In my last blog on the beliefs of traditional British Old Craft, I mentioned the ‘Ancestors’, who play such an important part in our ways. So with Hallowe’en (or Samhain) almost upon us, I thought it might be a good idea to elaborate on the subject, because it is not such an alien concept as it might first appear. The following is adapted from the Arcanum teaching course and Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living and therefore repeats some of the points previously mentioned.
The honoring of the dead and venerating their memory is a common root of all religion, with many cultures believing that the dead live on in another dimension, continuing to affect the lives of subsequent generations. This concept of spirit-ancestors is an extremely ancient one, especially when it involves dealing with deceased members of a particular people or clan, and is still widely observed in Japanese Shinto, Chinese Confucianism and among the Australian aboriginal and Amerindian peoples. In the West, we know from the prehistoric remains of the numerous earthworks that the early people of the British Isles and the Celts honored their ancestors; and the earliest written observations are those of the Roman Paternalia (February) and the Lemuria (May), which later spread throughout the Empire.
Interaction with these spirit-ancestors as an invisible and powerful presence is also a constant feature of traditional British Old Craft, with the Ancestors remaining important members of the tradition or people they have left behind. In general they are seen as Elders, treated and referred to in much the same way as the most senior of living Elders of a coven or magical group, with additional mystical and/or magical powers. Sometimes they are identified as the Holy Guardian Angels, the Mighty Dead, the Watchers, or the Old Ones, who gave magical knowledge to mankind, rather than family or tribal dead. Or, even more ambiguously, ‘those who have gone before’ – their magical essence distilled into the universal subconscious at different levels.