30 Days of Samhain: Day Sixteen

Who Are the Ancestors?

Samhain is particularly ripe with talk of the ancestors and honoring the dead and often is an integral part of the celebration. The term “ancestor” is used in different ways depending on the intention and your personal perspective. Today’s post is about who the ancestors are.

Generically, the term ancestors has come to mean those of your lineage, either biologically or culturally, who were at one time incarnate human beings. These are those from whom we claim a legacy in some way and if familial in nature, share the common thread of family history as well. These souls would also be known as ghosts or spirits of the departed. For this writing, this is how I will use the term ancestor.

The practice of honoring our familial ancestors has been around for aeons in one form or another. Sometimes that honoring spread out to be inclusive of an entire tribe or clan, each and every individual considered to be a familial ancestor; so deeply embedded was the energy of collective community and shared experience.

Every culture has its own ways of celebrating the departed, such as Dia de Los Meurtos in Mexico or Central America, Ari Muyang in Malaysia, Chuseok in Korea; Pitru Paksha in India or Obun in Japan. In each the central theme is one of remembering the legacy left to the living and setting aside a special time from the mundane and routine tasks to gift their ancestors with blessings, food, gifts and more. Some are single day events, others last for days on end and many of these practices are part of the funerary rites and extend into the daily activities; seeing the departed as always present in spirit.

These celebrations are joyous and reverent events that not only celebrate the human life of the individual, but often incorporate the journey of the Soul in its non-corporeal form. Masks, lanterns to light the way for the ancestors and grave side feasts are all part of thinning the veils between the living and dead and demonstrating that the dead have not been forgotten and are ever important to family and friends who benefitted by their life.

For many in the pagan community, Samhain offers opportunity to reach across these veils and sit in the company of their ancestors. These are some components that you may wish to incorporate into your Samhain celebrations:

  • Setting up an altar that contains pictures and things that were special to your beloveds in life. Perhaps a favorite cigar, candy, perfume, piece of jewelry, etc.
  • Wearing something that belonged to your beloved, such as a piece of jewelry, favorite sweater, etc…
  • Going to a special location that our loved one enjoyed such as a park, restaurant, museum, etc..
  • Setting a plate for your loved one at the table and offering a toast to their joining you for your Samhain meal. A more elaborate version of this is the Dumb Supper. Our coven has had Samhain celebrations that incorporated the Dumb Supper in it. All brought tokens of their loved ones and a picture. The picture was placed where each individual was seated. Drink was offered up to each loved one and the food was blessed in their honor. The entire meal was eaten in silence, listening to the conversations and words of the dead as they graced us, and when finished all left in silence carrying the memory of the experience out into the mundane world with them. It was a very powerful ritual and one that can easily be done for a family or just yourself and your loved one.
  • Dedicating a new experience or way of being to your loved one such as: being more mindful of your health in the coming year because that was a concern of your loved one for you or having a more positive attitude in honor of the beloved who always seemed to have a smile and kind word for you.

You may find that after trying some of these things during this season that you will want to keep a small (or larger) ancestor altar in your home in a special place. This becomes a place to interact with and routinely honor your ancestor year long. Whatever you choose to do, remember that we are who we are in part because of those who loved us (whether biological family or not). So don’t limit the thought of an ancestor only to those of biological heritage. That is only one piece of a more complex puzzle that is our human existence. And, at some point when that existence loosens its hold, we will become the most honored ancestor of those we love.

An excellent resource for learning more about the distinction between ghosts, Ancestors, the Mighty Dead and more:
Spirit Speak:Knowing and Understanding Spirit Guides, Ancestors, Ghosts, Angels, and the Divine by Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

The gorgeous image used is a piece of sculpture by Italian sculptor, Antonio Corradini! If this is not otherworldly, I don’t know what is…

Tomorrow: Ancestor Altar pics and Ideas…

About themagickalpen

Robin Fennelly is a Third Degree Initiate within The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition and serves as High Priestess of Coven of the Mystic Path. She teaches and facilitates classes for the Pagan Experience Study Group that serves as foundation for membership within Coven of the Mystic Path. Her spiritual journey is strongly rooted in both Eastern philosophy and theWestern Magickal systems from which she has formed a core foundation that is diverse in knowledge and rich in spiritual practice. A life-long learner, her practice has evolved from the classical and philosophical teachings of books, practical experience and enrichment of this knowledge base by attending workshops of various spiritual traditions presented by master teachers. Robin formally came to the Wiccan path in 1994. Following practice as a solitary for 2 years, she dedicated to Oak and Willow Coven of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition in November of 1996. She received her 1st, 2nd and finally 3rd degrees within the Assembly Tradition. As a teacher of esoteric and magickal studies she has used Energetic Anatomy, Tarot, Astrology, Hermetic Qabala, Eastern Philosophy, and Numerology as the foundations of her diverse selection of workshops and writings for more than 25 years. Exploration of varied energetic protocol has been the focus of her work for some time now and the information gained through direct experience informs all of her magickal and spiritual work. Robin’s writings have been featured online, and in print Internationally. She has authored several books incorporating her unique style of writing making use of poetry, prose and pathworking to enhance the concepts presented. She has taught extensively throughout the Pagan community, including Sacred Space Conference, Spring Magick, Between the Worlds Interfaith Conference and Free Spirit Gathering Festival this Summer. Her most recent project is hosting an online blogging community entitled The Pagan Experience. Robin is the owner of Holistic Embrace providing services for mind, body and spirit such as Tarot readings, Astrology reports, Spiritual Guidance and other related offerings. She lives in Eastern Pennsylvania and her life is blessed by a 43-year marriage, five children and the opportunity to work in the field of public education. Robin's esoteric writings can be found on her blogs.
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1 Response to 30 Days of Samhain: Day Sixteen

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