This is MY season, the in between time that makes shivers and tests your wits, when you can dance with monsters and dress like ghouls and if people look twice it is to admire your costume, and if you’re not looking weird, people wonder what is wrong with you. I love it because it’s home to me — a celebration of graveyard love, freak glamour, and treats — the one week in the year everyone wants to meet a real Witch, get their fortune read, make me their friend and buy me a drink. But mostly it is a date I keep with my beloved dead friends and relatives. Yes. If I cannot be alone, sometimes those spirits push me with people that they wanted me with, and such a thing happened this Samhain, I had a spontaneous reunion with my brother and father — and they did not pick on or yell at me once! I did not call them, did no begging for them to pick me up. I had consigned myself to a lonely night, but Dad dragged me out, then he pulled Star out of his apartment, and soon it was a family affair! My tear-dampened heart dried up and got swallowed up by fire, turned pink and got all hot red like fallen in love, and excited as if going out on a date.
Even though it was not my choice to observe my new year and commune with the spirits at a local casino, I am a Witch and can make ritual and magic anywhere I am. I learned long ago that I need not even bring tools, set up an altar, or even recite fancy words to get my point across to the Gods. The point is to do something, show and live your respect, and the only way to do that is to create beauty from your heart and really put an individualistic touch to your magic. Well, at least that is how I roll.
Shine a Light, Any Light
Even though it was just a tiny tea light set in a lotus-shaped votive, and only used for ambiance during dinner at the casino restaurant, handled by many strangers and seemingly void of magic energy like a blade as dull as a fruit knife, it was a fire. I could not be home at midnight. Family came first this Samhain. I knew this was what my mother would have wanted, especially while I’m missing a friend. My Mom, if alive, and sitting across from me at that restaurant table, she’d force me to stop looking glum and go out to see a movie with my brother, or just do anything but not cry. She would sing “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…!”
So I shine a light, I hold the fire, any flame, and I look into it, and it is my doll-sized hearth fire, one I can hold in my hand. I can dance around it with my fingers and hum the songs all witches are singing all the world over this night and my heart cracks, snaps, flares up and roars like a match struck, and I’m lit up and glowing, snarling, rising up with trails of smoke. I’m not alone in the restaurant, but at that table, in my mind, I am anywhere in the world, even let myself feel as if in several places at once. My body is at the table waiting for her feast to come, yet my thoughts take different forms, like little ghosts of me in sparks, feeling like bits of me exploding in fireworks, the blood in my veins giggling with magic.
And no one notices. No one thinks I’m crazy or spooky. I’m just an ordinary woman sitting at a table. Everything is taking place in my mind. At home I would be at my altar, I would be dressed in a robe, all candles lit, and my place transformed into a temple.
A Witch’s Church is Anywhere
I can worship anywhere at any time, there is no space I cannot make sacred. I have the power to change the profane and ordinary into holy. This is why I do not need to make a permanent spiritual home, why witches and pagans can settle down and then take off for anywhere as they please. It is not because we are The Great Disorganized, it is because we have no need to make a building our singular place of power. That is why I can sit at that casino restaurant, look around and see past the trappings of commerce and notice beyond the surface images in the jazz age inspired decor symbols that comfort me, as if I were meditating at a temple.
And what spirits lurk here? Especially during All Hallow’s Eve when the time is ripe, the dead are most active, or so it’s said, and how can it be doubted when all of nature around us reminds us that winter will soon steal away the life from all we see? I don’t like to think of winter stealing anything but making the days shorter. I love the night, so I look forward to longer darkness, if only so I can have that hermit time to myself, when snowed-in days mean no-interruptions from neighbors and other outside world things.
The Fine Art of Talking to the Dead
People often ask a Witch about how to best go about getting messages from their dead loved ones, but what about talking to the dead? Does anyone consider the enormity of that? Unless you are someone who refuses to believe that the soul can linger after death and can have the willpower to manifest and/or communicate with us, it might not occur to you that communicating with the dead involves talking to them more than provoking them to speak to us.
Talking to the dead is not about getting them to talk back anyway, it’s about respect and honoring their memory. Even if you do not believe in ghosts, the ritual of visiting graves and paying tribute to the dead with celebration, ceremony, and other rites keeps the living ALIVE.
Talking to the dead is all about talking to ourselves, the parts of us that died when we forced to let go of someone we loved. During Samhain, as I gaze into the fire, whether I think it or say it aloud, I say sweet things to the dead, I tell them how life is, how much I miss them, how happy I am they are a part of me, that I am grateful I am alive because their lives gave me life, and how much I look forward to being with them some sweet day. To show I care, I set aside some food, something bio-degradable and edible for local animals (just in case a living creäture might get at the offering, because maybe a bird or squirrel will let your grandmother ride its body so she and it can enjoy the treat) that won’t also harm the environment (leaving a trail of Mountain Dew will dry up some plants due to its high sodium content).
One of the traditions I have adapted from my inter-tribal American Indian heritage is the practice of tying prayer bundles on tree branches, except the prayer is not only a prayer, but also offering and tribute all-in-one (which, now that I think of it, is exactly what prayer bundles are, really). I sometimes make them during Samhain, but do not make them bound by cloth, nor do I hang them from branches where people can find them easily. I place Kinnikinnick in small, rolled pieces of birch bark and tie them up along with dry pine cones filled with organic peanut butter and bird seed. These prayer offerings very quickly disappear.
Always remember the ghosts, because we may become them someday.
As much as I do not like to think I would willingly decide to keep myself haunting a single place for years and years, I would love my shade to appear in the nature reserve I love so much. What a legend I’d make! The Witch in the Woods all dressed in black wandering through the trees spooking the university students… um, I think I already do that and, yes, I’m still alive. *giggles*
All is a Journey, Therefore All Requires Journal Keeping
When I am finally alone, Samhain is all about Divination: The practice of communicating with the Divine (my idiom).
First I talk to the dead, then I talk to the Gods, then one or both of Them talk back to me, and sometimes They do not talk with words but with symbols, understanding those symbols requires Trance. I like to record the thoughts, visions, images, poetry, all that comes to mind in notes and drawings. My bedroom is a workshop for dreams.
Every Samhain I draw one card out of the 22 Major Arcana cards from the Tarot. This card will indicate my “fortune” for the upcoming year. Consider it a pre-2013 prediction. 2011 I pulled Justice, 2012 my card is The High Priestess, and 2013 will emerge… The Sun!
Outside of blogging, I do a lot of handwriting, in fact most of my writing is writing in notebooks and drawing in sketchbooks. I have many “secret” books of stuff, yet if I were to die tomorrow I do not believe my poor relatives and friends would make much sense out of any of it. Divination is very personal, and quite often I do not get premonitions of world events, only private events. This is year I thought I would try world predictions, but only one event happened that I foreseen and my imagination exaggerated it, perhaps because I may have been picking up on the anxiety behind the anticipation of it. It was about the solar flares and their effect on digital devices, but no major internet losses of data or massive power outages occured. However… now that I look at what has happened with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, I wonder if I was unclear and had seen something else.
Prediction is measured according to someone’s, or some thing’s, behavior, or what is likely to occur based on the previous actions and decisions a thing usually makes, and they can direct their fortune with their wits, but some things like forces of nature are complete chaos and can only be tracked as they happen. Having performed duties as an oracle for hire, and privately for close friends, I’ve learned that my specialty, even when I divine predictions for myself, are largely empathetic. Tarot is easiest because it is a tool that gives me a boundary. I can pick up information about people by handling items they have invested great emotional meaning into like jewelry or clothing, but it must be an organic thing, metal, wood, cotton, or silk, nothing synthetic, and yet… I can sit on a vinyl couch where someone just sat and pick up on their emotional crap, that is, if they are really emoting.
It is a crazy-frying-your-thoughts sort of thing, and writing about it eases that discomfort, helps distance myself from it all, and when I instead focus on myself, what I want, and what I feel, it keeps me together. Samhain is a super-charged time of spiritual activity because of its association with death and life, between two very drastic seasons. The time that falls into Winter is downright creepy, and Halloween is the much-needed “Christmas” of a darkening time when the cold-approaching makes people anticipate what the future holds. I wonder if the tradition of the casting of runes, bones, shells, and other divining tools started during times like this out of that sense of impending doom, when humans need to turn to the spirits and Gods the most for signs of hope?
But more than hope, truth. I don’t know about you, but it is the dose of truth I often seek. I want to know who is pulling the gears behind the curtain. I seek to know what is causing the problems I suffer from and how I can fix them. Perhaps knowing why can help me change a future I once thought fate and doom consigned me to. Maybe I should not give up on what I think maybe? So I shuffle the cards for myself and other people. We have ourselves a long look-see at all the alternatives, yet…
There are times when Spirits aren’t playing around, they won’t give excuses or alternative views, they know answers are asked, and the sugar-coating is only for the Trick-or-Treaters. I was always told that if you are going to give a powerful reading, best time is do it during the Hallow-In-Between time (again, my idiom) where the old Wiccan adage “during the season when the veil between worlds is thin” when Spirit and Physical shake hands for a short while. That creates a little bridge where you can take peeks into mystery and get some sense made out of life, or death (if the case may be).
And the Moon Shines like a Smile
The hours after midnight, between 3am and 4am is when the veil between the physical world and spiritual world is really the thinnest. This goes for any day, even beyond Samhain, yet especially on Samhain waiting through that night into wee morning is a vigil. I never sleep the night between Halloween and All Soul’s Day, I’m either celebrating with like-minded friends (not just the Witches) or at home alone singing and reading Tarot cards, and only sometimes I’m outside to drink in the smile of the moon…
A Witch is never alone during Samhain. Even if she’s surrounded by cowans (non-intiate) can still observe her favorite holy day and not be alone. All over the world there are Witches connected by their common bond of fidelity and love for their beloved dead, be they ancestors, spouses, lovers, family, children, or friends, we have this spiritual matrix, it is a fire in the blood, music in our souls, and even if no one else can hear it, it is the song that never ends.
I did give myself the chance this year to let the moon really shine down into me. I also directed Her light to cleanse my altar space and tools. I performed an uncrossing, re-activated so many things I left dormant out of everyday distraction, and got rid of the clutter that prevented me from saving enough room to invite the love I felt lacking. The “universe” even helped getting rid of a manipulative gossip monger in my life, too, and re-connected me to two old friends I lost contact with! How about that?