Internal teaching of the ancestor
Monday October 31, 2016
The day has been clear from mid morning. Light wispy clouds, scud softly
across the bowl of the sky. The trees throw sweeping branches and jagged
leaves into arches and doorways above us. The earth roles up and over the
Our tree stands, spread branches arching and swooping, sheltering, as though
to say, "Come and find sanctuary here". We do. One of us, who has energy
issues, settles herself at the bottom of the tree as anchor.
We gather around and call directions and cast the circle. Into the softness
we call the names of our beloved dead. We bring them into our circle, and
tied together for solidarity and as a reminder of our community; we walk
through the gently flapping veil into the realm beyond. Here, the tussock
heath invites our feet to bend and contort a workout for the legs, as we
step slowly and carefully in our neighbour's footsteps.
The city sounds around, give an edge to the peaceful heath, the trees, and
make the caves and gardens of its landscape. Beside me, the dogs scamper.
They are always here when I travel with the dead. Inside me, my mother
reminds me of all the things that I am that she was. I recall loudly
protesting. I should do more of it. She was an expert! The cheerful
singing. I would love to have the bottle to do more of it, she was never
shy. That certainty in tunefulness could be mine too.
We tread on, turning and climbing up and then down, moving slowly in a
disjointed snake formation across the heath. High in the trees an owl hoots,
a proper owl hoot, a right "woo-woo". There in the trees he is watchful,
through the dimness of his sight for the scurrying things below. There in
the tree he calls to another owl about something. The two mallards chuckle
at each other from their nest amongst the tussocks. The whine of a siren
meanders in and out of the nature sounds. We tramp on, our feet crushing the
tussock grass with a satisfying chump. Circling around the tree, we draw
closer, till, one by one; we bend and climb through the veil into the
softness of the trees shelter.
Here we share what came to us. One of us sings a beautiful lament to a baby
who never came to term. Her voice, tremblingly beautiful, is lyrical and
light, softly she lifts it in a caress of love for that baby who never was.
It is unutterably sad. But then, sometimes this work with the dead is.
I tie a red piece of cloth to the tree. It is a red flag for my Corbynista
mother. It flaps in the brisk little wind. I hope its splash of colour
against the muted tones of the heath will draw walker's eyes to the tree and
make them wonder about what a red flag is doing there.
I have tangerine on my fingers. I breathe in its sweet tanginess. This
night has been full of softly sensuous smells, delightful, evocative, and
gentle. I breathe deeply and smell the heath, crushed foliage, the
beginning of the earth cooling to winter, the rain under the dry soil, the
burning of the sage stick and candle. Momentarily I am diverted by names
for an eau de toilette, "Samhain Night, perhaps?
Back over the hill we walk. At the heath edge, we each release our circle
of protection and safeties, offering it to those we feel need it. I give it
to unaccompanied refugee children.
I like to walk down these streets in Hampstead. Such lovely big houses.
How wonderful to have the heath as a back garden. The peace of the place,
as though on the edge of the country side.
It's odd, there's a house with a witch with a raven on her arm in the window
of the front room, all done up in lights. The big gate is locked and has a
huge sign saying "no candy's here" How mean; a real keep out sign for
children. So much for loving and nurturing them eh. The streets have
emptied of their scurrying presence, their ridiculous witches, skeletons and
ghosts. This commercial festival of Halloween, does it help us touch in with
the important teachings of the ancestors and our beloved dead? I like to
think so. At least it provides props and artifax of a witchy kind, at modest