I’m just now getting around to taking down my Samhain altar. Even though I work with ghosts from time to time, I was still blown away with everything that happened with it. John Beckett has said the veil is shredded, and after this Samhain season, I know he is absolutely correct.
Here are some of the things that I learned, as well as a few things I’ll change in the future.
1. The dead are very much with us
When I set up my beloved dead altar, I got immediate responses from my friends and family. Many of them were thrilled to be invited into my home. The smiles on their photographs seemed to come alive with happiness and love.
After my opening Samhain ritual, my heart was warmed by all the energy we’d stirred up. I hadn’t felt many of those presences in a long time. I was surprised that having a beloved dead altar was like having a family reunion with those people I cared about deeply. The energy and conversations were right there — tangible.
2. The dead want to help us
I rarely see ghosts, but after we brought in one of my husband’s family heirlooms, I saw a beautiful, petite, slender woman with white hair in my kitchen. I stopped walking and whirled to face her. Her mouth popped open — she was as surprised to see me as I was to see her. She disappeared instantly, but I talked to her about our household, informing her that if she’s helpful and good, she can stay. I also told her I could see her because I’m a witch, and if she’s bad, I’ll banish her from the house. (I believe in good boundaries with ghosts.) I’m happy to report that she has stayed, and has been a force of heartfelt good for us.
Another reason why I think the dead want to help us is because I had thought about taking down the Samhain altar in November. However, every time I approached the altar, the dead stopped me from dismantling it. I clearly heard,
“Not yet! We still have work to do!“
While I don’t know exactly what kind of work they had to do, that energy has waned, especially now that Christmas is over. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Some of the dead don’t want to leave
Even while I was thinking about taking down my altar, I could feel my grandmother’s voice pleading with me. She wants to be present somewhere in my house. When I realized I didn’t have a photo out of her anywhere, I knew I had to fix it. Right now, her picture is still up, but I plan on buying a special frame, and sliding her photo and a few others behind it. My goal is to put it somewhere so they look over me all the time.
If you feel that your beloved dead don’t want to leave, even in the slightest bit, I recommend that you listen. It doesn’t take a lot of time to include a family member in your home, and allies on the other side are invaluable.
However, not all of the dead were so loving . . .
4. Some of the dead didn’t want to be at my house
Not all of my beloved dead were happy to be summoned and represented on my altar. I had included a photo of a sharply dressed woman whom I thought was my great grandmother. She told me in no uncertain terms that she was not my great grandmother — she was my great aunt (i.e. not my ancestor). She went on to ream me for playing with spirits, saying I was playing with the devil’s magic. I both sensed this (heard her voice in my head) and pulled the devil card after my opening Samhain ritual — twice in a row. Needless to say, I apologized to her, removed her photo from the altar, and burned sage around the altar until her energy was gone.
But it wasn’t just her who didn’t want to be included on my altar. There was another spirit too. I had also included a photo of my old friend Owain, whom I knew from Renaissance Festivals and Pagan Spirit Gathering from ’99-’02. He had entertained my opening ritual and some of the feasting, but told me he couldn’t stay, in his beautiful lilting voice, and departed. Of course, I understood. I wasn’t the most special person in his life, not by a long shot. He probably wanted to be with the ones he loved most.
5. Some of the dead had tasks for me
One of my deceased friends wanted me to reach out to his living relations. Every time I looked at his photo, he asked me about it.
“You’re going to do it, right?”
I reached out, as he requested, and reported back to him. I don’t know the outcome of my reaching out yet, but he seems a lot happier now.
Yet another one of my beloved dead, a cool great grandmother who wore kimonos, asked me to find a better picture of her. She joked that she didn’t like the one that I had of her. I promised her I’d ask my father for a better photo of her. Interestingly enough, when I next spoke to my father, he asked me if I wanted to go through some of her old belongings and photos. Of course, I agreed.
6. There are some things I’ll do differently next year
- Next year, I’d like to put time aside once a week to commune with them instead of whenever I had a few free minutes. I’m going to communicate this, and expect this will help with messages.
- I’d like to find out what their favorite foods are, and present them on the altar. This also takes foresight and planning, which I am going to work on. I’ll put them in my book of shadows.
- I’m going to change the location of my altar. Some of them didn’t appreciate my getting dressed in front of them every morning. I hadn’t thought about that, but it makes sense. I come from a pretty modest family.
- I’m going to follow through on the things they asked me to do. I can’t imagine I’d return if someone had a photo of me I didn’t like, especially if they heard my request to change it.
7. Even though this was my first Samhain celebration since I was in my 20s, I am a dedicated believer in the power of celebrating this sacred holiday.
It was a great Samhain season, and I’m extremely grateful for everything I’ve learned. I look forward to implementing these soon and having an even richer experience next year.