By my reckoning, the three-day festival of Samhain began last night at sundown. Today is the first full day of this holy time.
last year’s main altar at the Ancestor Vigil
We did a solemn, deep vigil for the dead on Monday evening and will do a proper Samhain ritual tomorrow night. There are other community celebrations, too, and lots of private ones of various sorts. I’m fortunate with the two public rituals because one is solemn so the other can be lighter, with dance and song. I’m planning to lead a spiral dance and am thinking we’ll start the evening with a drum circle. (We’ll be at the Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism at 2 Westwood, off Haywood Rd. in west Asheville, starting at 7.)
My private commemorations include visiting the cemeteries where the bones and ashes of my people rest. I’m going to at least one of them today–the one South. I am thinking that next week, I’ll visit my great-grandmother’s people in Haywood county. We found the cemetery when we were there for a funeral earlier this year and I’d like photos of the stones in that one. I’m sure it is a well-tended one–it looked beautiful from the front gates.
I may also go out to the Ballard cemetery. They are a different branch of the family–we are connected back abut 6 generations, as I recall. It is a lonely place in the northern part of the county but dear in its own way. Visiting Cousins seems another good way to honor the season.
When my daughter was little, we would find the prettiest tree in the neighborhood and build a small cairn of rocks underneath it. I found it yesterday but now I only place one stone underneath–said daughter being old enough now to find her own tree in her own corner of the vasty world.
And today I fast during the daylight hours. I do this to honor my Ancestors who were hungry and to stand i solidarity to those who suffered and died during the cultural genocide we call An Gorta Mor. The Irish part of my family immigrated before the Great Hunger but I no doubt have the same sort of Cousin-Ancestors who were in Ireland at the time.
Later in the afternoon, I will join other women to shoot arrows at pumpkins– doesn’t that sound delightful? And perfect for my redneck self.
Tonight will be a quiet supper–much welcome after a long and hungry day. And when we drink to the Old Ones and honor them as “absent friends”, I will turn my thoughts to the coming of winter and the turning of the Great Wheel to a new agricultural season.
It is a busy time, the lingering days of Samhaintide.