The month of October is very special to most Pagans. It’s the time when we believe the veil between this world and The Other is thinning and communication between the two worlds can most freely flow. It’s also a time to prepare for Samhain, which is the final of our third harvest festivals. Many like to pay tribute to Ceridwen, The Crone at this time as we think about the cycle of life and death and lay rest to the old year.
In hedgecraft, we believe there is a veil that separates this world from the next. When a soul leaves it’s corporal form, it will continue to live on across the shadowy veil (also sometimes called The Hedge). Many of us feel very close to Those Who Came before and do honour to them year-round. However, it is thought that this time of year is a very special time to do so. By the time of Samhain on October 31, the final harvests are in, nature shows us the falling leaves and the earth is cooling and dying back, preparing for the Great Sleep of Winter. From Samhain until the Winter Solstice the Great Mother will sleep, lying quiet until the rebirth of the sun. This is the time for the ultimate celebration of death and rebirth, it’s the Pagan New Year.
Some Hedgewitches will engage in divination methods to contact the dead at this time. Common practices include: scrying, dowsing, reading tea leaves, tarot, palmistry, runes, and automatic writing. I prefer to engage in an old folkish practice that is simple and easily done to communicate with those across the veil: the Burning of Bay Leaves.
During this month, when our world is so close to the next, we take the time to honour our ancestors. Without them, we would not exist. In Hedgecraft, we believe there is a direct link from ourselves back through time to certain points along our ancestral history. Discovering our ancestors and learning their stories is a way of holding us up through this world. As a Hedgewitch, one is never truly alone, the souls of our spirit ancestors walk the path alongside us, giving us strength, courage, and comfort whenever we may have need. There are magical ways of connecting and honouring them throughout the year, and especially during October and the time of Samhain. I have mentioned a couple above.
But, if you are not a Hedgewitch, nor a Pagan who follows this path, nor maybe a Pagan at all, you may wonder if this has anything to do with you! Personally, I think it’s at the least academically interesting to know about your own personal family history. It is said that we keep loved ones alive when we remember them and their stories. October is a good time to ask your Elders about their lives, the lives of their parents and grandparents. You may want to hop on an ancestry website like ancestry.com and do a little digging around. Maybe you just want to make a family tree with your kids, or start a book of family stories. All of these are excellent ways of honouring your ancestors, or honouring the dead.
To go a little further, you could light a candle and put it near a picture of your loved ones passed as a remembrance. On Samhain, you could put out an extra plate at dinner time. When your family look at you like you’re maybe a bit crazy, give a toast to the memory of your loved one, and perhaps share a story or two about their lives. The people whom we loved and have watched passed out of our lives are still important to us. Their deaths do not mean they are no longer a part of our lives. This is the season to spend time cherishing them, and enjoying them. Some people even like to leave out a little milk and some treats for their pets that may have passed.
Speaking of leaving food out, it’s wise to leave out a little something for the more mischievous folk who may be about thanks the thinning of the veil. You may be familiar with this concept of giving out treats so that you don’t have a trick played upon you!