Walking with the Ancestors

Samhain Blessings To You All! 
I hope those of you who celebrated Samhain or Halloween enjoyed yourselves, whatever you did..... this year we finally had some little trick or treaters - only taken 8 years of living here, for once we didn't get to eat the halloween sweets much to himself's disgust! The history of trick or treating is a bit tenuous to link back to the origins of Samhain, the origins of which are also hotly debated and questioned - a modern neo pagan creation, a former final harvest or an ancient celebration venerating the ancestors? But hey, each to their own! For me it's about honouring my ancestors, acknowledging the dark half of the year, the final end of summer, reflecting, healing and growing.

There is of course room for both, so pumpkins were us  - Cat and Tree of Life pumpkins this year, cats well obviously because I am the proverbial crazy cat lady and tree of life to honour the ancestors and my roots. 
In preparation for this I drew up a family tree for my altar - managing to list an amazing 77 people on it, up to 10 generations back - mostly my Mum's doing over the years, I think she may even have a few more names to add. The earliest we have traced back is to someone born in 1690 nearly 400 years before me, how different their lives must have been in so many way - poverty, times of war, hideous mortality rates; yet hopefully in other ways similar to mine - full of love, laughter and family.

Just the simple act of writing their names, all but 5 of them unknown to me in person made me feel closer to them and allowed me to connect a little further with my roots. I've seen photographs of less than a third of these familiar names, those precious sepia or black and white snapshots - stiff, posed photos immortalising a moment in time, capturing quirks and twists of dna - a look or a smile as those double helix twist and snake their way through the centuries. 

There is a lovely quote from a lady called Linda Hogan : 

" Walking. I am listening to a deeper way.
Suddenly all my Ancestors are behind me.
Be Still, they say. Watch and Listen.
You are the result of the love of thousands."

The first time I read that, the notion of it completely blew my mind. It still never fails to make me stop in my tracks and smile at the thought.

I took some beautiful peach roses to the church yard where so many of my ancestors rest to honour their memories. Some known to me and some through stories heard an my Grandmother's knee. Somewhere along the back wall in a unmarked plot, the modest headstone stone long tumbled and lost, my great great grandmother Jane lies. She was widowed three times and brought up 9 children, what a hard life that must have been for her,  she lived to the ripe old age of 87 in a local Almshouse. A single rose for her - the bushy ivy of an old tree trunk a natural vase, standing strong, proud and determined just like I imagine her. I would say standing tall but somehow I very much doubt it - that's the short side of the family, the diddy people as we teased my Nan and now my Mum and as my Dad always says they put dung in amazonesque boots!

A short drive from their peaceful churchyard that I managed to frequent like an overgrown will o' the wisp flitting from grave to grave in between the church services strewing roses in my wake, are the ancient standing stones of Kits Coty. This ancient burial site has always drawn me to it, like my ancestors before me - proof being seen in my great grandfather's name carved on the stones themselves! My family seem to have been born right out the hills there and it's not unreasonable to imagine that could if I walk back through the millennia we could have easily been descended from the neolithic people who buried and venerated their loved ones there. More roses for these ancestors, 3 for past, present and future, an apple as an offering, along with feathers that appeared in my path and a drop of my famous apple wine for myself and the venerated ones - all enjoyed in glorious solitude except for a lone bird of prey over head before I clambered puffing and panting back up the hill and fell thankfully into the car.

I'd managed to lure himself further out of the house with the promise of dinner via a visit to the reconstructed saxon settlement of Wychurst at Wildwood near Herne. This wonderful building was having an open day complete with Viking and Anglo Saxon battles and a wedding - food for which was being cooked over the fire in the long house. Ok so it's a reconstruction, someones interpretation but it was still an amazing experience to step back in time into something so meticulously and authentically researched and built and of course to see the bears, wolves, boar and other indigenous animals in this forest wildlife park. Hearing the wolves howl whilst watching an Anglo-Saxon wedding was quite surreal! I couldn't help but wonder about my ancestors from that period and whether they had run ins with wild creatures such as that, fought battles with wooden shields and fought off invaders....

Samhain evening itself was a quiet night - a glass or two of some Lindisfarne wine we bought on our travels, spiced pumpkin soup made from the disemboweled pumpkins and baked apples before sitting outside round the fire watching the clouds attempt to hide  a nearly full Lady Moon. Too cloudy for many stars but ideal for talking about those who have gone before, regaling each other with stories about loved ones from our childhood, family stories and remembering them all with laughter and love. Perfect.

Have  A Blessed Week x x 


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