October 30, 2021
The pumpkin and turnip lanterns stand guard around our Council Hall. Carved by many children and adults of the village, this past week we’ve been preparing for our annual ceremony of remembrance. Tomorrow night, once again, our community will gather together for our Samhain Ritual and Ancestor Feast. We gather to sweep out the Old Year and light the spark of the New, to step into the Dark of the year together. As the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, we invite our ancestors and beloved dead to join in our feast, to sit at the table with us as we remember them as best we can.
The Ancestor Altar, awaiting more pictures and mementos of our beloved dead
We gather in meditation, all bringing pictures and mementos of our ancestors and beloved dead to place on the Ancestor Altar. We bring a dish to share from our ancestry or something loved by someone we loved who has passed on. We bring stories- stories of our beloved dead, of our ancestors, of those who came before. We walk the circle, we sweep out the past year and light a candle for the new. We place our candles on the Ancestor Altar in Their name and sit around the altar in silence, listening. We invite Them to sit with us at the table. We place chairs at the table, awaiting those who might visit us this night. We serve Them food and drink. We tell Their stories. We remember our beloved dead- those who have passed recently, and those who have been gone a long time; those we knew and loved in this life, and those who came so long before us we only know stories passed on. We speak Their names out loud. We toast Them. We all repeat Their name. We re-member You!
This ceremony, this sacred gathering, has become an important part of the yearly cycle in my community. Every year we gather, and every year we remember. Every year, we build an altar with pictures, with marigolds, with candles. Every year we cry and we laugh. There is no space in our modern world for remembering. Remembering those who came before us is important to being human. As humans, we long to express our remembrance, to connect with those whom we knew and loved and lost, to connect with those who walked the land we walk, to connect with those whose blood runs in our veins. Our ancestors are waiting to be remembered. They are waiting to do the work that ancestors do. We must remember them.
Make space in your life to remember. This is a great time of year, but it can be done anytime. Make an altar of pictures. (If you’re making an ancestor altar, only include pictures of those who have passed.) Serve food to your beloveds and leave it outside for them. Talk to your grandma to learn stories of other relatives who have passed, learn stories of your family, learn stories of the place you live. Tell those stories. Tell them over and over. Say their names. They are hungry to be remembered.
Many cultures and traditions all over the world honor the dead at this time of year. The world dies back, the green turns to brown, the plants wither, and our minds turn to death. In this liminal time, the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and our beloved dead can find their way back to visit. Listen for Them. They are hungry to be remembered.
We remember You!