Samhain. All Hallows Eve. Halloween. Day of the Dead.
Whatever you call it, we all know it as the season of the witch. It is our time. Our celebration.
There are plenty of posts out there about how to celebrate Samhain. I won’t add to the pile.
Instead – this season has brought on an interesting discussion and a perspective that I rarely think or have ever thought about.
Samhain is a celebration of our ancestors. It is a time to reflect and honor their lives. The veil thins and our connection to their spirit, their energy grows ever stronger.
But when we get down to it, it’s about death.
Death is not something I’ve ever really dwelled on until recently. I’ve never found myself particularly afraid of death. The act of dying, sure. That is a variable that I would rather have some kind of control over. But actually being dead has never sent me into a tailspin or made me worry about tomorrow in a way that impacts the decisions I make today.
Death is just something that happens. It is inevitable.
I can remember quite clearly the first funeral I attended. My sweet great-grandmother had passed (due to old age, nothing traumatic here). And as I watched my extended family cry and lose themselves briefly in their grief over losing her – I thought something was wrong with me.
I didn’t cry. I didn’t panic over her no longer being with us. And in that moment, I didn’t realize why my family lost themselves for a moment in her passing.
I realize now, that it is because we never knew her.
This little woman bore and raised and loved so many children and grand and great-grandchildren in her life that all she wanted was to spend what little time with us she could.
My sisters and I did not grow up with her in our lives every moment. But when we did visit, we would spend hours with her. Her home was a quiet place to play games and just be. All she wanted when we visited was to give us our favorite candy and watch her shows. Those moments we did have with her, they were lovely.
But she never told us stories of the past. She never pushed us to tell her all about our plans as we grew up. She just let us be children and play.
Now, I realize I wish she had told us more stories. I knew she had plenty of them. Every inch of wall space in her home was covered in photographs. Every space was covered in evidence of her family, of us.
There is a void in my knowledge of my history. That old adage of understanding your past to look towards your future nudges at me to fix it. To remind me to to work to understand the culture and the family I came from.
Now my husband’s family is an entirely different story. He can trace his father’s family back far into history. His family is in books and can be found even if you skim the surface of European history. His mother’s side, well they aren’t that hard to track either.
It’s fascinating marrying into a family that knows with such certainty where they came from. They can see their past so clearly. It used to overwhelm me.
We all wish to know where we come from. I think that is a facet of human psychology that we will never overcome. It gives us something to hold onto. It is a thread that holds our focus on living and experiencing all we can.
But looking to the future and those experiences means acknowledging that at some point, we too will be gone.
*queue existential crisis*
Life cannot happen without death, death cannot happen without life. it is the fundamental balance that occurs even at our most cellular level.
We shouldn’t be afraid of it. We should use it as motivation to live our happiest, healthiest, most authentic lives possible. To pursue our dreams and passions and inspire our loved ones to follow in our footsteps to live that way as well.
All this time I thought that I had no ancestors to honor during Samhain. But as we move closer, I find myself being called to honor what I do know or at least acknowledge that it is a connection I do want to build.
How are you working to honor your ancestors this season? What is your favorite way to mark Samhain and celebrate?