Posts Tagged ‘samhain’

It’s the Eve of Samhain in the Northern Hemisphere, though astronomically the day is still a week off. I feel inspired to name some ancestors today:

  • My mother, Edith, a creative and talented woman thwarted by her own fear, who died during a play after performing her character’s death scene.
  • My grandmother, Edna, Edith’s mother, the person I called “Mom”, the true maternal force in my life.
  • My father, Robert, who drove a truck for a living, cheated on my mother habitually, and spent much of his time in a fantasy world of his own making and yet was a good father to me.
  • My great-aunt Margaret, my maternal grandfather’s sister, who was lamed for life at birth, wore a heavy metal brace on one leg, married and divorced, lived alone, worked on her feet all day, and never was described as “handicapped” or “disabled”.
  • Roger, my father-in-law, an educator, administrator, consummate organizer, who died of pancreatic cancer four years ago.
  • Miss El, the elderly neighbor lady who babysat me occasionally and was the first person to talk with me seriously about religion, when I was just a little kid.
  • Midge, the organist at my church when I was in my late teens, who taught me to read neumes and sing plainchant properly.

And some others, not precisely ancestors but worthy of memory:

  • Harvey, the partner of a dear friend of mine, the only person I know who died of AIDS; he was probably around the age I am now.
  • George, one of the finest tenors I have ever known, who wore a Fourth Doctor scarf and turned me on to Babylon 5, who died of kidney disease before he turned thirty.
  • Mark, a co-worker, a Romanian defector who spoke seven languages and could make puns in most of them, who taught English writing to native speakers, who also had kidney disease but ultimately died of pancreatic cancer.

I will remember you.


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As I was walking to work this morning, I saw something rarely seen: The thing crescent of the waning moon at the zenith of the sky, as the sun was rising.  The waxing crescent is visible just after sunset for most or all of the year, but only in autumn and winter do I ever see the waning crescent after sunrise, when I rise before dark.

As the waning crescent is to the month, so Samhain is to the year–the last sliver of light before the coming of darkness.  Most neopagans will say that the natural year begins at Samhain, but I don’t think that’s quite right; I think the old year ends at Samhain, but the new year doesn’t really come until the solstice, Yule, Alban Arthuan.  When the sun begins moving northward again out of the depths of darkness, then the new year has come; until then, the doors to the other worlds stand ajar, and unfinished business can still be wrapped up.

Last night I held a Samhain ritual for the first time in several years.  I didn’t do any fancy words or gestures or walk around in sacred patterns; I just prepared offerings and left them on the little bit of brick wall just outside my front door.  I lit a black seven-day candle and some incense for the deities, filled a ritual cup with clean water, and offered food to the ancestors.  I’ve heard of people cooking elaborate meals in their childhood cuisine for the dead, but I just made a box of macaroni and cheese.  Honestly, that’s as characteristic of my childhood as any dish!  After putting out the offering, I did my usual evening meditation, then felt inspired to take an Ogham reading as an augury: A few for the ancestors, a few for the spirits, and a few for the gods.

The results were encouraging, and so was opening the front door this morning after meditating and seeing the candle still burning.  This morning’s Ogham reading indicated that I had made some inner contacts with the ritual observance and that inspiration would be coming from them, but that I must not lose sight of the big picture, that is, mundane reality and its responsibilities (such as work and housekeeping).

So with this post I inaugurate NaBloPoMo.  It looks to me like a Hopi word as rendered by the Spanish, but it’s short for National Blog Posting Month: Thirty days of daily blogging, every November.  Look for new posts here daily, and wish me luck!

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See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
(I John 3:1-3)

I went to Mass yesterday for the first time in months, for a number of reasons. First, so that we could take my mother-in-law to brunch afterward; it was her birthday. Second, so I could be present for the baptism of a friend’s child. And third, so I could hear the choir sing Tomas Luis da Victoria’s “O Quam Gloriosum” Mass and motet, and William Harris’s setting of “Holy Is The True Light”, which I quoted yesterday.

During the sermon I pulled out my journal and pen. I have heard many sermons over the years; few preachers can say anything which I haven’t already heard, and to them, I will listen, but in the meantime, it never hurts to think about the readings for oneself. As always, my attention was caught by the lines from John’s first letter that were read as the Epistle of the day.

We are God’s children now; we don’t know yet what we will be, but we will become like Christ when he reveals himself. How? why? We will become as he is because we will see him as he is.

This is mysticism, this is contemplation, this is theosis. Who are the saints? They are those who have realized that they are to become as gods, not on their own merit, not by grasping like Adam and Eve, but by letting the light of Christ their God shine through them. “Turn to him and be radiant, and let not your faces be ashamed,” as Psalm 34 says, as the Prayerbook Office for the day assigns to Evening Prayer.

Not grasping, not clinging, but emptying oneself to be filled by the Christ nature. Not grasping, not clinging, uncovering the obscurations to discover the radiant Buddha nature.

Holy is the true light.

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Holy is the True Light, and passing wonderful,
lending radiance to them that endured in the heat of the conflict,
from Christ they inherit a home of unfading splendour,
wherein they rejoice with gladness evermore.
from the Salisbury Diurnal by GH Palmer

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Politics is *not* my topic here chez Urban Druid, but I feel compelled to pass on this meme from Diana L. Paxson.  It’s both pagan and non-partisan, and seasonally appropriate all round.

As you call on the ancestors this Samhain, pay some extra attention to our American heroes and heroines, who fought for liberty and justice in their various ways, and surely have an interest in preserving them.

At the Spiral Samhain celebration next week (Tuesday Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Fellowship hall on Cedar & Bonita– Spiral observes the quarter and cross-quarter festivals at its “Gateway” series, on the first Tuesday of each month), Charline Palmtag and I are going to be calling on the Founding Fathers and a selection of other American notables from Abraham Lincoln through Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King. Just because they’re dead doesn’t mean they can stop working. Unfortunately today’s conflicts are actually evidence of continuity in American culture. The moment the British left, the factions that are still fighting sprang into being. Washington’s genius was his ability to balance them. So as the American ship of state wallows through the currently troubled waters, hang on.

The immediate problem, of course, is the election–not so much who is going to get the most votes, but whether all those votes will be correctly counted. I’m willing to bow to the will of the People, but I want to make sure that the published results in fact express it.

My plan for the next week or so is to spend some time every evening visualizing Lady Liberty shining her torch across the land. As that light penetrates every dark corner, it banishes fear, confusion, and deception. I ask her not only to inspire people to vote for the laws and candidates that will be best for the country, but to illuminate the vote-counting process so that the true will of the people is known.

If you like this idea, spread the word. The more of us who hold that image, the more powerful it will be.

God(s) bless America.

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The urban druid looks around and realizes she has something new to confess.

If I had any reliable pagan cred, I would hesitate to say what I’m about to say because it would endanger said cred, seriously.  But having been Anglican/Buddhist/Neopagan/too creative for religion/a Trekkie humanist, I might as well confess it:

I’m not a fan of Halloween.

I hear so many pagans, from many different traditions, say that this is their absolute favorite time of year.  I hear them gush about the way they’ve decorated–and then when I get offline, I walk around my neighborhood and see how enthusiastically folks who go to the Presbyterian church or the Episcopal church or the nice synagogue that moved out to the suburbs have decorated.  I live just a few blocks from a fine arts college, and the pumpkinification can be fierce in my neighborhood.  I even saw a pumpkin inscribed with the name of the carver’s choice for President next Tuesday.

I love autumn and autumn weather.  I love to watch the leaves turn color, and to collect horse chestnuts, honey locust seed-pods, and osage-oranges, all of which populate my streets this time of year.  I like feeling the humidity fade away, having dinner while the sun sets, and buying new bedroom slippers to keep my feet warm.

I also think much of the ancestors this time of year.  My mother died in late November, over twenty years ago now, but I think of her, and of our still tangled relationship, of my husband’s father, who passed just last year, of many who are gone.  I am often involved in Eucharists for All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day and have sung my share of Requiem Masses, both for those I knew well and those I hardly knew at all.  This coming Monday, I will be singing a splendid contemporary Requiem based on traditional Irish music, composed by a friend of mine.  In my own peculiar Anglican Druid way, I will be opening and closing the gates for those who have passed beyond, welcoming them to visit and reassuring them they are loved.

But the spooky, scary, witchy aspect of Halloween plays very little part in my celebrations.  My decorations consist of a small pumpkin and some smaller gourds, leaves and pods brought in from outdoors, a bundle of “Indian corn” my husband bought.  I will burn a candle for the dead, starting tomorrow before sundown.  I plan to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and some other seasonal children’s fare, and through the month of November I’ll probably indulge as much in horror movies as I ever do, favoring things that are heavy on suspense and ambiguity and light on gore.

I won’t string up lights in the shape of jack o’lanterns or prop up scarecrow-like figures at my windows.  (I don’t want to scare the starlings, or my pet birds, for that matter.)  I won’t paste up creepy cutouts of bats and zombies or hang black and orange crepe paper streamers.  I won’t wear a costume to work (which would probably be tolerated, if I chose to do so).  Living in a third-floor apartment, we don’t buy treats and we don’t answer the door on All Hallows’ Eve; in fact, we probably won’t even be home.

But my candle will burn in the dark, and my memories will burn in my thoughts.  My parents and grandparents, my great-aunts M. and A., my music teacher M.H., my husband’s father, and others will be in my thoughts and prayers, and with the old words and new music, we will open the doors for them at this turning of the wheel.

Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna,
in die illa tremenda,
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra.

Dum venerit judicare saeculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo,
dum discussio venerit atque ventura ira.

Dies illa, dies irae, calamitatis et misariae,
dies magna et amara valde.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Deliver me, Lord, from death eternal
in that tremendous day
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved
and thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am trembling and afraid
as I await the day of reckoning and the wrath to come.
That day, day of wrath, of calamity and misery,
a great and intensely bitter day.
Rest eternal grant unto them, Lord,
and let light perpetual shine upon them.

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