This is the second part of a three-part series I am writing this weekend, focused on ancestors, the dead, and inheritance, both magical and not.
Connecting to our ancestors, the dead in general, can take many forms. We honor them at Samhain, we keep pictures of them in old albums. Those who practice the Day of the Dead sometimes put out food for them.
I believe in the importance of honoring our ancestors, and the dead in general. I am one who believes that all things have souls if they come from the natural world. I have pictures of pets I was close to, who have passed on. I mentioned in the previous post that I always do something to honor Arelia, a great aunt who lived in the twenties, from whom I believe I gain most of my power.
My connection to the dead is perhaps a little different from the majority. After my dad passed on, I heard his voice and footsteps in our house, as if in a dream. The funny thing was, I had blocked it out, and suddenly remembered what I felt several years later. When Jack, our Scottish terrier, died of cancer a year or so later, I had the most incredible moment. Just before Mom took him to the vet for the last time, I was with him out in the garage, and I remember petting his head and sort of…taking a photograph of exactly what he looked like, which is still perfectly engraved in my memory. In the following days, I got this sense that he never left, though he was dead. Back then I still played along with Catholicism so I never said anything about it, but he stayed for me, I think. Now there is a photograph of him on my living room wall, facing the front door, and he guards my home. Because I feel like he’s still around, still with me. He’s not really a totem, or a spirit guide, in the sense that he showed up in my life to teach me something…but in a sense, he is a spirit guide. And I believe, my first familiar. He was there from when my childhood kind of came to an end, until I began, subconsciously, to recognize my power.
When I walk through Busey Woods, which is in Urbana, the twin city of Champaign where I live, I am reminded that the dead do not necessarily stay on cemetery grounds. The other week, I was walking with some friends, when I felt like there was something off to my left. I hesitated, then kept going. The feeling died away, and then came on stronger, as if a hand had caught me by the shoulder. And so I stopped and turned toward the feeling, and I could feel her. It wasn’t anger I felt from her, just defensiveness, and maybe fear. As soon as I said we weren’t a threat, she let go and I went on my way. The others sensed it once I pointed it out, but I could hear her. This is no surprise though. I’ve become aware that I can hear the dead speak, if I permit myself to. I have done work in cemeteries, on community service trips with STLF (Students Today Leaders Forever) at Illinois State. In one cemetery, on a hill in Weston, West Virginia, I could sense the individuals buried around me, men and women, their souls giving a chorus of greetings, which I had to phase out somewhat, or get overwhelmed. Someone had left a rose quartz on the steps as an offering, which made me smile. It was a day of doing some good for that town, and it was also spiritually refreshing. On the other hand, going to the Oklahoma City bombing site was almost more than I can take. Peaceful dead long buried are far different in their behavior and energy from those who died violently. I came, I laid out my offering once others on the trip had walked away from me, and then I went back to the bus. it was hard to take.
As Samhain approaches, I think more and more about Jack, Arelia, and more about what I want to leave behind when I go through the veil. The idea is a little unsettling, but I think it is worth thinking about. I know the dead, know how they are and why they are that way. So I think it is important to contemplate these things. If you die tomorrow, what do you want people to remember about you? Because once you are a spirit, whether you cross into the spiral or wander on the next plane for a while, all things become pre-determined. So when we’re alive, it is crucial that we determine our legacy.