Ancestors at Samhain

Though I'm mostly Hellenic now, I still have a lot of Wiccan influences on my practice. They work for me, and they work for my gods, and I keep them.

One of these is honoring my ancestors on October 31. August is my time to do serious work with the Dead, but Samhain remains a time to have a little quiet ceremony for them, a time to remember. This year, I finally got my new Ancestor Altar set up in time. Simple, but fitting.

Two of my own handwoven Ghost Masks. Between them is my Dead Mask, that I wear to work with them, by Tormented Artifacts. The small round silk bag on the left contains a small amount of my Granddad's ashes.

On the right, an Indian brocade silk scarf that belonged to my mother-in-law Molly, who died when my wife was in her teens. This is the first time I've explicitly invited her into my home. I did so with the permission of my wife and her brother, who's a Heathen. My brother-in-law tells me that a number of people, including himself, have had experiences with Molly in the years since her death in ways that have a lot more to do with this kind of ancestor veneration than with more popular ideas about ghosts in our culture. I also invited Molly's sister Buffy, who died much more recently, and who I exchanged a few emails with, but never met.

Also on the altar is a cd of pictures of my family. Eventually, I'd like to get an electronic pricture frame for the altar, that would cycle through as many picture of our ancestors as I can get.

The next thing I'd like to do is to make a series of small masks out of clay, with the names and dates of ancestors I or my wife knew, as individual memorials, to represent death masks.

The pumpkin is there as offering, because of a recent UPG that pumpkins are a chthonic fruit, like a New World pomegranate, and suitable for the Dead. The teacup is filled with wine.

Not making an appearance is the mourning necklace I made when my paternal grandmother died, which included her wedding ring as part of it. By policy, I don't invite her spirit into my home. She was cruel and abusive, and I don't want her here. But I did mean to put the necklace on the altar. I can refuse her entrance, but I can't deny that she's an ancestor. I just couldn't find the thing.

Ritual was very simple. I just invited them in, made offering, played Molly's favorite song ("Bridge Over Troubled Waters" by Simon & Garfunkle) to make her feel more welcome, spent some time with them, and was done. As ever, I did not ask them to depart, but invited them to stay with us as they liked.

Brief and simple, but satisfying.