Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Samhain Season

Today, the world is shrouded in silence. Snow coats the trees and houses, it is a reminder that this is the season to stay inside, and reflect.

Several sources close to me have pointed out, that the ancient celts did not celebrate Samhain on just one night. Indeed, the first night of Samhain may have had many of the festivities we now associate with Halloween, but Samhain was in fact an entire lunar month. Samhain was a season.

I recently did some house cleaning and rearranging. A cleared off bookshelf now hosts a small shrine (shrines happen!) with a focus on the dead. Nearby are photos of family, both living and passed, and an old envelope with my full name on it. My paternal grandfather died before I was even a year old, but when I was born, as with the dozen grandchildren before me, he wrote me a check. It was, naturally, never cashed. It's hard for babies to get bank accounts, after all. But it serves as a reminder - He wanted me to be Prosperous. 

Just two years ago my maternal grandfather passed, in about this same season. I recall, in fact, that Thanksgiving plans were made to accommodate him, and he was unable to attend. He too was concerned about the prosperity of the family, making extensive estate plans to ensure that his wealth would benefit his children and grandchildren. Both of my grandfathers were very involved in securing a good future for their families.
My Grandfather was born a very serious looking old man.

And too, did my grandmother work tirelessly. Her concerns were more immediate. She was always baking and cooking, checking to see if people were comfortable. From Her and my mother I learned to bake  - a box still exists with box sides and handwritten cards, recipes used again and again. We have never worked ourselves up in Holiday hype in December (I'm rather a Humbug type myself) but cookie baking is a holiday standard. Recipes with old fashioned ingredients, recipes that call for "a piece of butter the size of an egg."

And so, from them I learned to invest, and I learned to be generous. I learned to plan for the future, and to be frugal. (Grandpa Popo would warn that one should only ever borrow money to buy the family's house or start a business.) And so, as a gift demands a gift, I must be concerned with their prosperity too.

Many folk around the world, Pagans and pagans alike, engage in Ancestor worship. Some are concerned very much with the memory of the dead. Others are concerned with creature comforts. I am often rather equivocal about the afterlife, I am unwilling to commit to any idea with much fervor. If I expect the summerlands of the Vanir, is that optimism? Is that a reflection of the heaven of the Abrahamics? But the cold, dark realms of the Lady Hel, is that a fearful punishment to encourage warriors? But, no matter the shape of the afterlife, if I spend time communing with my ancestors - engaging with them, then there is a realm where they must dwell. And so, as they were concerned with my wellbeing, I am concerned with theirs. I set out for them a piece of fresh baked bread, or fruit, or tea. But on Samhain eve I offered them a fine treat, popcorn and rootbeer floats, much like we had every Sunday at Gramma and Grampa's house.

Because I am now responsible for ensuring for them, all the prosperity that they worked so hard to give to me. And I wish to stand, not in their shadows, but on their shoulders.

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