For those of us in the Wiccan tradition, this time of year is Samhaintide (pronounced SAH-wen), the final celebration of the harvest: the harvest of souls. This is the time when the veil between the concrete world and the spirit world is the thinnest and can easily be crossed or seen through. The night is long here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the days are getting colder. We are more prone to gather ’round a fire and share stories and memories, and this is exactly what the dead want.
When we share our memories of the deeds and qualities of our beloved dead or our exalted ancestors, we invite them to gather round us in protective and loving circles. We can do this in ritual spaces or in casual conversation. Either way, we invite their presences and honor their lives, their passing, and the things we have learned from them.
The Goddess is in her Crone aspect, and we are called to honor our elders, too. Women of wisdom and courage, sacrifice and steely resolve, those who are our blood kin and those whom we honor as Grandmothers of the Spirit are here to show us the value of long life. Their stories connect us to our past, to the rhythms of time and of our bodies, and to the knowledge and strength of connection.
During this harvest season, this harvest of souls, we call upon the Goddesses of the Underworld of many lands to guide our loved ones near. Traditional Celtic Wiccans would call upon The Morrigan, but today many of us honor Goddesses of the Dead from all over the world: Hekate (Greek), who stands at the crossroads with her lantern and her dogs; Morta (Roman) or Atropos (Greek), the third of the Fates; Hel (Norse) who presides over Helheim; Libitina (Roman), who calls us to honor our dead with funerals; or perhaps Ereshkigal (Babylonian), sister of Inanna, Coatlicue (Aztek), also associated with rebirth, or Nephthys (Egyptian), who would escort souls to the realm of the Dead.
This season of Samhain can get busy as the popular culture celebrates Hallowe’en. The parties and costumes and candy can be helpful reminders to pause and send out love and blessings to those who have crossed the veil. In celebration, we can leave gifts of food, flowers, candy, or drinks at their graves or on our altars. We can set up a specific altar for our ancestors (what people in Mexico call an “ofrenda” and is used in Day of the Dead celebrations) with photos and mementos to call them back and remind them that they hold special place in our hearts.
And so we say at this time of year: What is remembered, lives!