In today's PaganNewsBeagle, we have our Watery Wednesday community news. A watery festival in New Orleans; Paganism and depression; Jewitch ancestors; remembering Margot Adler; a new CSI episode features Wicca.
In today's faithful Friday post, we are concentrating on the upcoming season of Samhain -- high holy days for Wicca- and Wiccan-influenced Pagans. In today's Beagle, we highlight posts from outside our PaganSquare channel -- watch for our PaganSquare Samhain special edition next week, where we will highlight the Samhain posts of our in-house writers.
Many thanks to Nick Sagala for sharing his traditions with us ♥
Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead--is a holiday dear to the hearts and souls of people who love their ancestors. The Santa Muerte is the goddess connected to Dia de los Muertos. She pre-dates Christianity in that part of the world, and the Mexica knew her as MICTECACIHUATL, Lady of the Land of the Dead. She was believed to be a protector of souls residing in the dark underworld, and she is depicted as a woman in a skull mask and traditional dress decorated with flags which were put upon corpses prepared for cremation.
I’ve been thinking about the Ancestors a lot lately; it’s that time of year. In fact, they’ve even asserted themselves when I wasn’t seeking them, such as the day I experienced a vision of a Minoan priestess undertaking a rite of prophecy through the ancestral spirits. From the earliest times, the Minoans revered their ancestors. At the Autumn Equinox they held celebrations of the dearly departed, feasting and performing rituals in the shadows of the beehive-shaped tholos tombs where their ancestors’ remains were interred. Some of the tombs had pillar crypts beneath them, providing another place for offerings and communication with the dead.
My own experience with shamanic practice centering on the Ancestors and Minoan spirituality suggests a reason for the beehive shape of these tombs and the connection of the Ancestors with the Bee Goddess. Like many shamanic practitioners, I have experienced a particular sound when I connect with the ancestral spirits, a sort of multi-pitched buzzing that almost exactly reproduces the noise of a hive of swarming bees. And of course, honey being such a delicious prize in cultures that did not yet know how to refine sugar from beets or cane, I can totally relate to the idea of bees being sacred representatives of the Ancestors and, later on, the gods (or goddesses, to be precise). I keep a miniature beehive on my Minoan altar to remind me that the Ancestors were just as much a part of Minoan spirituality as the goddesses and gods.
As a young woman, I fell in love with the work of Mary Stewart and have read all of her books. There is one that is set in Lebanon called The Gabriel Hounds and from it I learned the phrase "gabble ratchet" which is a folk corruption of "Gabriel's hounds." It means the sound of wild geese flying, a sound that is evocative of a pack of baying hounds. In folklore, the Gabriel hounds are sometimes the souls of unbaptized children crying in the night, or they may foretell a death or they're thought to be the hounds of Hel(l).
In my heart, though, that eerie sound--so full of longing and grief--always evokes the Ancestors, the Beloved Dead. My writing desk sets by a west-facing window and that window looks out over the French Broad River. The Canada geese use the old river as a flight path that sweeps them northward to a couple of good feeding grounds and a man-made lake. In the spring, we are rewarded with the site of families of the gabble ratchets with their fuzzy chicks, grazing on the chickweed near the old railroad tracks.
There's so much during this season that I find myself trying to find any lightness, any humor. Hence the title of this piece. We hardly need to bring them out, Python-style, when they are insistently demanding our attention as the nights grow like looming stalactites.
Tonight I want to write a bit about Ancestor altars. Do you have one? Do you leave it up, year-round, or put it up just after the Autumnal Equinox? I've been asking colleagues which they prefer and it's about evenly divided. For the record, I keep one up year-round because my root work is dependent on keeping my Ancestors in-the-know. And also, happy. I like some happy Ancestors, me.