Tag Archives: Samhein

Bonus Song for Samhein — Our Souls Are Bound to Older Ground

I was born in the state where my mother was raised
With the children of soldiers, the children of slaves
And it’s too much to take, the mind how it breaks
The lessons, the stories, the shame, and the glories, and all.

They linger ’round
Foxes and hounds
Our souls are bound
To older ground.

Fell in love with a girl who’s found love before
In the hands and the hearts of the people she wore
She’s all that I see, but there’s things in between
The fractures and fissures of all of the pictures we leave.

They linger ’round
Foxes and hounds
They’re with me now
Can’t lay them down.

And I feel it all around, I’m surrounded
And I feel it all around, I’m surrounded
And I feel it all around, I’m surrounded by ghosts.

So we keep them at home, the secrets and bones
The voices we hear so we’re never alone
They tease and they taunt, comfort and haunt
My mother and father and so many I’ll never know.

They linger ’round
Foxes and hounds
My hands are bound.

And I feel it all around, I’m surrounded
And I feel it all around, I’m surrounded
And I feel it all around, I’m surrounded by ghosts.

Wednesday Evening Poetry Blogging: Samhein Edition



~ Annie Finch
(The Celtic Halloween)
In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
“Carry me.” She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

Published in Eve

Picture found here.

Difficult Ancestors: Difficult Decisions


This time of year, we Pagans focus a lot on our ancestors. And the message that can come through sometimes is that all of our ancestors are “our beloved dead,” or “the mighty dead,” or people to whom we owe reverence, blots, attention.

As someone who came from a dysfunctional family, I’ve always found this emphasis on ancestors to be a double-edged sword. I appreciate the sense of continuity, but I don’t necessarily welcome the family members who slip through the thin veils and begin to inhabit my dreams at this time of year. I don’t make an altar with pictures of family members because I don’t want to spend time sitting there, staring at the faces of people who harmed me, or the ones who harmed them, thus making them more likely to harm me.

One way that I’ve dealt with this dissonance between the emphasis of the season and my own experience is to expand my definition of “ancestors.” Thus, I’ll claim Dorothy Parker as the older sister or wonderful aunt that I never had, Oscar Wild as the great-grandfather of my ascendent Gemini, and an ancient cave mother that I met in trance as the great ancestress of my blood. I’ve been in rituals where everyone named their ancestors back as far as they knew them and, in those cases, I’ve simply said that I am Hecate, daughter of the Great Mother Goddess. And that works, to some extent, but there’s always a tendency around Samhein to focus on what went wrong.

So I was fascinated to read this article that provides support for people who decide to cut off relations with abusive relatives and cuts through a lot of the “guilting” that well-meaning friends and family can provide.

Loved ones and friends—sometimes even therapists—who urge reconnecting with a parent often speak as if forgiveness will be a psychic aloe vera, a balm that will heal the wounds of the past. They warn of the guilt that will dog the victim if the perpetrator dies estranged. What these people fail to take into account is the potential psychological cost of reconnecting, of dredging up painful memories and reviving destructive pattern

I reached a point, when I was well into my adulthood, when I realized that, in order to heal myself and have a happy, productive life, I was going to have to cut off relations with my parents and siblings. I left a door open, although I always knew it was one that they were unlikely to use. I said that if they were willing to go to counseling with me and actually discuss the problems head-on, I’d meet them at the counselor’s office. As with many dysfunctional families, where what’s wrong must never be named or discussed, that was the last thing they were willing to do.

And, so both of my parents died estranged from me and I remain estranged from my siblings. I don’t regret that decision. (I regret that I didn’t have a loving family. I regret that my family couldn’t be proud of my accomplishments and enjoy my success. I miss having had, for example, the kind of mom I could have taken to visit Sweden someday or the kind of dad who would have enjoyed reading my briefs. But I don’t regret having cut off relations with the actual family that I actually had that was actually undermining my success and actually making me miserable.)

Near the end of my father’s life, another relative took me to dinner and begged me to just accept that I was going to have to be the one to apologize and “give in” so that I could make peace with my father before he died. I love that relative and I know that he meant well, but my answer was, “no.” I owed myself more than that. And I don’t regret that decision.

I think people often speak of “forgiveness” when what they really mean is “reaching some inner peace with the situation,” or “realizing that the abuser was also abused,” or “doing shadow work.” Or, worse, “just pretend that nothing happened,” which, in my family, was the exact practice that allowed the abuse to go on the next time, and time after that, and . . . .

To me, none of those things mean “forgiveness.” I don’t forgive the harm that was done to me. I have worked through my shadows enough and gained enough experience to no longer be terribly angry or hurt and to realize what may, in part, have caused my parents to behave as they did. But I don’t forgive it. Most of it was unforgiveable, especially when done to a child.

The article notes that:

In a 2008 essay in the journal In Character, history professor Wilfred McClay writes that as a society we have twisted the meaning of forgiveness into a therapeutic act for the victim: “[F]orgiveness is in danger of being debased into a kind of cheap grace, a waiving of standards of justice without which such transactions have no meaning.” Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School writes that, “There is a watered-down but widespread form of ‘forgiveness’ best tagged preemptory or exculpatory forgiveness. That is, without any indication of regret or remorse from perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes, we are enjoined by many not to harden our hearts but rather to ‘forgive.’ ”

I agree with these more bracing views about what forgiveness should entail. Choosing not to forgive does not doom someone to being mired in the past forever. Accepting what happened and moving on is a good general principle. But it can be comforting for those being browbeaten to absolve their parents to recognize that forgiveness works best as a mutual endeavor. After all, many adult children of abusers have never heard a word of regret from their parent or parents. People who have the capacity to ruthlessly maltreat their children tend toward self-justification, not shame.

In the end, it wasn’t my job to “forgive” my parents or to, as my relative urged, “swallow my pride” and “make things better” with my father. It’s my job to be a good mother, mother-in-law, Nonna; to try to make sure to pass down as little of the dysfunction as I can do and to, instead, pass down health. It’s my job to make myself happy, to build a good life for myself where I feel loved and do work that fulfills me. It’s my job to care for the planet and, especially, my own landbase and Bit of Earth.

And, so, here, just before Samhein, I hope that your memories of your ancestors are happy and healthy. And, if they’re not, I hope that you can — in whatever way works for you — find a way to move on and do your jobs and that the linked article will be as helpful to you, at this time of year, as it is to me.

Picture found here.

Tuesday Poetry Blogging — Samhein’s Coming Edition


All Hallows Night

~ Lizette Woodworth Reese

Two things I did on Hallows Night:—
Made my house April-clear;
Left open wide my door
To the ghosts of the year.

Then one came in. Across the room
It stood up long and fair—
The ghost that was myself—
And gave me stare for stare.

Picture found here.

Music of the Season

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

This time of year, my thoughts turn to the safety (and mirth) found under the hills, inside the lodge, alongside my neighbors.




Reading Tarot for America

The Moon

In this short period of time on the Wheel of the Year when we move into darkness, between Samhein and Yule, it’s customary for Witches to move inward, engage in introspection, do all of those things that this INTJ loves with all of her heart. I firmly believe that in a culture based upon patriarchy, on a maniacal emphasis on continued bodily existence, rather than death, mind, rather than body, words, rather than feelings, and logic, rather than gnosis, everything and anything that we can do to move away from partiarchy, to move into the dark, the body, feelings, and gnosis is a deeply political act.

Joanna Colbert, the artist behind the Gaian Tarot, has created a Tarot spread that is, I believe, a powerful tool for this sort of political action. I thought that, here on the day after an historic election, I’d do this Tarot working for America, for Columbia’s country.

1. Offering: What or who is dead or dying, that you need to honor?

Six of Air. “You are gaining clarity by spending time with others of like mind.”

2. Challenge: What task does the Elder of Fire ask of you?

Ace of Water. “It’s time to follow your heart’s desire, instincts, and intuition.”

3. Center: Where do you find your center of power?

Nine of Earth. “You’re enjoying a time of accomplishment and comfort.”

4. Opening: What new sweetness is wafting in on the scent of burning herbs?

The Moon. “Learning to trust one’s intuition.”

5. Wisdom: What secrets do the ancestors whisper to you during this season of All Hallows?

Ten of Fire. “Does it feel like your dreams have gone up in smoke? Are you overwhelmed or burdened by loss?” Remember that new seedlings grow and flourish in the ashes of a spent fire.”

Let’s spend some time together seeing if we can piece together what that means for America. Can you do this Tarot spread for yourself? Post the results in comments and let’s all apply our collective intuition to those readings.

Picture found here.

Monday Potpourri

* One of the things that I’ve noticed is that when you do magic at the home of an experienced Witch, especially if she has lived at her current address for a while, she’s quite likely to invoke her building — the physical structure of her home — often during Grounding, but sometimes when invoking Earth or one of the other Elements. It’s a bit of a step beyond just being in relationship with your landbase — more like being aware of the building’s presence on the astral plane, and its life and awareness here in the manifest world. Have you ever noticed this? Is your house a presence? Do you have a relationship to it?

* You probably don’t need me to say this, but, please, go vote on Tuesday, even if you do have to stand in line to do it. Our Beloved Dead went through a lot to make sure that we could vote. I’ve been very disappointed in President Obama and expect to be so again, should he win. But he’s demonstrably better for women, the planet, and America than Mitt Romney would be. If I lived in a safely blue state or in an irredeemably red state, I’d vote for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, or I’d write in Elizabeth Warren. But I live in Virginia, a swing state, so I’m going to pull up the already-almost-stretched-out elastic on my big girl panties and vote for Obama. And there are down ticket races and ballot initiates that need my vote, as well. I shan’t be gone long, you come too. Please tell me in comments on Tuesday that you voted!

* I’m listening to this over and over since reading about it in comments at The Wild Hunt:

* You should read this and you should look at the pictures.

* Joanna Colbert’s put together an intriguing Tarot spread for this time of year. Shall we try it together? I’ll show you mine tomorrow.

Picture found here.

Blessed Samhein

Honor Unto the Dying Land Sunday Ballet Blogging

Somehow, this dance kept running through my head as I was preparing my Bit of Earth for Hurricane Sandy, here as the veils get tissue thin.