We do talk a lot about the Ancestors, the Beloved Dead and the Long Dead this time of year. i talked with a friend yesterday who had put up her family Ancestor altar, readying herself and her clan for the season’s commemorations. My Ancestor altar stays up year round because part of my root work involves direct work with those spirits so it’s hardly worthwhile to ever take it down.
It does make it a little tricky to use the “good” silver because the altar rests on top of its sturdy wooden box. It is an excellent excuse to never polish it, though. Win-win.
In my morning meditation today, I thought about the idea of a veil between the worlds of matter and spirit. It’s something we Pagans talk of–that there are two hinges in the year, one at Samhain and one at Beltane–and we’ve mostly been thinking lately that the veil is terribly thin these days and has been for several years.
Part of our Ancestor Vigil (which takes place on 10/23 this year) is chanting to open the veil and let our Ancestors pass through. Many years ago we did that Vigil in a public park and I was astonished and delighted when the chant culminated in an iron-clanging crash from the nearby rail yard. This morning, though, I thought about doors and doorways, riffing on liminal time as I sipped my tea and watched the candles flicker. What if there is a doorway into the Summerlands, into Tir Nan Og. In my mind, of course, it is a big oaken jobbie with suitably gnarly hinges and knob. And then I got in the car and turned on the radio to hear the song “Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”
I laughed and laughed, imagining our Ancestors loading baskets with their well-wishes and good advice, then travelling along a pretty pathway to find themselves at a heavy wooden door, where they must knock loudly to get our attention. And when they do, we cross over a little bridge with a lantern and we go along to the door, to let them in and welcome them home.
Which made me think of that song Lorrena McKennitt does– “All Souls Night”–
I can see lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All… All Souls Night.
All Souls night.