I worked with a bereaved client at the beginning of my psychotherapy training called Margaret. She was 83 years old and what a force of nature she was. Such passion for life, such grit, commitment, devotion, determination and inner strength like I rarely have come across in life, perhaps, only of my own mother. She was Irish. I loved her stories of growing up on a family farm in harsh conditions and amidst complicated family dynamics, but a place so beautiful that whenever she spoke of it I heard a song full of beautiful lyrics and melody of her voice changing into a sweet poetry with each breath. Our relationship was pure enchantment.
Ireland, I seemed to love the place without knowing why or how, I felt I knew it on some level. I married an Irishman first time round. I found the accent musically pleasing and lulling to my senses. Margaret spoke of returning to the land at the age of 83 after the death of her husband. Connemara. Perhaps she’s there now.
Years later I find that particular place is calling to me. Ireland. Through very subtle feelings, round about connections and encounters and things I have read it is as if I am weaving a plan, a map that will eventually take me there. I remain in wonder and curiosity with a sense of peace of getting to know that land one day.
Perhaps it is the completion of the sacred Land trinity for me, the first two being Scottish Highlands and Snowdonia, Wales. Perhaps I am on a journey of rediscovering some Celtic heritage of the British Isles, the path of Druidry that yes, lives in my DNA.
What a joyous journey I often stop to reflect, the one with soul at the centre of it all and spirit that is held in the land, in nature.
What is happening this year around Samhain for me is interesting and I aim to delve into reflecting on what this means for me at this time.
I feel angry with my ancestors, on one hand, and, on the other, I feel grateful. I find myself in conflict with two clans, it would seem, between family ancestors, my blood relatives and those going back centuries, more unfamiliar, unknown, ancestors of the land and spirit. I feel excited about learning about my connection with the group that goes back centuries and comes from Celtic culture and a faraway land from where I was born. Blood line ancestors, however, feel distant and I clearly recognise anger within and want to abandon any connection with them at this point. I feel sad, but I can’t pretend I am not feeling this.
First association is with my father, who I have become disillusioned with particularly during this year. My long journey of untangling and separating from him took a culminate point this year when he literally ‘fell off’ his pedestal. I held an illusion of him for so long. He represented what I wanted to believe to be true. Ouch. It has been very painful and as a result of that deep psychological work I was left with a void, an empty space, completely and utterly bereft. However, that piece of healing has been needed and I gained a sense of freedom, clearing, opening towards myself and filling the space with what I wanted, not something that had been put upon me. Let’s just say I am glad, but sadness of a loss is there. Perhaps, by default of association I also decided to abandon my direct ancestors from my father’s side? I do feel saddened and almost believing that whatever the relationship was between us all, what I believed was true wasn’t true and this extends towards them all on his side, so confused… perhaps, psychologically this is not so uncommon.
On the other hand, there is this new line of ancestors that stand very strong in my awareness and I have been touched by them in recent years. They feel like teachers and guides from whom I can obtain wisdom of the world and the best way to live compared to being tangled up in often toxic family dynamics. Perhaps, this is it, perhaps, it is a reaction of my ‘imprisonment’ within ancestral lines, which had kept me in a certain position where I felt a prisoner I am now seeking to reject and abandon. Perhaps, it is not a bad thing…
Ultimately I have always sought freedom and independence and just being left alone to feel my way through life. I was never allowed to feel, speak, express or have a way of being chosen by me and I feel rebellious against my ancestral line that kept me submissive to their rules and dynamics. I merely refer to my personal perception here. Doubt any of them would agree. This would explain resentment and not wanting to honour or celebrate that side. Is it bad? I don’t know. Is it good? Possibly. It is confusing, but I am sure things will become clear as I go through the season of reflection and going within.
It tells me just how important psychological and therapeutic work is to the whole growth and development of spirit. Everything is interconnected and if we are to grow further and become conscious we must take care of all aspects of our lives – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
Heavy mist descended on the golden landscape making trees stand heavy with leaves hanging still on their branches. It is quiet, frozen, there is no wind and birds settled quietly amongst the foliage as if waiting for a change. The change can be felt in the moist dense white air, which looks like a veil. How timely for Samhain. Its atmospheric covering of the earth brings a sense of mystery, some sadness and stillness, something is to come.
Yesterday I felt like I didn’t know what day it was. It seemed like the day either shouldn’t exist, like it was an extra day, added on to a week, or that we skipped a day somehow. A strange sense of space and time not existing. I also felt like I was floating and had an incredible desire to be silent, still and even amidst noise and chaos of family life I found myself in a quiet state, not wanting to say much. Similar to a sense of peace, but not quite. More a sense of expecting for something to come out of the silence, really listening to what was happening within me and around me, like being here, but not being here. Perhaps, a sense of being in-between the noise and the quiet, down and up, visible and non-visible. It is reflected in this foggy presentation outside today.
Today I feel anger coming through me, a sense of justice is strong. Honour and loyalty are qualities at the forefront of my mind. I reflect on it. These qualities are ancestral in me, I had discovered. They are innate and most precious. They are associated with warriors that fought a long time ago for the freedom of the land. It is all about the land looking back for me and it is all about freedom. Many warriors, clans of men and women that stood together against those imposing restrictions and unfair laws on the land and its people. They fought bravely in many battles over centuries with a sense of honour, reverence for the land, its landscapes and died with deep loyalty and dignity holding no regrets for lives well-lived. I do consider those lives the most valuable, those, who fight for what’s right, for what it is to be free and able to live how we choose. Today, many fight for the same rights, for the environment, protecting our landscape and species. I am one of those warriors in the making, I feel. I have a lot to learn and excited to be on the journey of discovering my role.
Today I honour Cailleach and the landscape that she walked upon and shaped from the beginning of time. She was an old, giant woman with blue skin and huge boulders in her apron. She walked the landscape of Scotland and Ireland protecting its waters and creating rocky mountains by dropping boulders as she walked. She was a protector of deer and would bestow warnings on those disrespecting species and the land. She watched over wells of the land and it has been told that once she forgot to close one and lakes were created as a result. Stunningly beautiful stretches of water, Lochs of Scotland we see today and enjoy their splendour. I am forever grateful to her for creating and protecting the land my soul calls home. I fall at her feet and bow with deep loyalty in my heart and willingness to learn, listen and carry on her lessons through years to come.
There is an ancient site hidden in Glen Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland where to this day a ritual takes place in honour of Cailleach. It is said that this could be the oldest pagan ritual to survive to this day. The stones outside the shrine representing her family are to go back in at this time of the year only to be taken out again in spring. How beautiful and I was struck with love and reverence when I discovered this existed. I vow to visit the place as soon as I can. It is also under threat of having roads built all around it in years to come, which carries a possibility of it disappearing, however, perhaps, many earth warriors will protect it and continue making it a treasure that it is for many generations to come and visit and see. Perhaps, I might be one of those warriors.
This year I contemplated and read up on who ancestors are and how we honour them at the time of Samhain. There are several types. Beloved dead, ancestors of family, land, spirit, culture and history. I found many interesting accounts of what it is like to connect and honour ancestors and it doesn’t always have to be blood relations, but many who lived centuries before us, those that inspire our spiritual path and whose presence runs through our blood every time we are in touch with either a certain place, landscape, song or a ritual.
My other line is with the magical people of this world, the healers, those in deep relationship with nature, plants and animals of the land, rivers, forests and mountains. Wild people living off the land and communing with nature during all its cycles. This is deep within me having come from a line of nature people, who held knowledge of intuition, magic, herbs and forests. Those that knew fairy tales and folk stories and sang songs of ancient origin and held rituals of many kinds. This line of ancestors connects me back to Siberia, Russia, where I was born, but also again to Scotland. There is another site, which I hold in mind today, Maggie Wall Memorial, a monument to witches executed in the 17th century. No one knows how, when and who constructed this monument and who paints letters fresh to stop it from fading. I am glad this exists, I feel touched knowing there are people around, who understand the deep meaning of this, a sense of history misinterpreted and cruel deaths of those, who were essentially healers. I remember them today.
Maggie Wall Memorial
So, this year for the first time I am consciously and knowingly choosing to remember two specific lines of ancestors, those not of blood, but of land and spirit. Their presence I feel strongly, they come as clear images showing me scenes from their lives and battles and those that speak to me through symbols, dreams and imagination to guide me on my path towards even deeper relationship with all I hold dear in my soul.
My ways of celebrating are setting up an altar for Samhain with objects relevant to ancestors I refer to above and Cailleach. Setting up a fire outside and throw some rosemary into it giving thanks to all that came before me and releasing what needs to die at this moment with adding some fallen leaves to the flames. Burning rosemary oil in the house to invite beloved ancestors for protection and guidance for my house and family. Divination with cards and mirrors, as well as, creative journeying to meet my ancestors and receive specific messages they might have for me. For my Siberian roots I reflect on the time of autumn in that land and remember silver birch forests covered in gold and ruby-red. I bring back its smell and feel and look back on all the times I came into contact with that landscape and those around me during those times.
This year I don’t feel death all around, I feel deep and loving connection. I feel life and with that I feel hope. Through death comes life and through life comes death. There is a direct link between one and the other. I feel both. Winter turns into spring and back to winter again cycle by cycle, life by life, we continue on our journey of dying and being re-born.