Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A is for Ancestors

Shadowe, 16 years old and spunky... but dying from Cancer.
This week, I say goodbye to a very busy year. Between saying goodbye to my 16 year old cat, Shadowe, to almost losing my father-in-law, to my very own medical situation, a lot has changed.

This time last year, I was waiting for surgery on my knee, and basically banished from walking without a brace and a cane. Now, three times a week, I'm walking dogs for over an hour. 

There's a lot to talk about with my Beloved Dead this Samhain. Ancestor worship never used to be a big deal with me, when I was younger. I didn't care about them, really, but over the past few years, my ancestors have become a larger and larger part of my practice, and the list of their names, sadly, has been growing steadily over the past few years. 

I suspect that I looked on death as one of those things that would never happen to me, or to those I loved. Or perhaps, in fact, even romanticized it. Probably a bit of both. 

I'm sure some will think I am still looking on it through a special sort of lens. I'm okay with that. 

Ancestor box waiting to be unpacked for Samhain 2010.
On my path, ancestors are worked with only rarely, but thought of, and even given gifts, often. I maintain a box that I designed just for their things. I keep the gifts I have given them, their photos, and obituaries in it. It also holds the centerpiece of my Samhain rite, my litany of names. 

I've been maintaining one for four or five years now, and each years list is in the box, waiting for this year's contribution. When I feel the veil between this world and the next thinning, as it does each autumn, I sit down and work through each name, preparing a new list. The first year, I included all the various Pagans who've died that I felt needed remembered, and that list is monstrously long. Nowadays, I focus on those who've contributed directly to my being. 

On the date of the astronomical quarter, November 7th, I will cast my circle, and remember them. Some of them are just names, but others are ever-present, and remain living in my heart every day. It is that memory, that reconnection with those who gave me my very existence or who have made it wondrous for the years that we shared, that makes Samhain my favorite holiday. 

Thus it is that my Litany of Names always begins with a quote from Helen Keller: 
"What we once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we love deeply becomes a part of us." 

May your Ancestors smile with pride at the life you are living. 

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