What follows is a long description of our Hallows ceremony. If you're not interested in the Invisibles or ritual, you might want to skip this post. I put in a little more detail than I ordinarily do in case any of you want to try this at home.
"When we dream alone, it is only a dream, but when we dream together, it is the beginning of a new reality." —Unknown Author
About midday, I wondered once again what the hell I was doing as I prepared for the Hallows celebration at the Old Mermaids Sanctuary. I had had little sleep over the past couple of nights, and I was starting to get a little cranky. Still, when I finally dragged myself out of bed, I spent part of the morning dancing around the house skyclad. I really think everyone should begin at least some of their mornings dancing around the house nekked.
Then I cleaned the house, did laundry, made dal, made marinated rice salad, decorated, started the ancestors altar. Got a headache. Had company. The company was a nice break, actually. She told me an interesting dream she had had complete with a shapeshifting donkey with a blue vine and a hummingbird that was a kami. Kamis are Japanese god/goddesses/spirits. (Her mother is Japanese.) I'd never heard of a kami, so that piqued my interest. I pulled out a bunch of my mythology books, and we looked at pictures of goddesses, read about hummingbirds, and tried to find info about kamis. Talked. Mario stopped by during his break.
After she left, I went back to preparing for our ceremony. People here are notoriously bad about RSVPing even when you ask them to, so I didn't know how many people were coming. I was hoping it would be a small group. I put tea lights in tiny cauldrons and candle holders outside to illuminate the way for our guests. At 6:00 p.m. when the gathering officially started, it began pouring down pissing down rain. All the candles were immediately drowned, except for one. It flared and burned for quite a long time.
People began arriving between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. One woman was dressed as a fairy. She wore red crinoline and fairy wings. Someone else was dressed as a kind of Earth mother autumnal goddess with a blue moon crescent on her forehead and a crown of leaves on her head. Another woman wore a beautiful red mask with a long orange dress. (I know; I should have taken photos.) Mario wore a mask made from leaves that our friend Michelle made. Another woman was dressed in belly-dancing clothes with a faux leopard shirt, purple crinoline, faux leopard hat, purple wig, and these glorious strange sunglasses. I dressed as a relaxed witch shaman Kim person, with a purple witch hat, pouches, and a long summer dress. Another woman was dressed as as hippie, complete with peace signs painted on her face.
I loved it! After a bit we settled down to start the ceremony. First we called in the directions and elements. We started in the East. Normally I would call in the directions, but instead I asked the people sitting in the East to say something nice about the East and about Air. They did. Then we moved on to the South and Fire, West and Water, North and Earth, what is Above and Below.
Then we went to the heart of the ceremony. First they each picked an animal card from the Medicine Card deck. (Eventually they would travel with the power animal to an ancestor. They would thank the ancestor and then ask for a gift to bring back to someone in the circle. Then they would ask the ancestor if there was some kind of service request they could bring back for someone in the circle. So everyone would get a gift and everyone would be asked to do something for the community.)
Aside. Now here's one of those funny coincidences—or gifts of the Invisibles: I told Mario about my ceremony plans a few days ago. I said I wanted to let each person take their Medicine Card home with them, but I didn't really want to break up my deck. Well, Saturday morning, the morning of the ceremony, someone donated a used pack of Medicine Cards to the Friends of the Library. The woman even brought it up to the desk so that Mario saw it, rather than just putting it in the barrel! Mario called me from work, amazed, and asked if I wanted it. Of course! So he bought it from the Friends of the Library and brought it home.
So I took those cards out and everyone blindly picked one. Once we had our power animals we drummed and danced. The nine of us spread out so that we were dancing and drumming in the living room and my room. (Our little rented house has a strange setup. It's really one huge room with a staircase running through it. Not the best feng shui, I know.) In the past, drumming with people who are not accustomed to drumming has not really been that successful. For instance, the drumming at our Healers Circle has been a little lackluster. But tonight I encouraged them to dance their animal and to make noise. Perhaps being dressed as fairies, goddesses, hippies, and witches allowed people to relax and go for it. Which they did!
When we finished drumming, I turned out the lights. I instructed them to imagine their true self, the one who is full of herself, who knows and understands her true power. For me, I always imagine myself like in the photograph of me on my banner here on my blog. (I'm at Horsethief Lake State Park where the pictographs are, near to She Who Watches. I am open and powerful.) Then I asked the group to each merge with their true self.
Next I asked them to have their power animal give them some protection. The power animal might lick them or surround them with light mesh that kept away harm or do something else that was protective. My power animal taps the top of my head and a kind of egg of purple light envelops me.
I then had them imagine walking down five steps with their power animal. I told them at the bottom of the steps they would find a threshold and beyond that threshold was an ancestor who had volunteered to come and talk with them.
Another aside here. When I talk about ancestors, I don't mean an ancestor like the creepy Uncle Jack you never liked who died last year. I remember when I first started doing this work, I thought, “but my ancestors were all a bunch of depressed drunks; I don't want to honor them or talk to them.” And then two things happened. One, I realized that when we speak of "our ancestors" we're talking about everything on this planet that has lived and then died—everyone that has become dust at our feet: the flora, fauna, the stars. Jesus, Buddha, Emily Dickinson, and the Big Old Oak are all my ancestors. And I realized that for any faults my blood ancestors may have had, they did something very valuable: They survived and because of that, I live. Once I had that realization, all dread and judgment for them slipped away and I just felt profound gratitude for my life and compassion for them and their lives. So I explained to the group that anyone could show up as their ancestor. They might see someone they knew or they might not. They might not see anyone; they might just hear something.
Once they crossed the threshold and saw the ancestor, I instructed them to thank the ancestor. Then ask the ancestor for a gift to bring back to the group. After they understood what that gift was, I told them to ask the ancestor if there was anything we could do to help our communities.
Another aside. This is the thing about the Invisibles: They are not omnipotent or omniscient. Sandra Ingerman says that we are co-creators with them. I like that idea. Instead of walking around with our hands out all the time petitioning, we might instead say, "What can I do?" I think this is so true about so many aspects of our lives. We need to step up as much as we can and take responsibility for our lives and communities.
They then had time to talk with the ancestor. They could ask them if they were able to help make the election go smoothly and for the good of all. And then they said good-bye, walked over the threshold, came up the steps, and returned to our living room.
I turned on the light then and they each wrote on a white slip of paper what the gift was. On an orange slip of paper, they wrote the act of service. Then we dropped them into my mother's green bowl. Each person picked an orange piece of paper and a white one. Then we went around the room and told each other what our gifts for the year were.
There were some interesting “coincidences.” My gift was "clarity," which is what Mario got from his ancestor to bring back to the group. His gift was "love," which was what my ancestor gave me to bring back. One person's ancestor for the journey was Daniel Boone. This person was a bit reluctant to mention this. (And someone else had a character from a movie. What I said is that we never know what clothes the Invisibles will wear.) As soon as the one woman mentioned Daniel Boone, another woman said, "I’m related to Daniel Boone's wife." And then another woman said, "I'm related to Daniel Boone!" So whatever that means, we had some Daniel Boone energy goin’ on!
My gift of service was "love one another." That's an easy gift of service I can give—I think. We'll see how the year unfolds. Some of the gifts of service were specific: mow your lawn, send a card to someone in a nursing home, save the Gorge from development, and others were like mine.
Afterward we ate and talked. One of the women showed us how to "fluff our auras." I've never been quite sure what an aura is, but I was willing to fluff and be fluffed. And actually, I could feel something on my hands as I was fluffing, kind of like when you're doing Tai Chi or Kum Ye yoga and you feel pressure or energy on your hands. Mostly it was a kick looking around the room and seeing these beautifully and exotically dressed people fluffing and being fluffed.
Four of us sat around talking after most everyone had gone. Then we each pulled a card from the Healing Poetry Deck and read them out loud. (I can't remember if I told you all about that. Eight of us from the Celtic Shamanism group put together a deck of healing poetry that we wrote. It's really beautiful. We're going to get a website up soon. We've sold the first 100 decks, and now we're working on the next batch.)
Then Mario and I were alone. We dreaded going into the kitchen, but we finally did. Some little (or big) faery had done the dishes.
I emptied the food from the ancestor plate into a paper bowl someone had left, and I carried it out to the crossroads and left it for the spirits, the faeries, and/or the wild things.
And then I went to sleep and dreamed.
This morning I went out to get the cauldrons and candle holders. All are partially filled with water now, except for one. Remember I mentioned that one candle burned bright during the downpour? The flame had shivered and flared up in the rain, wobbling like a dextrous bellydancer. Apparently at some point, the heat shattered the thick glass and now it lay in three pieces on the grass. Earth, fire, and water all there on display. My teachers who work with the Dakinis might speculate that this was a blessing from the Dakinis. My Celtic teachers might murmur, "Ahhh, the power of three." Someone else might say, "It was just a clash of fire and water and the glass lost." I'm sure I could calculate how hot the flame would have had to have been to shatter the glass. But in the end, as my friend Will says, "It's all one thing."
May You Celebrate in Beauty!
Below is the ancestor altar built on my dad's quilts.