All Soul’s Night

Ancestor Altar, photo by Chele

Last night our friends gathered to honor the changing tide and to remember our loved ones now on the other side of the veil.  We built this altar for our ancestors.  Isn’t it beautiful?

Earlier in the day, Betsy and I set up little shrines along the loop trail in our woodsy backyard.  Craig raked the leaves, laid out rope lights along the path and sprinkled sand on slippery flagstones.  Deb & Michael brought torches, and those were lit at each station, to illuminate the shrines.  Even though we live in semi-suburbia, our third-acre lot backs up to five acres of woods and the mountain beyond. So after nightfall, it was quite dark, isolated and very magical.

A light rain and breeze rustled up the leaves. After singing chants inside the house, we walked in procession outside, carrying candles and offerings.  Humming “when we are gone, they will remain; earth and wind, fire and rain . . . ”  we stopped at each shrine to offer a stone, a shell, a necklace, a bit of chocolate, a handful of nuts.  Honoring the spirits of the land and the spirits of our Beloved Dead who hovered oh so close, a whisper on the wind.

At one shrine I was flooded with memories of my first love, my high school sweetheart, who died at age 18 as the victim of a drunk driver.  The world, I said later, has been poorer because he has not been part of it.  Yet he is still part of me.  He played the guitar and sang (it was the 60s, after all) and each of my three husbands has been a musician.  A sweet, sweet memory.

After everyone walked the loop as many times as they needed to, we gathered on the deck, still singing, bearing witness to the holy night.  The rope lights twinkled and curved along the path into the darkness and looked for all the world like a pathway to the Otherworld.  Which — for the night — of course, it was.

Back inside we heard stories of Kathie’s Uncle Chet, who let his nieces weave bougainvillea blossoms into his beard.  Of Oklahoma renegade fathers and grandfathers.  Great-grandparents only known from photos.  A hard-to-love father and a dearly loved mother.  An aunt with attitude from a 1910 photo (who was she? what were her hopes and dreams?).  Beloved kitties Basil and Isabel.  Dirk’s sister Cleo, gone now for a decade, still sorely missed.  Carol’s three daughters, gone before they were born.  And so many more.  Each one was toasted as we spoke their names into our circle.

“We’re all travelers in this world,” Craig quoted lines from a favorite film. “From birth to death, we travel between the eternities.”

(Gorgeous photo by Chele of HennaMoon.)

4 thoughts on “All Soul’s Night

  1. It was a wonderful evening, filled with loving friends and yummy treats. Many thanks to all who came and helped make it so special.
    The quote is from a mini-series called “Broken Trail” which features three cowboys and several rescued Chinese women driving a heard of wild mustang horses from Oregon to Wyoming in the late 1800’s. Along the way, two members of the group are killed and each time, the lead character bows his head in the vast prairie, hat in hand over a freshly-dug grave, saying:
    “We are all travelers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house. Birth until death, we travel between the eternities.”

  2. Joanna, It was a very special night! It was so good to be together with my special family again. I loved hearing all the stories and feeling all the connections through our ancestors. I’m very blessed.
    Much love, Chele

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *