Celebrating the dead

Samhain, as a celebration of the end of summer, is also a celebration of death, and the moving of the spirits of the dead through the veil. As such, I have always felt that the end of October and beginning of November were a powerful time of year to commemorate those who have passed and celebrate their lives. Here are a couple of ways that you can honour those who have passed.

1. Involve the Dead in your Samhain celebrations. Have a plate of food and a glass of whatever you’re drinking reserved for visiting spirits. You may be surprised to find some of this “missing” at the end of your meal. Note: I have been told to NEVER eat or save for the purpose of eating later this extra plate of food and drink. Instead, I usually put it out in the woods for nature to claim. Acknowledge the dead in your ritual, involve a related deity in your ritual (such as Persephone, Morrigan, Anubis, Thanatos, Freya, Odin, etc…)

2. Look to another culture. Try celebrating the dead with a ceremony from another culture, like the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) from Mexico, or the bonfires, feasts and lanterns of the UK

3. Write a letter to the person or people that you have lost and send it to them by burning it.

4. Visit the graves of those who have passed and tidy them up. Bring them flowers or a treat.

5. Set out to meet with them in dreams. Personally, this is how I tend to communicate with the dead all year round, whether intentionally or not. Make a tea of herbs that assist in dream recall or lucid dreaming, such as valerian, and go sleep with the intention of speaking with the specific person clear in your mind.

6. Spend time with close friends and family. Look at pictures and reminisce on your memories of those passed.

What do I normally do? Well, if I attend the annual Witches Gathering here in Ottawa, I write the name of someone who has passed in their Book of Memories, which is used in the annual ritual. I also make a place setting at our feast for the spirits of the dead. I use this time to communicate with the dead, either in dreams or during my ritual. I go through pictures, I update commemorative websites and I talk about them with friends and family.