Samhain this year ended for me on November 7th. It was totally different from anything I’d ever experienced before. When Hekate told me I needed to observe Samhain in New Mexico, I intuitively knew why.
In years past I had either observed Samhain as a solitary practitioner, or had attended Samhain at Circle Sanctuary. I ended up observing Samhain three times this year, the first time with my sister.
I’ve been actively involved against transgender violence for many years. Because of that, Hekate wanted me to go to Albuquerque this year. I have a connection with many LGBTQ friends from the Albuquerque Pagan Network. And since I do, Hekate thought I needed to go. She was right. A transwoman who I had never met was violently murdered there with her friend on January 19th. Her name was Zakaria Fry. Only 28 years of age. Her life cut short by senseless violence, along with her mentor friend, E. Carrell Ray, who is not transgender.
So on the Full Moon in Taurus, my sister Shirley and I left Wisconsin, driving to New Mexico. It gave us both some quiet time to reflect on some of our ancestors who had crossed over as well as other loved ones. A couple who live in Rio Rancho, New Mexico blessed us by having us stay with them. We had met several years ago when they came to Circle Sanctuary for an event there. I had stayed there a year ago when I went out to a Mabon event in the mountains near Albuquerque, but for Shirley it was a new experience. She’s been with me to New Mexico before, but never that far south in the state.
We arrived the day before the first of two Samhain events were held on a Sunday at the Rio Rancho UUA Church there. Before the service some of my friends and I had helped set up ancestor altars in the main sanctuary. It was adorned with flowers, candles, and photos of ancestors and departed loved ones. The first of the two part Sunday events was a public honoring of the ancestors and Sunday service led by a High Priestess.
She explained to the congregation what Samhain meant to us Pagans. Since she had just returned from Ireland with my friend Donna, also a High Priestess, she explained about the Irish Goddess Tlachtga. In that tradition it is Tlachtga who stands at the gate between the worlds. Especially at Samhain when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. This is the time we can communicate with our ancestors more easily than others. And with their help, and Tlachtga’s, we can have help in releasing many things that we carry in honor of them.
Donna was very involved in the service so it was quite special to me. Many of the regular congregation, a lot of whom I knew, attended and participated along with us. It was very nice to see so many people there. One large extended family honoring our ancestors together.
The main Samhain Ritual was later that evening in another part of the church. Most of my pagan friends who attend the church are part of the Moonspirit CUUPS group there. The ancestor altar in the sanctuary remained, with some black chairs set around it if we wanted to sit quietly to meditate with our ancestors. The only light was from candles set on the altar. We had a potluck supper before the Ritual for those who attended. When we finished supper we walked very quietly, no talking, taking a candlelit path to the room where the Ritual was.The room was set with 13 chairs in a circle around the altar. 12 of us were present to be seated, with the 13th empty to honor the ancestors. After we were welcomed by the High Priestess, the corners were called by lighting candles in silence. I had been asked earlier to help light the candle to welcome fire, the element of the south. I was very humbled to be asked to participate. The only light in the room was from the windows and all the candles, on the altar and through the room. It was very spiritual in such a small, intimate group.
After the quarters were called, the High Priestess explained about Tlachtga in much more detail than she had at the service that morning. In the Irish tradition, it is to Tlachtga we turn to, when situations become too difficult for us. It is to Her we travel when we take our final journey. She had us learn a series of dance like steps around the altar. Holding each others hands, three steps to the right, swaying our bodies, then four tiny steps to the altar, then back. We danced around the altar like that many times. Slowly, reverently, in a meditatively rhythm. I was able to say aloud Zakaria’s name when we were able to put forth names of the departed spoken into the circle. I think she heard me. I spoke for all transgender people who have died so senselessly by violence towards us.
It was a very spiritual Samhain Ritual for me. Especially since it was such a small, intimate group with a lot of pagans I was friends with. And the ones I didn’t know before became friends that evening. Many thanks to all of you who welcomed me there for your Ritual.
On the way back to Wisconsin Shirley and I stopped for a couple days in Taos, New Mexico. I had lived there part time for about 9 months in 2005 & 2006. So every time I visit, I go to Taos Pueblo. It’s one of the oldest pueblos in the United States that has had an active resident community there for many hundreds of years. They have a really old, I would say ancient cemetery, for people who have crossed over that are buried there. It worked out that we were able to visit the cemetery on October 31st. Dia de los Muertos. I was able to do a blessing there to those buried there. Sometimes everything works out the way it’s supposed to. Many blessing and love to my Goddess Hekate for wanting me in New Mexico this year!
Until next time, sometime in the future!
Mighty Hekate, Queen of the Witches,
Blessed am I,
To call myself one of Your chosen.
(Above used with permission from Cyndi Brannen with many thanks and love)