Yesterday was the day that I personally celebrated Samhain. For half of the ritual, we honor our ancestors and those that came before us and left us. For the second half of the ritual, we honor change and mark our goals for the new year.
I have been speaking to my (living) grandfather about our ancestors lately, with a bit of a focus. On October 29th, it was a full moon, as most of us know. The October Full Moon is called the blood moon -- that Esbat ritual is sometimes a celebration of the ancestors, and letting them know the intent for Samhain. Some celebrate it with more a somber tone than Samhain will have, and sometimes the reverse is true.
Anyway, my grandfather's grandmother, who he called Nan -- visited the circle during the Blood Moon ritual. When she arrives, not only does she buzz, but she also brings with her an overwhelming smell of spearmint -- specifically the spearmint lifesavers. I spoke to him about it and he did indeed bring light to the situation. He gave me her name, which I'll honor here: Minnie Esmeralda Height.
On the night of Samhain, I held a pretty decently large ritual with the members from our on-campus organization (The Oswego State Pagan Association.) Everyone had something to share about ancestors and change. Emotions ran high, I can honestly tell you. Many who are normally much less inclined to do so played or sang music in the circle. We all trusted one another at least for the two-and-some hours that ritual was held.
For my part, I put dried, crushed spearmint on the altar as an offering for Nan. She showed up without having to be asked twice. I invited her, and she showed up. She is the most warm and positive spirit I have met to date. When it was my turn to talk about change, I left the Death card on the altar. (That can be explained in more detail later, but it is a symbol of transformation.) I also pulled out a gift from mon cher; an agate slice that has the Wunjo rune carved into it.
I happened to have had it in my pocket still. Not only does that symbolize a change by means of adding a new friend to my life, but the rune represents joy. For me, joy stems from my decision that I am allowed to just be me without having to change to fit ideals of another. For me, joy is loving me even if there just happens to be that no one is there to tell me they love me. It never mattered to begin with if they did or not. Not so many years ago, I could not love myself. My change is that self-love. My goal that I set is to stop being so nervous and have a bit of courage to speak and tell people what I know or what I think without being nervous to open my mouth.
I had started learning the song "Shadows" by Woodland to sing at the ritual, but it was stressing me out that I didn't seem to know it well enough. Nan whispered to me "Sing what you know, sweetheart." And so I did. I put the papers aside and sang the first song that popped into my head. It was "I'll Follow You Into the Dark" by Deathcab for Cutie, which is a song I just sing sometimes -- mostly to my birds for no specific reason. This song though...it seemed right for Samhain. I sang it, linked at the arms with a couple of my friends who gave me all the courage they could muster. It was liberating. I want my voice to be heard, but I get so nervous about it. I goal to change that. I hope to achieve it.
As the ritual continued on, we went through waves of extreme sadness or pain to extreme joy and relief. I felt everything, as I took a chance and went into ritual unshielded. That night, based on everything that went on, I couldn't calm down. I was awake until just before I had to get up for class, reveling in my reflections.
The best thing, though, about this time of year...I think that would be the people. It's that moment...brief as it seems, when we all are gathered in one place for exactly the same reason, feeling the same sorts of emotions. Hallowed are the days when the veil between our world and the next is at its thinnest. More sacred still are the gatherings of young witches and pagans to celebrate the phenomenon together.
I hope everyone had a stellar Samhain this year.