Monday, October 18, 2010

Samhain is coming...

Samhain is fast approaching and all throughout the land of fair Pagandom, folks are getting ready to honor their Beloved Dead.

Altars are being set up, shrines erected, and offerings made.  I love this. 

Having grown up Catholic, my childhood Halloween fun was sometimes interrupted by All Saints Day observations, depending on where Halloween fell in the week.  Placing cheap flowers on graves, a half-hearted invocation from our Parish Priest, a few chats with living relatives, and then back home where I put on my conical hat and waited for trick or treating.  Even as a child it struck me as being...soulless.  I didn't connect with it. 

But I've grown up a lot, and more of my extended family and friends have crossed the veil.  This year alone brought a number of deaths, and I've had to face the mortality of my parents, my friends, and myself.

The wonderful thing about families such as mine is that tradition and heritage are so important and so strongly interwoven into everyday life.  We prepare meals my peasant ancestors in the Czech Republic would have had during a rough winter.  We play their music.  We sometimes speak their language.  The old stories are told around the table.  Just last Thanksgiving the Top Secret Family Stuffing Recipe was handed down to me, and I was tasked with making it for the feast. 

My Beloved Dead live on with me everyday.  In everything I do.

But I must confess that my Samhain nights are almost always secular.  Costumes to make.  People's gore and effects makeup to do.  Must-See Tacky Late Night Movies.  Being on candy duty.  These things take up lots of energy, time, and damnit, are a lot of fun.  To skip out on that fun, magic, and family time to sit in my room and think about dead people seems counter-intuitive to me. 

So how does one remedy this?  How do you make it work?

Since so much of my famiy identity is connected to the Church, I must make my peace with Catholicism and attend the All Saints Day services with my family, in addition to my usual Halloween fun.  I will make dishes my grandmother would have made.  I will light candles and leave offerings.  I will watch tacky movies and gorge myself on candy.  And in the wee small hours of November, I will call the names of the Mighty Dead.

What do you have planned?

3 comments:

  1. I've never been close to most of my living family (excepting the odd few), so growing up I never had any family traditions, and missed out on the stories of my ancestors. This is the first year I've been in the proper mindset to really approach ancestor work (with plenty of poking and prodding from the blogosphere), so hunting down the family bible, building an alter, and designing a series of rituals to get into touch with my ancestors will be... interesting at worst I suppose.

    Not to mentions I have some reconnecting to do with the living relatives, many of which haven't seen me since I was about two feet tall.

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  2. If you don't want to pass up on the more secular parts of the holiday, you can incorporate a few little things into your mundane practices to honour the dead. It doesn't have to be *all* about sitting in the dark! One of the things we do is to set an extra place at the table, complete with food, that represents a welcome to those who have passed on to come join us for dinner. The food is then left outside overnight for critters to eat, and/or you can throw it out (but it shouldn't be eaten). Another thing you can do is to simply light a candle for each person you'd like to remember. Both of these are great, easy ways to honour the dead without interrupting your regular activities too much.

    I hope you have a great holiday no matter what you do! :3

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  3. I'm attending a Samhain ritual at the new age book store where I take 101 classes. We students had to plan the whole thing and I'm really excited because it's the first time I've been in a circle with others. Also doing the costume/trick or treating thing with the kids. Have fun all!

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