What we’re talking about isn’t easy or fun. But sometimes you have to take a moment to reflect. Slow down and actually let yourself feel. Because if we don’t properly feel things, we cannot know what it is we truly need to do. We just keep rushing onward, ever onward, getting things done for no better reason than to do them. Let yourself mourn this Samhain. That’s what it’s for.
Honoring Those Who Died Unjustly
It’s easy to pretend that unjust things are a part of ancient history. We can feel sorrow about those who died in the inquisitiorial witch hunts or those who died to fight the Civil War. We can think about the people who died in ancient wars, the genocides that happened long ago and not think too hard about the fact that bad things still happen to people who don’t deserve it all the time.
But it does and it has this year. Hate crimes are on the rise, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. People in the United States have died from both fire and water from the wildfires in the west and the hurricanes in the east. There’s hate crimes, like the Las Vegas Shooting. The Syrian Civil War rages on.
Why bother to remember all this bad stuff? Isn’t it better to just put it in the past and move on?
If we are lucky enough to be able to do that, maybe it is easier for our state of mind. But should we?
If we are ever going to solve the problems presented to us we need to be able to look them square in the eye. We need to learn how to be honest. This is as much true in our daily lives as it is in the grand arena of public politics. Practice honesty and sit with your feelings about these events this Samhain. Those that passed deserve at least that much.
A Prayer for Sitting With The Unjustly Killed:
I call to those who died in raging war, those who only wanted simple things: the joy of day, the calm of night.
Blessed is your memory
I call to those who died from hate. Those who were hurt by belief, from fueled fear twisted tight, unleashed upon those seen as different.
Blessed is your memory
I call to those who died by the power of the Mother. The winds and storm, the fueled fire, the sweeping strength of the Earth out of balance.
Blessed is your memory
I call to those who died from hunger, from preventable disease, unneeded harm. I call to those who died poverty stricken, struggling just to exist.
Blessed is your memory.
I remember you. I see you. I will not forget you. I will let the knowledge of this truth pass over and through me. I will remain, ready to to the work I am called to do.
Blessed is your memory.
Honoring our African Ancestry
It doesn’t matter if we’re practicing Voudoo, Neo Pagan Druidry, or Shinto, the fact of the matter is that humanity started in the savannahs of Africa about 200,000 years ago (at least) and that we lived happily on the continent of Africa for about 120,000 years. It was only about 80,000 years ago that we began to leave. To say it another way, for more than half of the entire existence of Homo Sapiens we lived only in Africa.
We don’t know exactly what those ancient humans believed, but we do have evidence in their bones, artistic artifacts and cave art. There is cave art in the Saharan Desert in both Libya and Algeria that shows humans swimming and hunting giraffes. In that time before now, the desert was a savannah and humans lived throughout the continent. Maybe if we remember those ancestors from so long ago we might take a moment to appreciate our connections to each other.
A Prayer for Our Most Ancient Ancestors:
Most Ancient Ones, I call back through the vast reaches of time to you!
Back through recorded history,
Before the Romans fought and fell: City, Republic, and Empire
Before the fertile lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris were cultivated and cultures rich and vast sprang up.
Before the taming of the wild steppe horses,
Before the land bridge to the Americas was crossed,
Before all these things you were there.
We do not forget you this day, most ancient ones.
You are us, and we are you, our DNA the same as yours.
Your minds bright and shining, your words clever, your hands working just as ours.
We thank you for your gifts and we thank you for your survival.
We are you, come back again, building on your work through the shifting sands of time.
Most ancient ones, homo sapiens, please accept our offering!
Honoring our Miscarriages and Abortions
I think this is the toughest one to talk about. I also think a lot of people may take issue with me categorizing miscarriages and abortions in the same group, but that’s how I see it. Full disclosure: I’ve had to deal with both, so I know a little about it. Every Samhain I give three offerings for three times I’ve suffered that loss. Yes, it’s a loss, even when it’s an abortion. It’s a choice. It’s not an easy choice. I put the needs of those living above the needs of those potentially living and I would do it again. I still cry about it and give myself the space I need to mourn on Samhain. It is a worthwhile thing to do for the many of us who have been through that pain.
There are any number of traditions that indicate that babies who died before being baptized or somehow ritually brought into the community are unquiet dead. I made the strong choice that mine would not be unquiet. They would be well kept and honored and it has been a good thing for me. I would suggest that it was a good thing for them as well.
A prayer for those who could not make it all the way into this world:
I sing a sweet song for you, beloved.
I sing a sweet song for you who stayed in the potential of the beyond.
I could not give you the blessings of the body.
I could not share my life and my days with you.
I could not give you flesh and blood, made of my own.
I could not see your sweet face or feel your hand grasp mine.
I would have loved you if I could have, but that was not to be.
May you find your way to the stars above, or join the joyous winds in their play.
May you be blessed by love, in the land of the spirits or the land of the living.
May your soul be sweet and happy, may you find joy and peace and love no matter where you are or where you go.
Blessing that was not to be mine, may you accept this offering on Samhain, knowing that you are remembered and loved.
Honoring Extinct Species
So we’re human and that makes us focus mostly on human things. It’s how it is. But there’s a great big world of other species out there and some of them are really struggling too. Certainly the squirrels and the trash pandas don’t need our help, but the Polar Bears probably do. Take a moment and bring your awareness to those species that no longer dwell upon this earth. From the spiritwork that I and others have done, it seems clear that the echoes of their spirits live on in the otherworld. I know people who work with ancient animal spirits whose descendants no longer exist. So it’s a worthy thing to reach out to those spirits, to give them some offerings and attention on your altar this Samhain.
A prayer for Extinct Species:
Blessed beings of wing and hoof, those kin of green and red.
I call to you who once lived here on this earth but do so no longer.
I call to the vast ancient dinosaurs who roamed strange ancient forests.
I call to the the dodo that lived and died, who only exists in pictures.
I call to the the strange and the ordinary. Each species unique and filling a niche no longer.
May the Mother take you back and keep you in her mind.
May the Earth spring up with new species blessed in their own ways.
May we remember and keep the balance that those who live may stay.
Honoring the Heroic Dead
I saved this one for last because this is the uplifting one. I brought up these categories of the Dead because they’re difficult ones to think about. As individuals and as congregations, covens, and circles we owe it to ourselves to think about these losses. They are real, and they will live in our shadow selves if we don’t take the time to bring them out into the light.
The Heroic Dead are those people who did something about that suffering. They are the people who made a difference in the lives of others. They are the ones who made the world a little safer, a little more fair. The heroic dead are the ones who lived the values they believed in a deep and radical way. There are so many of them. I honor Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Louisa May Alcott, Octavia Butler, Carrie Fisher and many more. Find out about those people who were brave enough to act and read their stories. For this one, I suggest going to the library and actually checking out a biography or an autobiography. Learn from the ancestors. Their wisdom can guide you to your own wisdom.
A prayer for the Heroic Dead:
For this one I’m going to help you write your own.
First, list a bunch of virtues that you believe in. For me it would be something like Courage, Integrity, Wisdom, Cleverness, Kindness and Compassion.
Next think of some people who you admire in history that exemplify that. If you can’t think of anyone, do a google search for quotes about your virtue. Scroll through the quotes until you find one you really like and see who said it. There’s your person. I already listed my heroes so I won’t do it again.
Next say something about how awesome they were and how you want to be just like them when you grow up. Only fancier. I will give an example, but you do it how you want.
Then put it all together. Mine would look like this:
Courage, Integrity, Wisdom, Cleverness, Kindness and Compassion.
These are the virtues I believe in.
This is who I am.
Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Louisa May Alcott, Octavia Butler, Carrie Fisher.
These are the ancestors I admire.
This is who they were.
I am blessed by their knowledge and their example. I am inspired by their action. Within my own gifts and my own way I will do as they did, I will take part in the grand history of humanity. I will be a hero in my way, in my every day, to honor their memory.
So be it.
This post isn’t about easy thoughts.
It’s about dealing with the real pain that our lives bring. It’s about living in the real world and learning how to stand strong in the face of pain day by day. By consciously choosing to bring our awareness to these things in a measured and ritualized way we learn how to be strong when we need to be. It’s like a muscle and we can build it up. This is work we all need to do, and our religion offers us a powerful time to do it. Take some time, let yourself feel these losses. And then, step back, stand up, and know that you can walk into your life and get what needs doing done. You are strong enough. We are strong enough. Blessed be.
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