Archive for October, 2015

Honoring the Dead: My Ancestor Remembrance Ritual

Honoring the Dead: My Ancestor Remembrance Ritual
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Samhain Ancestor and spirit bonds are the most sacred aspects of Samhain in my tradition. This is my personal ritual shared with you in good faith that you’ll use it responsibly for the remembrance of those who made you who you are today.

You may perform this ritual at your altar, or somewhere else comfortable, or it can be performed at the cemetery with a portable altar. However, it must be stressed that you cannot trespass after cemeteries are closed or in cemeteries where employees might frown upon your ritual work. Any cemetery will do but the magick will be more potent if your ancestors or loved ones are buried there. When in doubt, perform the ritual at home. Do not break the law.


  • Spirit object
  • Graveyard dirt
  • Offering bowl
  • Three white candles
  • Matches
  • White flowers
  • Method

    Perform the opening of the circle if you do that sort of thing.

    The spirit object should be anything pertaining to your spirit in question–a photograph, an object they owned, or a piece of parchment paper with their full name written on it. Place an offering bowl of graveyard dirt (much better if it’s from the spirit’s own grave but not required) in front of the spirit’s object.

    Place three white candles with matches (I prefer natural implements like wooden matches over lighters). Two candles should be on either side of the spirit object and graveyard dirt with the third candle behind the spirit object. The three candles should form a triangle around the spirit object and graveyard dirt bowl.

    As you light each candle, raise it to the sky and recite the following:

    “Upon this sacred Samhain night, I offer light to honor [Full Name]’s birth.”
    “Upon this sacred Samhain night, I offer light to honor [Full Name]’s life.”
    “Upon this sacred Samhain night, I offer light to honor [Full Name]’s death.”

    (Hint: Irish-speaking people tend to pronounce Samhain as sow-an and some dialects of Gaelic-speaking people have said it’s like sahv-in, sow-een, shahvin, sowin. The Scots Gaelic spelling is Samhuin or Samhuinn. Learn the proper way your ancestors would say it if you’re of Gaelic or Celtic blood.)

    Next you want to take your white flowers. Use your instincts about which type of flowers you think would be best. People in the nineteenth century used white lilies at funerals a lot and I believe carnations were used too. I know Lilies in particular were known as a death flower. If your spirit in question had a favorite flower, use it.

    For my purposes, I prefer white roses in rituals that honor spirits long after the funerary period. White roses are symbols of conveying respect, paying homage, and they express hope for the future, which far better suits this type of remembrance ritual as opposed to remaining caught in the sorrow and grief that lilies and carnations can sometimes conjure. It’s important to maintain the distinction between grieving and remembrance. Grief will hold a spirit back. Remembrance will set it free.

    Hold your bunch of flowers toward the sky. Say, “Upon this sacred Samhain night, I offer flowers to honor [Full Name]’s spirit.” Place the flowers below the spirit object and graveyard dirt offering bowl. Essentially the spirit object and bowl should be at the center of a diamond–lit candles marking the side points and top point with the bunch of flowers marking the bottom point.

    Then recite a prayer, a spell for peace, a poem, or even a song. Since you’re working for the remembrance of an individual spirit or generally remembering all your ancestors, this type of ritual can be personalized. If your spirit had a favorite fitting poem or favorite fitting song, recite the words for them. If you’re not sure, I found this poem online a few years ago and I quite like it for this ritual. You may use it too.

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there, I do not sleep

    I am a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the softly falling snow
    I am the gentle showers of rain,
    I am the fields of ripening grain

    I am in the morning hush,
    I am in the graceful rush,
    Of beautiful birds in circling flight
    I am in the starshine of the night

    I am in the flowers that bloom
    I am in a quiet room
    I am in the birds that sing
    I am in each lovely thing

    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there, I do not die.

    (Mary E. Frye, 1932)

    Then you should say something to the effect of, “[Full Name], may your spirit know the love and inspiration you’ve given the living upon this Samhain night. Go in peace. I honor thee. So mote it be.” I don’t often say so mote it be since I’m not Wiccan but I figured a lot of you out there are and you can use it. My version is only slightly different. I say, “I honor thee. Through your wisdom, I wish to see. Fare the well until our reunion and great jubilee.”

    Take a moment to meditate in silence as you see fit.

    It’ll then be time to end the remembrance ritual (when you’re ready). When you snuff out each candle, say aloud, “I put out the flame but I don’t put out the light.” Perform the closing of the circle if you do that kind of thing and ground yourself from any excess energy.

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    Honoring the Dead: The Samhain Altar

    Honoring the Dead: The Samhain Altar
    Posted by Jessica Jewett No Comments »

    Rulon, Newell Family

    Rulon Family

    Lois Jewett

    The people in these pictures are five generations of my maternal family line (my mother is generation six and I’m generation seven). I was taught from diapers that remembering where we came from and honoring the spirits of our ancestors was very important. For that reason, ancestor remembrances are the most sacred part of the Samhain period of the year for my family and me.

    As I wrote in my previous post, The Myths and Truth of Samhain: I remember being seven and I’d have to listen to stories about relatives I never met while putting on a ballerina tutu to go trick-or-treating with my friends. At the time, I had trouble understanding why dusty photos of long-dead relatives appeared on my grandmother’s dresser amid candles every autumn and winter. Now I recognize it for what it was – an altar. We came from Irish people who held onto the old ways and (and later mixed them with Christian ways, mostly for show). It all got passed to me too, a little seven-year-old girl putting on a tutu on Halloween and wondering why my grandmother was drilling separation of cultures into my head.

    Changing my altar to focus on deceased friends and family is one of my main points of focus at Samhain. It’s fairly simple to dress up an existing altar for the different periods of the pagan year. Also, it should be noted that Samhain goes throughout the month of November (the festival itself is just sundown to sundown from October 31 to November 1). In other words, keep your Samhain altar up until you’re ready to switch to Yule decorations. I usually assemble around October 27 and then I wait until after Thanksgiving to dismantle.

    Just for personal aesthetics that represent the season, I get a couple of little pumpkins and pomegranates from the grocery store or farmer’s market. I gather fallen leaves from my yard to scatter around my altar table. Buying the fake stuff doesn’t sit well with me. I need to use things that will decay on their own, not create more landfill, but watch out for bugs when you bring natural decorations indoors.

    If you can get it without trespassing, put an offering bowl of graveyard dirt in the spot on your altar where you represent the earth. The magick is even more powerful if the graveyard dirt comes from the graves of your ancestors. Always ask permission and wait for a sign before you take the dirt. Some spirits don’t like people touching their graves. They’ll give you a sign if the answer is no. Always leave an offering of fruit or flowers in exchange for the dirt too. Graveyard dirt will be used in a ritual on the feast of Samhain.

    I also change my candles to orange, dark red, black, etc., for the season if I have those colors on hand. I prefer tapers because they look elegant to me and they’re usually too tall for my cat to act on his fire curiosity. Otherwise I just keep my regular gold and silver candles for the moon and sun. Sometimes I only use gold candles at Samhain in my effort to symbolically provide warmth and light during the cold, dark half of the year. I also use one white candle per spirit I’m honoring. If you don’t have a specific number, just use whatever number you please, or create an exalted focal point with a larger pillar candle to represent all of your spirits.

    If you respond to scents like I do, use warm spices as opposed to florals and fruits. Remember we’re entering the cold, dark half of the year. Our ancestors didn’t have access to mail order flowers from tropical places. When in doubt, think of baking, spices, hearthfires, smoked meats, etc., when choosing your incense and resin (unless a specific ritual calls for a specific mixture).

    Also, you may also put photographs of your loved ones on the altar along with personal items they owned if you have any. This is an important part of my Samhain altar. Since I lost my grandmother in July, it’s the most recent death, and my tradition dictates that she gets the position of honor this year. I keep candles lit each night for Samhain season to honor my loved ones who are no longer living in the physical.

    Don’t forget your deities if you have them too. Leave offerings of autumn flowers like chrysanthemums and marigolds, and autumn foods like breads and gourds, thanking them for working with you during the past year and asking for help in succeeding in the year to come.

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    Fire Divination Method

    Fire Divination Method
    Posted by Jessica Jewett No Comments »

    Bonfire Using fire for divination during Samhain goes along with the tradition of lighting bonfires. At sundown on October 31, bonfires were lit on the hilltops and burned all night while people celebrated, feasted, did various rituals to honor the dead from the previous year, and so forth. Among many other divination traditions, using the bonfire to see visions was quite useful during the night of the Samhain festival. It’s believed in Celtic and Gaelic tradition that the veil between the living world and spirit world is thinnest at Samhain, which is why divination became so popular at this period of the year.

    This is essentially like scrying with a mirror or with water. You may do it with a bonfire, a fireplace, or even a single candle. The only thing that matters is you have some source of flame in a dark space, so it’s suggested that you do it during the night.

    You’ll want to be still and quiet sitting before your fire. Distractions need to be removed. Some people need total silence. Some need soft melodic music. The point is to create a dark environment where your only source of concentration is on the fire. I was always taught in my family traditions that environment is important with doing rituals, spells, or divination. If you’re uncomfortable or distracted, it’ll mess with the strength and direction of your intentional energy.

    Gaze at the fire, letting your vision go soft, but don’t stare hard at it. You want to let yourself go loose and fuzzy as you watch the fire. Focus on opening your senses. For me, it helps to visualize myself as a blooming flower. Feel the fire’s warmth, smell the smoke, listen to the popping and spitting logs, taste the wood in the air, etc. Open yourself to the fire while gazing at it through unfocused eyes. This process can take time. Don’t let yourself get frustrated because then you’ll have to start over again since frustration is a distraction. Some people divine for minutes. Others for hours.

    If there are visions for you, then you might see them in the smoke, in the flames, or in your mind’s eye. Be careful of succumbing to imagination, however. A true vision will unfold like a mystery and you probably won’t understand it at first. Imagination will stutter, start and stop, or shift depending on your inner thought processes.

    Immediately after instinct tells you to come out of the divination, you must write down everything you witnessed, felt, etc. Some of you will put this in your Book of Shadows if you’re Wiccan (I’m not). Others will put it in a different journal. Regardless, always date your divination sessions and record the environmental details, like where you were, the temperature, the moon phase, etc. This will be important for establishing patterns as you do more in the future.

    What did you see? Well, that’s up to your own interpretation system. You’ll get better at it with time. Use these sessions to improve your life and the lives of those around you whenever possible in the year to come.

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