ancestors of Spirit have family trees that grew close to our own, the fallen fruit fertilizing shared soils.

Perhaps our ancestors aren’t even connected to our families at all, but to our cities or cultures.  Maybe you can think of a founder of a local hospital or school, someone whose name is all around town on civic buildings, murals, roads, and boulevards.  They are those residents unnamed who worked the land and who lived, loved, bled, and died on this soil.  They are those who owned your house before you did, you lived on that land before you, drank that water, and breathed that air.  These are our Civic Ancestors, or our Ancestors of Place. 

We also evoke those who came before us whose memories are legendary, or perhaps just inspiriting.  These are the folks we learn about in school, read about in history books – those who were great leaders, heroes, inventors, or great thinkers.  They might be people who founded nations or movements, or those who created artwork that touched you deeply, changed you fundamentally.  This time of year we also honor our Ancestors of Spirit, our Ancestors of Mind or Intellect.

Whatever you call them, however you name them, we all have a long line of Blessed Dead extending behind us.  They literally created who we are – mind, body, spirit, town, home country.  Maybe we know their names, or maybe we only know their stories.

But never forget, because that which is remembered lives.

There are no limits to the ways that we can honor our Blessed and Beloved Dead.  People build altars, tell stories, give offerings, host Dumb Suppers, create pieces of artwork, and so much more.  The Halloween season is a great time of year to think outside of the norm, to push boundaries, to try something new, and to really reach out and explore those who are near to us at this time.

Last year I went to a haunted history tour at a small village not far from where I live.  I had been to this town plenty of times, but never really paid much attention to its history or details.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I had vague notions of it being a Civil War town, and probably a colonial town, too.  But that’s all I really knew of this place.  (And these details are not too rare or unique, given where I live.) 

I love-love-love-love haunted houses, and I adore stories, so I met some Pagan friends for a two-hour long haunted history tour through this little historical downtown in the American south.  We were greeted with cute costumes, fun props, Halloween candy, and the dredges of hot cider.  When the clock struck, we were gathered into a little group to begin the tour.

The guides, part of a local reenactment/historical preservation society, walked us through the history of the town.  We walked past or through historical buildings and landmarks, and each stop on the tour told a story.  We learned about the men and women who lived in this town; how they died in this town, allegedly haunt this town, and how their lives and deaths affected the land.  The stories started from when this land was barely a trading post (wrestled away from Natives who had also lived and traded in the elbow of a small river), to when it was a bustling little colonial village, and up past the American Revolution.  We traveled through to tobacco plantations, the Civil War, reconstruction, the turn from one century to another, and all the way up to contemporary hauntings and legends.  Each point in history came with a name – an important historical figure to region, or maybe just the first name of a settler woman or a highway man - all long gone but not at all forgotten. 

It was such an honor to learn so many names and stories.  These were Civic Ancestors of colonial times, the Civil War, of the two World Wars, and more.  These were Ancestors of Land who worked this earth.  These were our Local Ancestors.  They aren’t just names from a history book, but Ancestors of Blood to people who have family members who are still living and dying on this land and have been doing so for over three hundred years.

Because of this haunted history tour I grew a much deeper appreciation for my Ancestors of civics, land, and spirit.  The actors brought these names to life, but it was in a much bigger way than just costumes and goofy scripts.  It was as if these spirits actually descended upon the town for two short, haunted hours.  They slipped eagerly through the veil to tell us “remember me!  You are here now, but I am here, too.  And now we are here in this place and this time together!” 

Making contact with these spirits deepened the ancestor work in my private spiritual practice in a big, big way.  It added depth and context that had previously been lacking, and I feel even more connected to my home.  I’m a transplant to this region, but I very much feel like I am part of this space and welcomed here by the spirits and ancestors. 

For those who are interested in their Blessed Dead, I’d encourage you to check out your local historical preservation societies, historical landmarks, or even theater companies.  Find a local history tour; haunted or otherwise (some places host tours during the winter holidays, too).  Take a romp through history and through your town.  Enjoy hot cider and Halloween and a beautiful October night.  Learn some names and stories.  Identify the folklore of your location and of your home.

The haunted history tour ended in a beautiful and mist-filled historical graveyard.  All of us, the actors and the audience, chanted the names of local ghosts.  We summoned them to us so we might remember their stories.  Surrounded by our Blessed Dead, soldiers and mothers and business men and farmers and doctors and highway men, we recited together “What is remembered lives!”  At the end of the night we dismissed the ancestors and thanked them for their presence with us for the evening, allowing them to return to wherever it is they came from.  But this season, I remember, and I hope you do, too.

“What is remembered lives!”


(While you are here, please be sure to check out my love letter to October.  Leave a comment, too.  I'd love to hear about why this season is your favorite, too!)

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Trivia is a social worker, freelance writer, minister, and priestess. She loves to have a good adventure. Follow her exploits on Twitter ( and on Tumblr (!
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