Archive for November, 2013

Last Friday was November 1, the official beginning to the Samhain season. Though astrologically, “true” Samhain begins on November 7th this year, giving us an opportunity for a seven-day celebration if we wished.


My Altar to the Beloved Dead for 2013.

For the last four or five years, I’ve set up my big ancestor altar – though I usually refer to it as the Altar to the Beloved Dead – a full week or more before Halloween and leave it up until mid-November. It’s just not something I care to rush. There are always the fond and familiar faces of my grandmother, great aunt and uncle, much-loved elderly mentors, and even much-missed pets.

A couple weeks ago, I began to build it again. This time, I was thankful that I was putting up the same faces because there could have been a new face there. One of my nephews suffered a life-altering blow when he was hit by a semi while driving home from work in July. There were a few days when we weren’t sure if he would survive. He did survive, although he continues to find his new normal. But his spirit is strong and feisty, and I was relieved that he pulled through.

But during the last week of October, I heard through the Wild Hunt blog that renowned frame drummer Layne Redmond had passed after a long struggle with breast cancer. Her music is ethereal, beautiful, and rich. Her book, When the Drummers Were Women, was inspiring and helped me to gain courage to step into drum circles even when I wasn’t very good. With sadness, I added her to the altar. No, I didn’t know her personally, but she had a significant impact on my life.

Then a coworker lost the battle to cancer on October 30. And a few days ago, my former mother-in-law also succumbed to cancer. Both of these individuals were bright rays of sunshine in a dull world, and they will be missed. They loved life more than many I know, so it seems a shame that they were taken from it so soon.

I’ve come to find my Beloved Dead Altar as a way to deal with the grief of losing people, but I’ve never seen so many losses so close to Samhain. It makes the altar all that more important and poignant to me.

All this thinking made me wonder if any of you find it to be the same? In a world that tries to shoo death under the rug, does the practice of honoring the dead help you not only to remember them, but to handle the loss?

Until next time, bright blessings.



© 2013 PJ Graham

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