The Ancestor Feast and Ritual


Last night was a dark moon; a perfect moon to gather in my parlor for an ancestor ritual and feast with our women's spirituality group! I have the house decorated for Halloween. People say that my house always looks like it's decorated for Halloween but now it is truly so!

Purple lights and burgundy red drapes cover the parlor windows, a black cauldron was placed on the (covered television) altar for women to place their donations in. I shoved the shiny gold, velvet-lined donation basket beside the couch for the night! A magical black witch's hat with iridescent polka dots and a scary folk art jack-o-lantern are hung on the banister to the two-steps that lead to the dining room where the Ancestor feast was and will be this week.

My dining room table has been transformed into a beautiful and whimsical place fit to host whatever benevolent Spirits may want to visit this week! A black velvet table cloth with the tiniest of silver sparkles on it covers this altar. A witch I hope to look like some day watches over the feast for us.

There are colorful feathered masks; one of a crow that I made at Celebrate Samhain last year, forest-green gourds, a basket of the years final harvest items, an autumn-gold candle, silver holders with purple candles, a jack-o-lantern for the forks and spoons and other hidden objects to delight the lovers of magic and mystery. Shall we have a Dumb Supper?

During our Cakes & Ale, we set a plate for the Beloved Dead. On it we offered half an apple with its five-pointed seed star, a beehive chalice of apple cider and a soul cake. What fun we had last night divining our soul cakes! Mine contained a heart shaped skeleton key!

Glowing, orange pumpkin lights, purple fabric over purple and orange lights, glowing jack-o-lanterns, and the beginnings of a ghost collection from my aunt Raney, (a folk artist specializing in primitive Halloween folk art,) set the scene for a night of story-telling about our beloved Dead, an ancestor feast, and weaving a ritual web to honor the connections of the past to these loved ones and to the future generations to whom we will be "The Ancestors." I wrote a fun poem about it that I think I will call "They've Been Waiting."

Twelve sitting spots
in a circle waited
for the women who would
sit in them!

Within the circle,
was a circle;
An honoring place,
An altar of black.

Bone beads of skulls,
Found-bones from the shore,
Sweet sugar skulls
In the corners of four.

A crooked bare branch,
A black candle for light,
A picture of Cerridwen
With her cauldron of Night.

Ah! Came the women!
With bundles and food,
Offerings, photographs,
And witch hats and cloaks!

To the altar they went,
One by one they approached,
With old photographs, crystals,
A costume-jewelry brooch!

Enameled pan,
And silver spoon,
An onyx ring and books and poems,
Soul Cakes and look! Fried Spam! (who knew!)

Bundled offerings of gratitude,
Libations of feathers and herbs,
Family stories, laughter, tears,
Favorite memories and wisdom words.

Glowing circle of candle light,
Held close to our hearts,
To honor the web of connection,
That's been there from the start.

And Then! Entered our Beloved Dead!
And The altar came alive!
Their Spirits swirling round our heads!
Like bees near the hive!

And more than one
Four-legged one,
Was caught from the corner of eyes!
For they are always near to us
And that was no surprise!

In memory of the friends, relatives and beloved pets who have touched my life but who are now gone ~ Marion Williamson, Chris Mucci, Barbara Sokup, Patricia Mesita, John Hilske, Rob, Gina Masiello, Lenore, Chauncey Potter, Ruth MacKay and Hawk ~ I set an altar this week and next to honor the life you lived and the gifts and lessons you blessed me with. Because of some of you ~ Chauncey, my grandfather, William my Grandfather, Marion, My Nana, I am alive...others of you showed up in my life at important moments in mine to teach or inspire me, to play some part for me in the drama that is the evolution of my soul, to bring me love. I honor you for all you were in life and I feel the pain for all you never got to do...

I sit here today and in ritual last night and I will again gather on Friday evening to celebrate this ancient and holy day of Samhain ~ Halloween ~ The Day of The Dead ~ Dia de Los Muertos ~ All Saint's Day ~ to pay homage and pour libations to the thousands of grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins from my ancestral line whose lives have influenced mine in countless ways, in ways I will never understand. But their blood runs through my blood! My grandmothers lived in caves, gathered food from the living earth, scrubbed clothes in rivers, baked bread over fires..and so did yours...Ancient Mothers and Fathers infuse me with the wisdom and deep knowledge you hold! Help me to bring forth the visions you carried long ago! Guide me! Watch over me and those I love! In honor and gratitude, Melissa

Those who are dead are never gone:

They are there in the thickening shadow.

The dead are not under the earth:

They are in the tree that rustles,

They are in the wood that groans,

They are in the water that sleeps,

They are in the hut, they are in the crowd,

The dead are not dead.

~by Birago Diop