Offerings to the Ancestors

ancestral altarSamhain is the final of three harvest festivals in the pagan agrarian calendar. The first is Lughnassadh or Lammas, which focuses on the concepts of sacrifice and renewal; the second is Fall Equinox, which focuses on the balance between light and shadow and the reaping of crops as the days begin to grow shorter (for those of us in northern hemispheres) and the time for harvest dwindles. Samhain marks the beginning of what pagan Witches call the “dead time,” which falls between October 31st and Feb 2nd. Samhain or “Hallows” in early agrarian life, marked the final harvest. The “veil” between the worlds of the living and the dead was thin, allowing exchanges between the two worlds. Crops left unharvested at Hallows were left there as offerings to propitiate the spirits and imps from the other worlds that walked the night. To add to the theme of death surrounding Hallows, the final harvest days were a time for thinning of herds, especially of livestock that might not make it through the harsh winters of northern Europe.

the days begin to grow shorter

As in most cultures across the globe, ancestor worship and veneration was part of our human experience, especially in early pre-Christian times. In many cultures, the time around Hallows has been traditionally a time to consider the dead. And in our contemporary magical practice, we set aside the day(s) for carefully considering those in our lives who have passed. Pagans today may not venerate the dead, but we certainly call upon them, recognize their influence, their importance, and make offerings in commemoration of them.

…we set aside the day(s) for carefully considering those in our lives who have passed.

It is common among pagans today to set aside the single day, Hallows, to recognize the influence of our ancestors. But what would it be like to include awareness and appreciation of those who came before us—all of them—on a daily basis? How would we live our everyday  lives, if we did not cut ourselves off from our human lineage? Even if we do not have children of our own, can we recognize the influence we have, right now, on future generations? Everything we do creates influence on what will come next. We are tomorrow’s ancestors, for one day, we too will be gone. But what will we leave behind?

As Hallows approaches, why not take time to recognize ourselves and each other as honored ancestors? Why not open ourselves to recognizing one another as stewards of the earth, stewards of future wisdom, and seed-sewers of magic? Rather than staying in our heads and re-creating customs from the distant past this Hallows, it is more important to be alert and awake in our here-and-now lives, the influence we have in this very moment, and the role we play in what happens next in the world. Peace? Magic? Wisdom? These are in our hands right now. Can we offer them to one another in this very moment as gifts to the beloved ancestors?

Copyright (c) 2015, Timothy Roderick.

No reproduction of this or other blog posts is authorized without expressed permission from the author.

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