As we step into the darker months of the year, I thought it would be fitting to write something relevant to the season. Although, it bothers me to no end how most modern Pagans and Witches only tend to focus on their ancestors and the dead during the Samhain season, I still thought it was a perfect time, especially after some recent events that unfolded at my home.
Since humans have walked this earth we have always had a sacred relationship with our dead. Whether it is because of our belief, fear, or need in the continued existence of the soul or the knowledge that they can and do influence our lives. Despite working with them or not our ancestors are our strongest allies, teachers, and guides. They are our link to the mysteries of the underworld, the land, and even sometimes the gods. Through ceremony, devotion and offerings, we call them back to being part of our lives and brings us back to our true nature. Unfortunately, modern society has put our ancestors on the back burner of tradition. Our dead are pushed aside for our own satisfaction. You die, your disposed of, and then left to a memory. We do this because of the selfish healing thought of out of sight, out of mind. Sadly, this way of thinking can even be found in the modern magickal traditions. Whereas, the only time the dead are honored are during the Samhain season. Although, over the last few years I have seen a larger focus of the dead in new writings and books this once a year reverence of dead is still very common. I wonder how many keep it as a part of their regular practice. With the exception of Hoodoo, Vodou, Santeria, Palo, and other indigenous and cultural traditions where the practice remains strong and the ancestors are regularly honored and called upon throughout the year. One other thing that I often see among modern practices is that the only ancestors given respect are the ones of blood. The ones found in your family tree are not the only ones we should be honoring and working with. The benefits of looking past our selfish lives are immeasurable.
Upon moving into my new house, I not only called to my blood ancestors to be reawakened to the house, but I also called and honored to dead of the land. Asking for protection and acceptance and in return I would honor them and honor their land. I wanted to let them know that they have not been forgotten and that we can coexist on the same land without harm or disrespect. Living in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania would mean that the majority of spirits and ancestors of the land are primarily of the indigenous American tribe of the Leni-Lenape. Now, because I have not traveled far from my first landing in Pennsylvania, I already was accustomed to their culture and ways and understand their needs. In fact, I have been working with these tribal spirits for years. However, it is more about honoring those spirits who reside on the property itself rather than the area of residence. When honoring and petitioning those ancestors of another culture and/or tradition, it is best practice to do so in ways they are accustomed to. You would not want to leave an offering of your family’s recipe for baked ziti, especially at first. Take the time to learn and understand their way of life. This act also shows respect.
On the night of the most recent dark moon I set out to not only honor and awaken Hekate to the land, but more importantly the ancestors of the land. I started by collecting all the necessary items I needed for the ceremony, including offerings of tobacco and corn. With everything in hand, I proceeded outside and of course it started to rain once again. However, I wasn’t going to let that stop what needed to be done, despite what rain can do to my rattle and drum. As I walked around beating the drum I could feel them awaking with signs of curiosity. It wasn’t until I gave my offerings that I felt them ease off. After I was done, I sat down to ground and compose myself after the ceremony. This is when I began to see the spirits in full glory walking the property. A sign that I did well with my goal. Fast forward a few days later, I had a housewarming/birthday party planned, which by the end of the night had turned into a spirit fest. Although, this is nothing new when I get together with my spiritual family. However, this time it had tuned into more than just doing some spiritual work with friends. Due to the circumstances and people involved I will not discuss what transpired that night. One thing that I will tell you is about a dream I had after everyone had left. Before falling asleep, I started thinking of one of the gifts my friend had given me and how perfectly it fit into my plans for my bedroom. I was given a carved bear head for my wall. Which coincided with my idea to represent each directional animal on all four walls. At some point I fell asleep thinking of the north wall and having a buffalo skull there. In my dream the skull kept changing to a deer skull. Moving onto the next morning I woke up feeling like I was hit by a spiritual truck and had no plans to do any kind of magickal workings. However, the ancestors had other plans for me. As I was trying to relax, in walked my roommate’s son and asked me why there was a deer skull in the yard. What the hell was he talking about? So, I got up to entertain his antics and low and behold, there was not only a deer skull but its lower jaws as well. It was in the middle of the yard where we had been removing an old fence and had just mowed for the party. We would have seen this; how did it get there? First logical thought was someone from last night placed it there for fun. Upon inspection, I could see that it wasn’t just sitting there, it was partially embedded in the ground. I knew that it had something to do with what had happened the night before, but just didn’t know what. Was it a gift or a warning? I will be honest with you, I did panic a little bit. Even after all the weird and unbelievable things that I’ve seen and experienced over the years, I am still sometimes amazed and taken back. After freaking out and discussing the findings with a person who was involved with the nights previous events, I set out to connect to find the answers. Turns out it was a gift from the ancestors of the land. What a better gift to give a Witch on his birthday, than a skull. I also knew that this was not just an act of kindness from the spirits, but an acknowledgement of my working with them.
The results of working with the ancestors are not always what is expected, but something you can always count on is that as long as you honor them regularly they will be present in your life. It brings a type of wholeness and balance to everyday life that may not be present without that extra guiding hand. Working with them is like working with your own personal army. If you enter a regular practice you can always count on that army for protection, love, and the occasional odd happenings that can blow your mind. As my close friend would say “You can’t make this shit up”.