April 24th marked what would have been my departed father’s 69th birthday. As I have written before it has been a struggle figuring out how to honor my father since he was a difficult man in life. When I first began meeting with my father in ritual, I was offering beer and a few good thoughts. Beer, although a clear favorite of his, was an odd choice since it was also his downfall. I justified my choice by reasoning that it could no longer affect his physical body. But in honestly I have no idea what drinks and food do for or to a spirit. I simply gave beer because it was one of the few things I knew he enjoyed. I had no clue how to approach ancestor worship with my father so I just winged it, hoping that eventually I would find my way. Hoping that he would at least appreciate the effort. If not, at least I would help myself in the grieving process.
Now, my practice has changed slightly, I stopped offering alcohol for the time being. Thanks to a suggestion in Haitian Vodou Handbook by Kenaz Filan instead I started offering him blessed spring water. Water to purify and promote clarity on his new spiritual journey. This offering feels more authentic and active. For even when I do not have good words to offer or there are no messages to receive, I can still give this small blessing. It is something I can do even when I am in the angry stage of grieving. “ Hey I do not want to talk and engage you, but I wish for you clarity and peace.” However, I found myself often wishing that “this water brings purification so that we may one day have a healthy relationship.” The water offerings have opened a new door for communicating with my father.
For his birthday, I did a little more than my regular offering. I gave him a present of playing cards. Playing cards was one of the healthy activities I recall him participating in with his friends. After I gave the offering, I played and sang along with a recording of Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday. My Dad would always leave long annoying voice messages on my birthday singing this song. It drove me wild back then but now it is one of the few precious memories. When it came time to snuff out the candle, I whispered to my father “ I miss you.” It was the first time I was not stuck between angry and confusion. For the first time, I allowed myself to remember and embrace the good side of my father. I allowed myself to set aside the beer drinking and angry man long enough to honor the funny playful dad.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
As usual, I prefer to not do an elaborate or prewritten rituals. Instead we ( partner and I ) wrote a simple outline before and memorize a few short lines. For this ritual we did not do a traditional circle casting but we included cleansing, charging and grounding. We invoked and honored Spirit/Goddess and all the Elements in subtle ways.
Altar: Candles, White fabric rose petals, chamomile flowers, rosemary oil (for anointing candles) and holy water.
- Sparkled areas and selves with holy water.
- We lit all altar candles and then took two candles to every room, then said, ” We enter this space with the light of fresh beginning”
- Partner played violin as I visualized our space, minds and hearts being blessed and charged.
- We built a fire, then as we threw sage on it we stated our intentions of cleansing, purification and celebration of Imbolc.
- We read poems , wrote a haiku and then put haiku to music (ukulele). We used the poems, haiku and music as our offering to Spirit especially virgin/maiden Goddess aspect and the young Sun King.
- As a grounding period we ate quiche and drank chamomile tea
- Closed ritual.
What do I do for Samhain?
This year, I dedicated my Samhain time to honoring the recent passing of my Dad. I lacked the energy to a formal ritual and in my grieving state I was in no mood to celebrate.
So my partner and I decided to create an altar of mourning. I searched for inspiration online however most of the Samhain Wiccan altars I found were too happy for my current mood. We decided to go off instinct. We had planned to let the creative process be our ritual. But after making the altar a more clear ritual emerged.
1: We did grounding breaths
2: We walked through a doorway and tiny path ( we made a pathway out of recycle tires –reborn symbol:) towards the altar.
3: We took a drink and then pour some for the deceased. ( similarly to pouring a beer on the ground for those who have passed)
4: We each tossed dirt onto a silver box and said” ashes to ashes…”
5: We each placed a penny into a bowel of water ( which had a makeshift boat inside).
6: We close by ringing a Bell.
* In the background we had on a Day of the Dead station
The ritual was spontaneous but manages to incorporate Wiccan, Norse, Christian spiritualities.
Once, you have created a ritual outline that works for you, the world of magick becomes a much easier place. Sometimes, I lead a ritual or circle with only a basic structure in mind… such as…
Simple outline for rituals and wisdom circles:
1. Open circle
2. Close circle
Acknowledge that you are entering and creating sacred space . End with gratitude. Can be as simple as ” Bless us” and “Thank you”. The middle part can be spontaneous( a council, discussion, dancing, etc.)
Full ritual :
1. Cleansing/Grounding ( Cleansing area and people)
3.Invocation/s ( invite positives aspects, elements, deities, spirits, thoughts, etc)
4.Intention ( why are we here?)
5. Act of power ( healing, spell, ” the main event”,meditation, council, multiple activities, etc)
6. Feast and/or Grounding
7. Closing circle ( say goodbye to all the energies raised, acknowledge moving back to “regular” reality.)