Last night many Wiccans and Pagans alike celebrated Samhain, the last fall festival of the year when the God dies and travels to the Summerlands (thus life begins to fade from the land), and a new annual cycle begins. This is also the time when the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is the thinnest. Samhain then, is a time to honor the dead. Some Pagans take this opportunity to commune with those who have passed to the next life. Depending on your own practice, this can be done in a group setting (with a coven, for example) or as a solitary. Apart from my Mentor and the Pagans and Wiccans of the Congregation, I practice solitary.
I was never comfortable with the world of the dead, so I thought this festival would make me a little on edge. Didn’t happen. For my Samhain, I rearranged my altar-shelf to honor our passed loved ones:
From left to right: The framed stitch work represents two of our children who were never born. One was an ectopic and the other a miscarriage. The small ring next to the frame and the grapes is a silver ring my wife’s grandfather gave her. They were extremely close. To the right of the ring is a wing feather from Blizzard, my favorite hen. I’ve held on to this feather since her burial and it seems she paid me a visit this month via my Spirit Guide. To the right of Blizzard’s feather is a photo of my maternal grandfather and I when I was about three years old. He died when I was four of cancer so I have no physical memory of him, however I’ve always felt a connection with him.
After I set up the altar, I gave an offering of fruit (grapes), incense, and lit three kosher Shabbat candles I saved from my Judaism month. I only light these on special occasions.
With the altar set and the offerings made, I ground myself and prepare to meditate on and honor those in mind. But not everyone is represented on the altar. This night I also honored my Hindu Mentor, Mr. Gajjar, who passed away a few days after our time together ended. I then honored all of the religious founders and leaders I’ve studied thus far, giving them thanks for their lives and wisdom, and wished them peace. From here I simply meditated on everything these individuals on the altar and otherwise have taught and shared with me. I invited their spirits to speak with me if they felt so inclined, but made no insistence on their actions. After the meditation I thanked them for their presence and continued influence in my life, and closed the ritual.
Not the hocus pocus you’re used to in the movies and television shows, huh? Granted, rituals can get much more elaborate, but I like to keep things clean and simple. I’ve honored the dead and ushered in the new year. How did you celebrate Samhain and honor the dead?
Now, for the hard part: saying goodbye.
Today is October 31st and therefore my last day with Wicca and the greater Pagan world. What a month huh? We had a rocky start but I think once everything cooled down we were really able to explore this spectacular faith tradition. Indeed, Wicca was one of those religions I once condemned as a delusion straight from the pit of Hell (years ago), but what I’ve learned this month is that Wicca, Witchcraft, and the Pagan ways are not what we see in the movies. It’s average folks living and loving life the best way they can and trying to exist in peace.
After the firestorm of criticism, I really didn’t think I’d groove into this faith. The infighting and constant bickering had me convinced that all was lost. What I learned was that–regardless of the faith–you cannot judge a religious system exclusively on its members. Only when you get into the texts and practices do you see the faith for what it is. I know a lot of people who looked forward to learning more about this month were turned off by the politics, but I implore you to focus on the tenants and practices. It’s a faith that honors nature, the balance of the Goddess and the God, and establishes moral code for using the powers of our world. So what if two or more members from two or more traditions want to split hairs over the details. Let them claw each other’s eyes out. I think this is the reason many turn to solitary practice: to escape the drama. Take what works, live, and let live. That’s Wicca.
My experiences with the Goddess, magick, interactions with the Congregation, seeing the divine in nature, relishing in the simple pleasures of the environment around me, meeting my Spirit Guide…these are what I’m packing to take with me going forward on this journey.
I want to thank you all again for sticking out this month with me. I know it was hard, but as Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
For those of you who’ve been with me for a while, you know what today means for me. I will drastically change until the self of the former month peels away and I become the next version of Andrew. It’s a very painful but necessary process. Next month, in many ways, will be the most difficult of the year. I will be a Jain monk. Because the faith is so small and isolated, I have no Mentor. The game changes entirely and I will be forced to use everything I’ve learned so far just to make it through. I hope you’ll join me.
What are your final impressions this month? Are your views different now from the beginning of October? What most influenced you about the Wiccan path?
Peace and Blessed Be.