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"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.

As we approach Midsummer, there is a certain sadness for me this year.  We've had a long, cool, wet spring--and summer seems hardly to have arrived at Beltane. It was actually one of the coldest Beltanes I can remember. In our outdoor public ritual, we could almost see our collective breath. And the wind was so brisk and the general ambiance so wet that we didn't even install a Maypole.

The Year is at its strongest now, waxing to the heat and play of the Summer Solstice. And in years past, I would have been girding myself for the the onslaught of Ancestors and Kindred that always start making their way back home as the time of the Year's Long Dying commences.

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 murmurings, their insistence that we listen, and take heed. We joke that They are always stealing our cornbread and insisting we put pork fat in the freshly steamed green beans.

The cool nights are a blessing, of course. But they feel more like autumn that summer, and that feels peculiar, too. Still, we dance the ring and turn the Wheel. And when Midsummer comes, we will adorn our faces with swirls of blue and look for the faint lamps of the Ancestors as They move among us with no Veil to deter their wisdom, their complaining, their demands.


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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Tess Dawson
    Tess Dawson Friday, 07 June 2013

    "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 murmurings, their insistence that we listen, and take heed." ...So true, Byron.

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