“Women must know where they are going, how to get there, and how to get back.” Laura Shannon
Living part time in New Mexico, I see a lot of commercial skulls, witches, black cats etc. that mark this turning but I don’t see the rituals that once accompanied the ancient three day festival that is known as the Feast of the Dead and is comprised of All Hallows, All Saints Day, and lastly, today, All Souls Day.
Because I am attached to each cycle of the year in an intimate way I create ritual for each of these turnings using the Celtic calendar because it fits with what is happening around me in Nature. I am a Daughter of the Earth.
The leaves are falling and white frost covers the ground. Winter birds have arrived. It is too dark in the morning
This year I noticed how deeply private my ritual was, how focused my writing was on personal survival, structural integrity and health of my body, ‘my house’, the absolute necessity of honoring feelings in this body.
Normally during these three days I light candles for others and say prayers for those who have gone before, and remember my family – although family memory is rife with pain and betrayal .
This year these three days are passing with me aware of but not focused on the dead but on me. I have been wondering what it means that I need to turn so much attention on myself.
Making my way to the river through chopped off tree arms in the pre-dawn I was struck by the relationship between the severing of these beloved cottonwood limbs by the man who owns this property, the resulting destruction of my cottonwood cathedral, the powerful feeling that I was/am living the myth of the girl who had her hands severed by her father and his ax, the terrible violence inherent in this story, and how I close I came yesterday to chopping off my own finger while splitting kindling. But didn’t. My ritual intentions were/are twofold: protection of the structure and integrity of this body – house and to “re-member” what was done to the trees and me.
I don’t want to hold onto my anger but I want to remember.
By remembering I gain the necessary courage to create change.
During this writing has it become clear that this need for honoring trees in death is just as important as honoring them in life. I am more intimately attached to my three – day ritual and the re kindling of the soul – literally and metaphorically – than ever before. On one hand I remember the dead, on the other I celebrate the sanctity of all life through trees – those that are maimed or dead, and those that are evergreen (a universal symbol for “everlasting” life). There is a wholeness, an integrity attached to this relationship between the days of the dead, my expression through ritual, and what happens in my life that I find especially moving. The souls of those tree limbs live on.
On my walk this morning I also discovered a perfect bird’s nest woven out of reeds and grasses, completely empty except for shriveled brown leaves. I gently and reverently removed the nest, and cupping it in frozen hands, brought it back to the house, placing it in the center of the tree that I adorned with lights and crystals just yesterday.
I have been lighting up an evergreen tree early in November for about the last 10 years without understanding why except that it felt right. I follow my instincts when it comes to ritual (unfortunately, the rest of the time I often succumb to logic and reason in inappropriate ways especially when under pressure). For the next three months I will be acknowledging my love for trees in a very deliberate and conscious way…
To find the empty nest on All Souls Day is significant for three reasons. The nest embodies loss but also acts as a container for the dead, (lost tree limbs)…and perhaps for me.