‘Familiar’ Loss

“We never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.”

― Gail Caldwell

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Witch’s Familiar is something of tall tales as told in history books and still a very integral part of spiritual practice for many of us.  In April, we lost our beloved Familiar, Ms. Lyra, and it’s taken me this long to be able to share.  Lyra was a huge part of our every day in every-way life and the loss is a particularly deep and painful one.  I have sustained the loss of dogs, cats, horses, grandparents and both of my parents; the list goes on.  As pagan peoples bearing close ties to the energies and frequencies we live and work with, the loss is deeply felt and a familiar is extremely hard.  Every place I turn in my bedroom, in the garden, in the barn, on the front porch is ghosted with her presence and constant reminders at every turn.  Our lives were enriched by her presence, by her nurturing nature, by the flash of her golden eyes and her sassy chatter.  Ms. Lyra would watch over me wherever I went: while I slept, she patrolled the land; when I was up in the morning, she raced through the dog door to have a morning meditation; when I went running, she frequently insisted on running 2 miles or more with me through the woods (which is highly usually for just a regular cat and  indicated I needed to be on the watch for something); when sick she would give her healing energy to whomever needed it.

Our spiritual practice was enriched through her awareness of that which could not be seen and her supportive presence during circle.  Her energy and frequency added another layer of power and connection to our workings that is much different now that she is gone.

Almost everyone has experienced a serious loss of some sort in their lives, whether it be a family member, friend, home, job, beloved pet or familiar.  Loss is always hard unless it’s the last five pounds of winter weight.  It is a feeling I have become far too familiar with and therefore know what to expect, though I do not believe that it is an experience one ever truly gets used to.  “They” say that time heals all wounds, however, one would need to define ‘heal’.  Loss is an oxymoron, in that one has less of something, yet somehow feels heavier in our grief.

RIP

The process of healing is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve, other than ignoring it. In the face of grief remember to be gentle with yourself, give yourself time and honor life and loss in your own way.

All these months later and our loss still feels heavy and fresh.   We have honored her presence in our Samhain Season rites and will continue to remember Ms. Lyra equally as we acknowledge any family member.

Ms. Lyra-the lives of those at Rosethorn Manor and been blessed by your presence and will never be the same again.  May your soul ride gently and safely on the joyful breath of Bastet until we meet once again my beloved.  RIP

If you have lost a beloved Familiar, we would love to hear your story.

The Season of Samhain

Season of Samhain

Season of Samhain

 

amhain (pronounced Sow-een), also known as Samhuin,  Oíche Shamhna, All Hollows Eve or the more modern Halloween is a sabbat with Celtic roots marking the darker/lighter, end of summer/beginning of winter halves of the year. Beginning at sundown on October 31st the veil is beginning to thin, but becomes it’s most permeable around the 6th and 7th. However, our Samhain season extends long past the sabbat day.   It is also the beginning of a time in which we commune with our ancestors, celebrating our heritage and calling upon their ancient wisdom.

As with all sabbats, we come together to celebrate and acknowledge the transitional nature in both our spiritual and mundane lives as we say good-bye to one season and usher in another.  We see the beginnings of death and decay around us as the Goddess withdraws, whether it be in molding fruits on the vine, rotting jack-o-lanterns, wilting plant life left in the field or the herd animals that have been brought down from greener pastures closer to home and driven through the cleansing fires to be culled for slaughter or breeding.   The blood of butchered animals, as well as the burned bone ash, were offered to the God and Goddess and thusly sprinkled on the fields to usher in another productive year.   This third and final harvest focuses on butchering or hunting and preserving of meats as well gathering the last of foodstuffs in orchard and root crops in the fields.  We gather in the last of the foods stuffs before Samhain season begins and they are feasted on by the dead.   It is understood that foods left to Samhain air are for the consumption of the dead and are not to be consumed by the living.  We have said our farewells to the last vital and protective powers of the sun and stocked our food and wood stores.

It is a season of gathering and homecoming where we have prepared for our hibernation and hunker down to weather the winter storms.  In the Pacific Northwest, our sights are flooding with brilliant and amazing colors of blush, gold, red, orange and scarlet.  It fills our souls with one last burst of life before death as the fog rolls in and things grow dark and silent.  A hush is cast across the land, filling us with anticipation of what is to come.  Our persistence for survival often creates a struggle during the process of dying, that moment right before we give ourselves over to the moment and move beyond.  That very reason is why the Season of Samhain is so important.

Our beautiful Samhain altars reflect the long-lasting foods of winter with luscious red apples, bright orange pumpkins and gourds.  The last of summers flowers of deep red dahlias, brown and yellow sunflowers, calendula, herbs of fragrant angelica, soothing mint, protective sage and catmint along with deep golden maple leaves, fern, scarlet oak and blushing ash adorn the altar.  Orange and brown candles flank our Lord and Lady whilst a large mirrored silver apple lies between to scare away those spirits that do not belong.  Garnet, hematite, jasper and obsidian ground us in the here and now and sparkle in the candle glow.  We acknowledge the decay of season with dried leaves forming an offering plate for fall harvested mushrooms, hawthorn berries and hazelnuts-calling to the wisdom of the ancients.  The goddess has transitioned into her Crone aspect, therefore Hecate has been honored with black candles and an offering bowl full of belladonna berries.  For many of us, our practice revolves around the veneration of our dead and there is, therefore, an entire space set aside for pictures, red votives, small belongings handed down, dried leaves, fresh flowers and offerings of bread and rum-or whiskey in my father’s case.

ancestor altar

Ancestor Altar @ Rosethorn Manor

Samhain sabbat is spent giving thanks for our summers harvest and connecting with family who watch from beyond the hedge-making their favorite dishes.  We spend much of our day turning inwards so that we are in a place to hear what the ancestors have to share.  After ritual, we commence with a dumb supper.  Each person brings to the sabbat table their ancestor’s favorite dish.  I break out my Grandma Hebert’s mustard pickles and dilly beans as well as my father’s pepper relish canned at Mabon.  I make a chocolate pie for my mom, while my husband makes colcannon for our Scotch/Irish heritage.  We set an empty place for the ancestors in which they are served a bit of every dish before we all sit down to a supper of pumpkin soup in mini cauldrons and a feast, quite literally fit for the dead.  We talk to the dead about the highlights of our year and then fall silent to hear what information we can.   When we are finished with our supper, the ancestor plate will be left outside along with a candle so that our ancestors may warm themselves and glean enough energy to see them safely back across the hedge until next year, when the Crone Goddess visits us.

How do you prepare for the dark and how do you venerate your ancestors?

The Gates of Samhain

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amhain is one of the most anticipated sabbats of the witch’s year.  The leaves are burnished with red and gold, pumpkins, corn and squash are at the end of their ripening and the smell of fall fires are in the cold crisp air.  On the winds we hear the call of our ancestors voices that are beginning to reach us and in our peripheral vision spirit activity is more visible.

Samhain (pronounced Sow-een), also known as Samhuin,  Oíche Shamhna, All Hollows Eve or the more modern Halloween is a sabbat with Celtic roots marking the darker/lighter, end of summer/beginning of winter halves of the year.   At this time, much like at Beltane, the veil between the worlds is thinning and it is at this time that spirits journey across the hedge and seek out their kin.  As with many things in life, the demarcation line in spiritual matters is not so simple as black/white, opened/closed and this parallels the reality of the thinning veil. Image result for remedios varo's paintings

During Samhain we can hear the echo of the Goddess’ words from the Charge of the Goddess, that ‘no mortal shall ever see that which lies beyond my veil, for I am indeed mistress of the mysteries and keeper of the keys’.   The Veil that we speak of is the wall or membrane that separates the land of humankind from the land of ‘other’; be it Fey, Summerland, the Underworld, the God and Goddess, Spirits and Ancestors, etc.   The withdrawal of the Goddess across the veil is felt in lessening light of the Sun God shining upon her and as she withdraws her energy, so goes life until all lies still, quiet and fallow.

The Season of Samhain kicks off on or around October 31st, however does not reach its peak until around the 6th or 7th of November, when Sun is 15 degrees to Scorpio.  Scorpio is ruled by Pluto (Hades) the God of the Underworld, who is now coming into his full power.   Similar to Beltane, the veil is the thinnest and spirits activity is most prevalent. While Beltane energies are drawn upward and outward in the tree of life, toward the land of the Fey and Summerland; creation, fertility, light and life; Samhain energies are beginning to spiral inward and downward towards the underworld and spirits, death and decay, introspection and reflection.

Each one of these places all vibrate to a specific frequency, so to speak, which determine the placement of each of the ‘others’.  Our rites focus on aligning with these frequencies to make it possible to more easily commune with our ancestors.  Does this mean that we are unable to contact these other frequencies at different times of the year?  The short and long of it is, No.  The reality of it is, it is much more challenging to do so.  Many of us venerate, libate, pay homage and speak with/to our ancestors all year long.  The constant connection is often able to keep our most recently departed connected longer as well as aid in the petitioning of help or wisdom from our ancestors.   There is, however, a lot of static at other times of the year.  Imagine sending your call or your will through the eye of a needle in the dark when the wind is constantly blowing your thread around.  At Samhain those winds cease to blow for a time and the energies become still.

The withdraw of the goddess energy is reflected in the highly spiritual practices that aid us in turning inward, more aptly allowing us to connect with the inner planes and attune ourselves to what is taking place.   Energy goes where life flows and I believe that when one is aligned with and linked to deity/nature, our essential connected selves will follow where we can.  Thusly, as the Goddess crosses that veil, we follow to the liminal outer reaches but are unable to cross.  We know she’s there, we can feel her, but she’s not as easily accessed.  Simultaneously, those on the other-side have awaited her presence and as the Goddess crosses over the veil is much more permeable to those with no corporeal body. Those who still yearn for their kin or have been petitioned regularly are eager to connect with those in the land of the living and make the precarious journey at this time.

Alternatively as the Goddess of life crosses the veil she transforms into the Crone of Darkness who had journeys forth from the Underworld.  It is she who presides over the Cauldron that contains the essence of all mysteries, knowledge, life and the birthing of possibilities found in the matrix of unorganized and unformed chaos.  It is the Cauldron of the Crone in which we seek visions of knowledge as we process our year and move toward spiritual understanding and enlightenment.

Samahin’s third and final harvest of field crops and butchering provide the required sustenance for the sabbat season.  Those who walk the path of the old ones understand that where there is birth and death, there is blood and energy that will open portals and draw spirits.  Our Samhain rites give the much needed energy and spiritual food necessary to make the journey here and back across the hedge safely.   The rites also aid in protection against those convoluted soul energies that have breached the veil with more nefarious tasks in mind.

Lastly, Samhain is a Holy Day where open the portal or the guesting door, we light bonfires and hearth fires in the darkness to guide our beloved home for a spell as we call out the names of our ancestors and give thanks for their life blood that gives us life and runs strongImage result for remedios varo's paintingsly in our veins.

So……take a moment to rise up proudly, call your ancestors names loudly and drink heartily!

Blessed Be