magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters
ARRIVING on full moons each month.
iracles, fold ’em
Blessed New Moon in Scorpio! This October has been a magical month for the family, mostly because, for the first time since having one child in school full-time, I went into October KNOWING and EXPECTING that it would be busy, busy, busy.
For those of you who don’t have children in school, let me take a moment to explain. October, which happens to be the month when I celebrate my birthday and my anniversary, and the month when many of us witch-kind celebrate Samhain and (in my neck of the woods) the Days of the Dead, ALSO happens to be the month when every school and music function takes place as well. If you are not attending an event for your kids, then chances are you are attending one for someone else’s kids. This just IS an incontrovertible fact – you can’t fight it.
So this year, instead of resisting, I went in with the expectation that yes, every weekend would be busy and spoken for and that yes, with a little planning and a dose of magic, we would get our pumpkins carved and our Halloween tables set up before the mad rush on Thursday night. I knew too that Mercury was going into retrograde on the 31st, so I’ve made sure that we have all of our ducks in a row BEFORE the tricking and treating begins.
Underneath all of the day-to-day busy-ness of costume selection and school festival attending, I have been paying attention to the theme of a lineage that is always present for me, but especially so this time of year.
On my birthday this month, I had a big realization about a piece of the lineage puzzle for me that I had been consistently enchanting around for many years. The message came loud and clear from my Ancestors.
“You have done the work on this, now let GO.”
“Well, I said to them, “I mean, I’ve done it this way but maybe if I tweak it this way…”
“NO. LET IT GO.”
“So I hear what you are saying, I really do but I also think that if…”
“Are we not making ourselves clear to you? LET IT GO.”
So I did. I dropped it, I stopped enchanting around it actively, and I re-set some of the long term work to address other things. The very next day I received a very clear sign that this had been the right move. All of which is to say that, as the country song says, you need to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.
The releasing work is also part of what it means to honor our ancestors and untangle our lineage. Interestingly, a few days after this occurred, I received another powerful message about a totally unrelated part of my lineage. My Beloved Dead are certainly active right now, as I know many of yours have been.
Since the last time I sent an update, I have received so many notes from people who are loving the two ongoing threads I have on FB: Find the Helpers and Magic Happens. If you need to follow something positive and inspiring, with the occasional interruption of silly or downright nerdy, then you will want to follow or friend me there. If you want to hear what is happening in book and business land, please like my page and join the newly re-vamped Sacred Artists group.
And…speaking of the book, if you have read it and enjoyed it won’t you please leave a review on Amazon? They really help other people find the book.
Oh! And more book news! I am very happy to announce that a work I contributed to, The Karma of Cats, is now out and available from Sounds True. Get it at your local bookstore or from Amazon. You can see a picture of our kittens and read about how they came into our lives and what they have taught us.
Our family wishes you a truly delightful Halloween, a blessed New Year for those who celebrate Samhain, and joy-filled Days of the Dead!
iracles, beloved dead
As promised, the next few Lunar Letters will continue a series I call “Magical Missives”. These are letters in which I share specific magic know-how for your pleasure and personal adaption. I know, I’m excited about it too!
For this Magical Missive, it’s only fitting that we work with our Ancestors and the Beloved Dead. After all, autumn is in the air, and we are nearing Dia de Los Muertos, or the Days of the Dead, as well as the day of Samhain/All Hallows at the end of October, beginning of November.
My goal here is not to overload you with information (we’ve got enough of that, don’t we?) but for you to walk away with a way to frame the work and some super practical ideas you can use to help you cultivate and enrich your relationship to your Beloved Dead.
I have seen quite a few articles advising people on the one true way to honor their Ancestors and/or to build the altars, make the offerings, etc.
The question I always ask and encourage you to ask, is: is this helpful to you? There are about as many ways to honor the Ancestors as there are Ancestors to be honored!
So in this missive I share with you how I do it and how I was taught, and how many locals in my city go about honoring their Ancestors, not as THE ONE TRUE WAY, but as helpful suggestions and enticements to you to get started in what is a wonder-filled deeply personal adventure.
Start Here: Discover and Reflect
So you want to cultivate your relationship with your Beloved Dead. Wait. Hold on. Why in the world would you want to do that?
Here’s why, y’all: your relationship to the Dead, paradoxically, nourishes and vitalizes your relationship to life. For real. If you want more vitality in your life, begin with the ways you are or are not honoring those who have passed away, those Beloved Dead.
If you are like most people who have grown up in the pretty conventional parts of the United States and Canada, you likely won’t even think it is possible, let alone desirable, to have a vibrant and active relationship with the Dead. You probably think building rich and creative altars for the Dead is, well, a little weird, a little morbid. In fact, you likely don’t even think about it at all. Honoring the dead with lovingly created altars is probably not even on your radar, except when we are hard-pressed to do it by necessity. And even then, many of us honor the dead as little as possible, and with as little as we can.
The truth is that honoring our Beloved Dead – as often as possible and with as much joy and love as we can – is a normal and deeply human preoccupation, something people have done in most times and places, all over the world from ancient times down to the present day.
The fact that we do and can relate to our Beloved Dead is one of those universal themes we see repeated again and again. Some of the earliest human habitations feature ritual burials placed lovingly, exactingly, right under where the current generation lived, slept, ate, and raised their children.
Traditions honoring Ancestors can be found in ancient Africa and Asia across the Mediterranean, throughout Europe, and of course in South and Central America as well as Mexico. The conventions around death in much of the U.S. and Canada and some parts of Western Europe are quite simply an aberration (and typically a sanitizing cover-up of more vibrant indigenous traditions that needed to be rooted out for political and religious reasons).
Despite our technological advancement, we seem to be the illiterate brothers and sisters of a wider world of humanity, peoples who are highly literate in the ways of death and honoring the dead.
Now different cultures have different rules and norms when it comes to how you relate to the Dead. The good news is that we can begin to learn again the ways we’ve forgotten and enrich our relationship with our Beloved Dead. But we have to be willing to listen and learn.
We have a great teacher in North America: Mexico and certain parts of the Southwest of the United States. Honoring the Ancestors and celebrating our Beloved Dead has become much more popular in recent years, especially with the release of movies like “The Book of Life” and “Coco.” Those of us who grew up with these traditions typically feel that this newfound popularity is well deserved.
Where I was born and raised, in San Antonio, Dia de Los Muertos is a big deal – the whole city celebrates it. In one area of town, a large community altar brings together people of all walks of life in a colorful a rich celebration of those Beloved Dead. Even if you are not Mexican, South, or Central American or of descent from those countries, you can learn from this tradition about your own relationship to mortality. For it strikes a deeply human chord, and resonates with the heart, with what’s true.
I always advise my students to first begin where they are. Do a little digging into your own background. I am not talking about taking a DNA test – although if you want to, go for it. I am talking about speaking to any living family members you have about death lore and death customs in your family. Maybe all has been forgotten, but maybe not!
You may be surprised to learn that you have more than you think you do. This, in turn, can lead to learning new things about your heritage and lineage deeper than modern memory, and it is a wonderful way to begin the process of honoring your Ancestors before you build a single altar!
Ancestors Alive: Who are the Ancestors?
Before we talk about how to honor your Ancestors let’s talk briefly about who the Ancestors are. Generally speaking, the term Ancestors simply means the ones who came before you and in common usage refers to relatives and family members (typically, but not always, related by blood).
You don’t need to go very far down this road before you discover that you probably have some ancestors that you did not know and did not hear stories about (and therefore have no relationship with) and you may have ancestors that you did not get along with while they were living and you do not want to have a relationship with them.
This is why I break the term of Ancestors up further and talk about our Beloved Dead. Your Beloved Dead are the people related to you through blood (family members) or spirit (the family members that you choose. The Beloved Dead can include well-known or even famous historical figures) that you have a deep relationship with and to. They are the ones you love.
There are more levels of Ancestors you can work with, but for starters, we will just talk about the Beloved Dead – they are the ones you will honor during this time of year and they are the ones who will be represented and nourished at the altar.
And while we are on the subject, let me remind everyone that our pets and animal familiars are also included in the category of our Beloved Dead! It is completely traditional to honor deceased pets and animal companions on the altar and to work with them throughout the year. So do include your wild ones when considering who your Beloved Dead are.
While there are many ways to honor and work with your Beloved Dead during this time of year and throughout the rest of the year, in most cases, the first step is to build them a house so to speak. This house is what we call the altar.
Altars, Altars, Everywhere
The first thing you will want to do before you place a single thing on the altar is deciding who and which Beloved Dead you wish to honor. Yes, you may have only one individual on the altar if that is the only Beloved Dead you have. Yes, you may have lots of individuals on the altar if you have lots of Beloved Dead. A couple of rules of thumb that are useful to keep in mind are:
Keep in mind that the altars and offerings we make for our Ancestors are basically proxy centers for working directly with their graves. It is still typical in many places to go and feast right at the Ancestor’s grave. If you can do that then I highly suggest it. Pick one Beloved Dead to honor each year when you follow this protocol unless you have a bunch of family members buried in the same place in which place you can have a complete fiesta!
With these points in mind, the next thing to do after selecting which of your Beloved Dead you will honor during this season is to decide where you would like to place the altar. When thinking about your altar you mostly just want to have a place where you can set up a picture, candle, glass of water, incense, and a bit of food without having it majorly disturbed. It is quite traditional to place these altars outside and if you have young children or cats that may well be the best choice.
Once you have established where your altar is going to go ahead and cleanse it. You can get directions on that here.
Elements to Include
Once again, you will be the best person to determine what you want your Ancestor Altar to look and feel like but my recommendation is that you start very simple and grow your altar in cooperation and relationship to the Ancestors. The essential elements you will need to include are:
A very frequently asked question I receive is on the timing of all of this — when does the altar go up? When does the altar get taken down? What are the days when the altar is most active?
And the answer is…it depends. It depends on who your Beloved Dead are and what they want, it depends on your lineage and heritage, your culture, and traditions, and it depends on how you are working with your Beloved Dead.
It also depends, quite practically, on how long it is going to take you to create your altar. If you are working with a lot of ancestors and making lots of offerings then you obviously will want to give yourself more time.
All of that said, there are certain times of the year when it is especially auspicious to connect with your Ancestors. Some of those times are:
October 31st – Halloween/Samhain in some European traditions and it also kicks off the three days celebration known collectively as Dia de Los Muertos. Some folks build their altars on this day. Some choose to begin altar construction a week before, and some choose to build their altars beginning the day after Michaelmas (the Feast of Archangel Michael) on September 29th. There is a lot of Halloween/Samhain folklore out there pertaining to the Dead, probably the best known is the hosting of a Dumb Supper.
November 1st – El Dia de Los Innocentes or the Day of the Children (Innocents) – this is when children who died are especially honored and remembered. The altars are full of toys, sweets, maybe a favorite blanket or stuffed animal during this time. Children lost in miscarriages, stillborn, and aborted children are also traditionally honored during this time. The altar would be up and active by this point in time.
November 2nd – Dia de Los Muertos/Dia de Muertos – Day of the Dead – this is the day when the Beloved Dead who are not children are honored – it is when we cook a lot of food! The altar is up and active at this point.
Once these days of the dead are over some folks take the altar down immediately. Some will leave the altar up past Thanksgiving (here in America) and some will leave the altar up through the Christmas season – which is also strongly associated with ghosts and the Beloved Dead, and take the altar down around Candlemas on February 2nd. Some (like our family) leave the altar up all year round because our relationship to our ancestors is ongoing.
Christmas/Yuletide Season – as previously mentioned, the days around Christmas and especially the Omen Days that follow Christmas are traditional times to make contact with ghosts and our Beloved Dead. Creating an altar during this season and/or refreshing an altar already built is a worthwhile endeavor.
Memorial Day – here in the U.S. the last Monday of the month of May is celebrated as Memorial Day and in the Deep South, it is known as Decoration Day. This is a traditional day when folks come together to clean up the cemeteries where their dead are buried, refresh their flowers and keep up their tombstones. It is also pretty typical for old time cemeteries to have their annual meeting on this day. Although it is in the thick of Spring this is a powerful time to contact your Beloved Dead, build or refresh their altars.
If you are working regularly with your Beloved Dead then the monthly upkeep of the altar is a good idea. You can work with the Dark Moons to clean off the altar and remove anything that does not belong and the Full Moon is a time to connect and commune with your Beloved Dead.
So, once you have your altar up and have decided to have an ongoing relationship with your Beloved Dead, then what? What do you do?
Traditionally we approach our ancestors the way we approach any Holy Helpers. We thank them for the goods and blessings in our lives and we ask them for whatever we have need of. In the case of our Beloved Dead we also welcome them, we feed them, we tell their stories to the younger generations, and we build an ongoing relationship with them. How do we do this? It depends on you and your family members, and what makes sense for you.
Simply the act of building your Beloved Dead a dedicated altar space and feeding them already lays a solid foundation for the relationship. You can speak to them, cook their favorite foods, play their favorite music, and write them a letter.
You can pray the prayers that they prayed in their honor and make special pilgrimages to the places that mattered to them. If you have household implements you inherited from your ancestors you may use them on a regular basis to further cement the relationship.
When my paternal grandmother passed away I did not receive much, but I did get a collection of the wooden spoons she cooked with (and the woman loved to cook) that I use whenever I cook. I always feel her presence with me during those times. The point is…these are your people, so you will have to decide what the best way of communing with them is.
Magic is deeply associated with our Ancestors and most of it incorporates divination of some kind. It is commonly believed that our Beloved Dead have the ability to “see” into the future in ways that we cannot. If you want to try your hand at this, here is one Ancestor-Informed Reading How-To I shared several years back.
Another very common way to work magically with our Beloved Dead is to appoint one (or more) of them as special protectors for the living. They typically line up to do this job, especially if they are being asked to protect and keep an eye out on children, ie, the Descendants. Seeking aid from your Beloved Dead in whatever situation needs help and support is also quite par for the course.
Typically this takes the form of making a petition, followed by an offering or a promise. As you work and get to know your Beloved Dead you will find that they will share other magics with you in due course.
However you choose to go about it, I wish you a happy, healthy, vibrant and wise relationship with your own Beloved Dead. Building altars to the Dead can be a fun and creative experience for you and your loved ones, not somber and grim duty. And as one friend from Mexico told me, don’t hold back. Have a party!
his is the fourth in a short volume of writings on Mercury’s upcoming retrograde into the sign of Scorpio – which begins on October 31st. You can also find these writings at Canto and on my Facebook page where you may comment or ask a question if the spirit moves you! retrograde
There are lots of different kinds of magic that you can work with effectively during Mercury rx in Scorpio; after all, this is one of the most magical Mercury rx periods!
However, for my money, one of the most profound magical acts you can engage in during this period is enchanting your aid. Scorpio’s old school astrological ruler is Mars and Mars loves discipline, austerity, and feats of physical, mental, emotional, and or spiritual strength.
You don’t have to run a marathon in order to engage in this practice, you just have to pick something hard, accomplish it, and then dedicate the merits of that accomplishment to whomever or whatever you are focused on.
Learn more about this ancient practice right here.
his is the second in a short volume of writings on Mercury’s upcoming retrograde into the sign of Scorpio – which begins on October 31st. You can also find these writings at Canto and on my Facebook page where you may comment or ask a question if the spirit moves you!
One of the areas that most need to be watched during Mercury’s retrograde in Scorpio is our speech and communication.
Yes, anytime Mercury is retrograde this is a good thing to be aware of and pay attention to – but it is especially true when Mercury is in retrograde in the sign of the Scorpion.
Because Scorpio can be one of the most aggressive and sensitive signs of the Zodiac. When Mercury descends into Scorpio’s depths we all start feeling more thin-skinned and ultra-protective – of our space and of the ones we love.
Scorpio also encourages a kind of bluntness. Long gone is Libra’s charm and diplomacy. Scorpio is not afraid of conflict and in some cases will actually seek it out. Again, whether you have this sign present in your chart in a significant way or not, the fact of the matter is that it will affect everyone to a lesser or greater degree.
So the lesson to take from this is that during this Merury rx period, talk is cheap. When people get aggressive or confrontational with you just remember that they are laboring under a very specific set of astro-circumstances. And when you feel yourself doing the same with others take a moment, take a breath, and ask if this is really going to be the most effective way to communicate your point.
Another thing to watch out for is passionate, goo-goo talk. By which I mean, old lovers or exes showing up and wanting to patch things up and make things work. This is usually, in true Scorpio fashion, accompanied by makeup sex that can be outrageously good or a bit insipid depending on chemistry.
The bottom line is that these deep and sudden changes of the heart cannot and should not be trusted during the rx period. You can listen to them, make room for them, and logically consider them, but acting on them (at this time) or taking them on full faith would be a mistake.
Remember that during this retrograde period (and during all of them) that talk and speech should be less emphasized and what you really want to emphasize are the actions that you see. Finally, Mercury retrograde in Scorpio can yield some incredible dreams and divinatory insights…HOWEVER, you may need to unscramble or decode the messages that you are receiving so don’t take them to the bank until you are really sure about their meaning.