The veil between the worlds thins every year as October gives way to November. I was raised a catholic and we call this transition, All Saints Day. A time when the saints came to bless us and we honored them for their courage and faith.
“With the coming of Christian Spaniards to Mexico, the indigenous customs of honoring the dead at this time of year mixed with Roman Catholicism and gave birth to the Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, in early November. Samhain (Celtic tradition) shares the ancient spiritual practice of remembering and paying respects to the Dead with these related religious holidays of Christianity.”
This traditional Mexican celebration of their ancestors has roots deep in the Aztec and other Meso-American civilizations. This custom is spreading like wildfire across the continent and for good reason. We all get a lot out of honoring our ancestors and making it into a party takes the taboo and fear out of reconnecting with our loved ones who are on the other side. The celebration is loud, and colorful and can last for a few days or as long a month. It’s a time when dead relatives, both young and old, are allowed to return to the mortal world for a visit to comfort us and let us know that death is not the end but part of the journey. This is based on the Aztec belief that life is a dream and only in death do we become truly awake. So you can see why our ancestors come back to us during this time with partying on their minds.
Instead of hearing blood-curdling shrieks, rattling chains, and low moaning,
Families welcome the spirits of their ancestors with their favorite foods and libations, and let the laughter begin. Tasty candies decorated like skulls and toys are brought for spirit children, altars are built, gravesites are cleaned and decorated, and candles are lit to guide the loved ones home again.
Day of the Dead celebrations in rural areas happen in graveyards where the families decorate graves with marigolds, have picnics, and honor their ancestors with their favorite foods, candy for the children, and tequila for the adults. In larger cities and in parts of the United States the tradition of building altars in the home became popular. The altars can be very elaborate and are covered with everything you’d see at the gravesite, especially favorite food, candy, alcohol, flowers, and pictures of family members who have passed. This is the time for gathering the whole family in the graveyard or at home to pay respects, tell fond stories, sing songs, and turn grief into acceptance. This tradition may seem unsavory to outsiders, but there is nothing disrespectful about it Removing the fear and allowing grief to transform into joy is the purpose of the Dia de los Muertos.
In the pagan communities, Samhain is a more somber and personal event. Rituals and celebrations are held in the privacy of homes among close friends and family.
“Samhain's long association with death and the Dead reflects Nature's rhythms. In many places, Samhain coincides with the end of the growing season. Vegetation dies back with killing frosts, and therefore, literally, death is in the air. This contributes to the ancient notion that at Samhain, the veil is thin between the world of the living and the realm of the Dead and this facilitates contact and communication. For those who have lost loved ones in the past year, Samhain rituals can be an opportunity to bring closure to grieving and to further adjust to their being in the Otherworld by spiritually communing with them.” –Selena Fox
The New Age blossomed in the United States around the 1970s but really has its roots in spiritualism and the occult studies of Madame Blavatsky founder of the Theosophical Society, psychologist Carl Jung and Dr. George King founder of the Aetherius Society, and many others. Coined as Western esotericism among other names, the New Age brought many ideas about where humanity could go if it kept evolving by merging science with spirituality. One of the most popular is communication with not only our ancestors but spirit guides, angels, and masters. The purpose of such communications is to guide us through our lives and beyond. Through the practice of channeling, we can get messages from these guides on all manner of ideologies.
Our desire to prove that there is a heaven and that life does continue after death is so strong in us that we have never stopped improving our ability to talk to the dead. Now we are reaching higher and want to talk to ascended masters, angels, and archangels. All of this is to help quench the thirst for knowledge about eternal life so that we are not alone. Some of us reach out for a glimmer of hope as we feel discouraged about our lives. Others reach out for inspiration and help to solve their own problems. No matter the reason, we are expanding our minds beyond the material world and finding amazing truths about us, the universe, and what comes next.
Here at Coventry we have a candle for that. It may seem like a simple thing, but catalysts often are. I invite you to light an Ancestor Blessed Herbal candle this Day of the Dead, Samhain, All Saints Day, and talk to your ancestors and spirit guides. Learning about where we came from will help make more sense of where we’re going.