Mercury Retrograde in Cancer: What Nourishes?

Foundations

M

iracles, nourishes

While there is definitely a focus on personal relationships during Mercury retrograde in Cancer, that is not the only area of life touched by this astro-event. Cancer is the sign of home and family, even the sign of Moms and Mothering but it is also the sign the presides over the ways that we relate to food and nourish ourselves.

That means that this is a wonderful time to reassess our habits around food, cooking, and eating. Again, recent events already have had us preparing to do this. Long lines at grocery stores and the unavailability of certain items have meant that many people who before 2020 did not know how to boil water can now whip up a decent three course meal. Veggie gardens and backyard chickens are in many ways the new black for 2020 but this Mercury RX period intensifies our ability to really dig into the theme of nourishment.

We can do this by thinking about our kitchen (and actually organizing your kitchen and making a list of what tools you do and do not need) is a great way to begin the process. Consider putting a shrine up in the kitchen to your favorite Ancestor who loved to cook or to a Holy Helper like St. Pasqual – the patron Saint of cooking! Then, dig into what really leaves you feeling good and nourished as far as food goes. You can even experiment with making magical recipes!

Are there foods that you have been eating that do not leave you feeling your best? Identify them and take the needed steps to remove them from your diet. If you have not identified any foods that don’t agree with you, don’t be surprised if during this period you discover that there are some. Are there foods that you love that you consistently forget to include? Make room for those as well.

This can be a wonderful time to take a cooking class, buy a new recipe book, or dive into the food of a particular region that you have not yet experimented with. This can be an excellent time to plant a garden if you don’t have one or learn about various community CSA’s that allow you to support local farmers.

Though the focus is on food and wine allow yourself to expand your considerations to ALL of the things that leave you feeling nourished.  nourishes nourishes

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Mercury Retrograde in Cancer: Mum’s the Word

Foundations

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iracles, mum’s

From house and home to family, we drill down with Mercury’s Retrograde in Cancer and now look at a specific family member – our Moms.

Cancer is the sign that rules our relationships with our mothers starting with the relationship between us and our literal mothers and then moving out to more archetypal understandings of a mother. It will be easiest to break this down into categories. Note that for our purposes mother applies to both biological and adopted mothers as well as the women AND men in your life who have mothered you in some way.

If your mother is still living and you have a good relationship with her then…use this time to reach out, connect more deeply and let her know how much you love and appreciate her.

If your mother is still living and you do not have a good relationship with her then…ask yourself if you would like to pursue healing and reconciliation in the relationship.

If the answer is yes then spend some time feeling into what the right approach may be. If the answer is no then following the next guideline.

No matter what your relationship to your actual mother is…take a moment to think about the other men and women who have shown up in your lives in a maternal capacity. Take time during this period to reach out and check on them, letting them know that you love and appreciate them.

If your mother is not living then…begin doing ancestor work to honor her memory and to connect with your matrilineal line.

As you connect with your female Ancestors you may also feel a connection with the Archetypal Mother – Divine Feminine energy that lives in all of us. This might sound woo woo but the image of the Great Mother is one that has been with us since ancient times and is found in our oldest religious writings and stories.
Which leads me to my final piece of advice: work with this time to honor the ways that YOU have showed up and mothers others.

Check in on your maternal feelings whether they are directed to your latest work project, half finished poem, or actual child…how are you mothering right now and is your approach what is currently needed and appropriate?     mum’s mum’s 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Star Stories: May 2020

Ceremony and Ritual

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strology for May 2020

Note for May: May is a rock and roll month when it comes to the celestial weather. We have three retrogrades that start this month and sign changes for Venus, Mercury, and Mars. As we move into Summer we depart the fiery energy of Aries for the cool winds of Gemini and begin preparing ourselves for vast healing with Cancer next month! While the retrogrades pose some challenges there are lots of great opportunities, especially for communication, this month as well.

5/1: Blessed Beltane!!!

5/4: Sun conjunct Mercury. AMAZING day for communication. Write, speak, network, connect, and share to your heart’s content!
Ask: What am I ready to communicate?

5/7: Full Moon at 17 degrees Scorpio, 5:45 AM. Some ideas for how to work with the Full Moon can be found here: https://brianasaussy.com/how-to-honor-the-full-moon/ and here: https://brianasaussy.com/six-months-of-magic-every-full-moon/
Ask: What is my relationship with shadow?

5/10: Happy Mother’s Day!!!

5/10: Mercury trine Pluto and Jupiter. A wonderful day to use words to create increase and power in your life. Petition and sigil making magic are a definite YES on this day. If you have a tough relationship with your mom, this day can also facilitate a lot of powerful healing through speech and discussion.
Ask: What do I want to empower with my words?

5/10: Saturn Retrograde. Retrograde starts at 11:09 PM in Aquarius, moves into Capricorn on July 1st and stations direct on September 29th at 12:11 AM. Saturn Retrograde means a review of legal issues, finances, work and career, and the various challenges you experienced since the last retrograde and how you measured up to them.
Ask: What disciplines do I need to review?

5/11: Mercury moves into Gemini! Mercury loves to be in positive and loquacious Gemini! This is an excellent time to do work around speaking, writing, publishing, and also networking for your career. If you have siblings or dear friends this is also one of the best times all year to reach out to them.
Ask: Where am I ready to connect?

5/13: Venus Retrograde. Venus Retrograde begins at 1:45 AM in Gemini and stations direct on June 25th at 1:48 AM. Read all about Venus Retrograde here.
Ask: Where do I need to re-examine my loving connections?

5/13: Mars moves into Pisces. Your art, music, and spiritual skills can feel energized and full of potential right now but you might also feel, slow, sluggish, and tired. Choose one creative endeavor and make that your focus for the next month!
Ask: What do I want to put my creative energy into now?

5/14: Waning Quarter Moon at 24 degrees Aquarius, 9:03 AM. A reminder that this is a great time to banish: https://brianasaussy.com/what-are-you-really-banishing/
Ask: What connections are no longer relevant?

5/14: Jupiter Retrograde. Retrograde starts at 9:32 AM and ends on September 12th at 7:41 PM. Read all about Jupiter retrograde right here.
Ask: What aspects of my daily devotional and spiritual practices are still relevant and what needs to be released?

5/15: Sun trine Pluto. This is a powerful trine that can give you a deep message about your sovereignty and personal power. Hidden issues around power, finances, and your latent abilities may make themselves known today and it is, generally speaking, a great day for magic and business!
Ask: Which of my powers are ready to be illuminated?

5/20: Sun enters Gemini 8:49 AM
Ask: What is my message?

5/22: New Moon at 2 degrees Gemini, 12:39 PM. Here are Four Ways to Honor the New Moon just in case you missed them: https://brianasaussy.com/4-ways-honor-new-moon/
Ask: What am I ready to share?

5/22: Sun trines Saturn. This is a lovely trine that helps us in committing to what matters most, playing the long game, and energizing our work and careers.
Ask: Where do I need to play a long game?

5/22: Mercury conjunct Venus. A yearly meetup between these two lovely planets is always a good thing. Heartfelt conversations about relationships are a GO today but do keep the Venus Retrograde in mind as you hang with your S.O. If you are not in a relationship expect communications and synchronicities around love or money on this day.

5/25: Happy Memorial Day!!!

5/25: Trine between Moon and Mars gives you great energy to deal with any family or house drama and you may feel compelled to start making some home improvements or re-focus on your diet and eating regime.
Ask: Where do the ways I nourish myself need to be optimized?

5/28: Mercury moves into Cancer. Mercury in Cancer turns to feelings, perceptions, and imagination. Communications tend to be more emotional and deep and words can be especially cutting at this time if proper care is not taken.
Ask: How can I best communicate my feelings?

5/29: Waxing Quarter at 9 degrees Virgo, 10:30 PM. This is the perfect time to brush up on your divination practice! https://brianasaussy.com/teaching/20-question-tarot/
Ask: What new health and healing regime am I ready to explore?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

On the Holy Helper Saturn

Learning and Community

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iracles, holy helper

He has a bad reputation as one might imagine, given the whole devouring children because he is afraid to lose his title thing. That is the thin story about the God and his namesake celestial sphere.

However, that was not the original understanding of this Holy Helper. Much older tellings show us that Saturn was the land itself – preserved, cared for, abundant, and full of wealth both on the surface and beneath. This is why for ages he has been petitioned to help us discover HIDDEN WEALTH and I would suggest that this is a powerful point to pause and ask ourselves:
What wealth is hidden in our own lives?
Saturn is one of the best Holy Helpers to help answer that question.

He is the patriarch of his Divine Family and as we know Fathers, just as Mothers, have their luminous and shadow sides. So Saturn is the one who stands with us when we work to make sense of our relationship with our Fathers – the ones in our lives who have shown up in fatherly ways, our biological fathers, our spirit dads, AND the inner Father that we all, regardless of gender, carry within. Saturn is the Holy Helper who patiently looks on as we ask: What does right relationship with Father look like?

Holy Helper Saturn is also the one married to not one but TWO Goddesses. Ops – better known as the Greek Rhea. Mountain-making and mountain loving Goddess of vast, unfurling resource and abundance. AND before her, Lua – Goddess whose stories have been mostly lost but who collected all bloodied weapons after battle. Some have the radical idea that the Goddesses were the same, two sides of the same Holy Helper – one who provides the inspiration for creation, one who tends to the weapons that have been used to destroy.

This part of his tale gives us a clear set of guidelines for what right relationship with Saturn might look like:

1.) Identify the weapons that have been used to destroy. The dripping and dried blood tells you exactly where to look. You will discover that some of the weapons have been used against you and others have been wielded by YOU.

2.) Gather up the weapons. We do this by naming them.

3.) Clean them and purify them in the ways you know to do. Simply ask: what medicine can return this to a state of wholeness?

4.) Give the weapons new names, for they are no longer weapons, they are tools.

5.) Create with them, make abundance, make resources, make wealth.

Stories of Saturn make this Holy Helper planet out to be malefic, bad luck, bad juju, but Saturn is one of the Holy Helpers most able to walk with us when we are alone, wounded, in pain, and ready to make lasting change.

I would add that in alchemy, Saturn is associated with lead. And lead is precisely the element we cloak ourselves in whenever we need protection from radiation.

And this too: after we worth Saturn we FEAST! His festival, Saturnalia, like the later festival at the same time, Christmas, is a celebration – not because there is no struggle and life is always good and easy but PRECISELY because there IS struggle and we have made it through to the other side.

xo,
Bri          holy helper holy helper 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Star Stories: March 2020

Ceremony and Ritual

A

strology for March 2020

Note for March: Happy March! This month starts with a pretty watery feel as Mercury continues its retrograde through Pisces and then Aquarius. Any last sleepiness from the past few months will be felt the first week and change of March. Once that period has passed the fiery, renewing, the energy of Aries takes center stage and we all feel energized and ready to dive headfirst into Spring madness!

3/1: Rabbit, Rabbit!!! Happy March!

3/2: Waxing Quarter at 12 degrees Gemini, 1:57 PM. This is the perfect time to brush up on your divination practice! https://brianasaussy.com/teaching/20-question-tarot/
Ask: What message is growing within me?

3/3: Venus moves into a square with Saturn and this could strengthen tensions we already feel with the Mercury RX madness.
Ask: Where can I exercise just a little more kindness right now? Pro tip: If your romantic relationships are feeling particularly roughened up by the astro, try a honey jar!

3/4: Mercury Retrogrades out of Pisces and into Aquarius where it spends the remainder of the RX period. Mercury RX in Aquarius is more measured than the Pisces trip was, and you may find your thinking starts to clarify somewhat.
Ask: Where do I need to review ideas about the future?

3/4: Venus moves into Taurus. Venus loooves to be in Taurus. The next month is a strengthening time for relationships and love generally speaking. Prioritize beauty!
Ask: Where do I need more beauty in my life?

3/8: Venus conjunct Uranus. Expect surprises especially when it comes to love and money on this day.
Ask: What relationship needs to be stirred up?

3/8: Daylight Savings Time begins at 1:00am cdt. Spring Forward!

3/8: Sun conjunct Neptune. Expect dreamy, sweet, loving connections today and possibly a brilliant new creative idea arriving at your door. This is also a day where magical dream tending is always advised and one where it pays to watch your wallet and spending.
Ask: Where do my depths need illumination?

3/9: Full Moon at 19 degrees Virgo, 12:48 PM. Some ideas for how to work with the Full Moon can be found here: https://brianasaussy.com/how-to-honor-the-full-moon/ and here: https://brianasaussy.com/six-months-of-magic-every-full-moon/
Ask: What is my relationship to sovereignty?

3/9: Mercury Retrograde ENDS!!!

3/16: Waning Quarter at 26 degrees Sagittarius, 4:34 AM. Reminder that this is a great time to banish: https://brianasaussy.com/what-are-you-really-banishing/
Ask: Where does my aim need to be improved?

3/16: Mercury moves back into Pisces – but direct this time. Mercury in Pisces brings great discoveries when it comes to art, music, and creativity but can encourage fuzzy thinking around love and money.
Ask: What creative work wants to be heard now?

3/19: Sun enters Aries (Spring Equinox) 10:50 PM — Spring Equinox
Ask: What is ready to be balanced?

3/20: Mars conjunct Jupiter. This is the astrological equivalent of rocket fuel for your dreams! It has the ability to live and elevate you in the most amazing ways and to give you the energy to carry your big vision to its conclusion.
Ask: What audacious endeavor am I ready to tackle?

3/21: Saturn moves into Aquarius, giving us relief from all the Capricorn drama and turning our attention to the future.
Ask: What kind of future do I want to build?

3/22: Mars conjunct Pluto. This is a tricky conjunction that brings power – our quest for it and our experience of it – into contact with aggression and even violence. At its best this conjunction leads to a deepening of personal power paired with martial discipline. At its worst, it can bring out violent tendencies.
Ask: Where would my relationship to power be improved through greater discipline?

3/24: New Moon at 4 degrees Aries, 4:28 AM. Here are Four Ways to Honor the New Moon just in case you missed them: https://brianasaussy.com/4-ways-honor-new-moon/
Ask: What new adventure is calling me?

3/27: Venus and Jupiter trine – this is a wonderful astrology to make your dreams and visions come true. Venus and Jupiter are two of the most powerful positive celestial influences. When they come together all manner of good things are positive.
Ask: What blessings am I ready to accept?

3/30: Mars moves into Aquarius. Mars in Aquarius gets things moving and typically leads to more protests and activism on a global level. This is powerful astrology for optimizing our future.
Ask: What vision of the future am I willing to fight for?

3/31: Saturn conjunct Mars. All efforts to optimize, overpower or charge through obstacles meet with a wall on this day. A better bet is to coolly strategize your next move and resist enacting it until after this conjunction is over.
Ask: Where do I need more strategy and less tactics?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Magical Missive: How Do You Honor Your Beloved Dead

Ceremony and Ritual

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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:

  1. As I was taught it is inappropriate to honor the Beloved Dead that has not been deceased for at least a year. This means that if your Aunt or your beloved cat died in March or April they would not be included on the altar you build in October. There are exceptions to this and ultimately you have to do what feels right and in alignment for yourself.
  2. It is not appropriate to put the pictures of the living on the altar with images of your Beloved Dead. The exception is babies that have not yet been born (ie, ultrasound pics) may be placed on the altar. It is also customary to put items that belong to the living, especially the living you wish the Ancestors to bless and protect on the altar, just not their actual image. For example, you could have a charm bag that you made for one of your children on your Ancestor Altar but not the picture of the child. Again, consult your own best lights when following these guidelines.
  3. Family members can usually happily share an altar space together. This includes in-laws, so you may include all the Beloved Dead in one place. The exception to this is if there was a serious rift between certain family members. If there was, and you wish to honor both of them then it is a good practice, at least as you begin this work, to give them each their own space.

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:

  1. An image or object to represent the Beloved Dead you are working with. Pictures when available are often used but other objects can be as well. For instance, I have the strings from the last guitar my grandfather played as well as his guitar pick on my altar. This is also where the use of sugar skulls comes in to play. The custom is to make (or buy) a sugar skull for each Ancestor you wish to honor. You write the name of the ancestor on the foil strip that is on top of the sugar skull’s head to designate that is is the stand-in for that particular ancestor. This is also why some altars have lots and lots of sugar skulls. Once the Days of the Dead are over you can remove the sugar skulls and set them out around your home where the late autumn rains and snows will melt them into the ground ensuring you have a sweet year ahead.
  2. A candle – any kind of candle works although beeswax is a traditional choice. Nowadays in San Antonio, I mostly see the glass-encased paraffin candles.
  3. Water – a glass or bowl of water is a mainstay on an Ancestor Altar because water is seen as both refreshing to the ancestors and it also creates a barrier between the living and the dead so that nothing gets confused.
  4. Incense – Copal resin is the scent of choice for many of us in the Southwest and Mexico but choose something that is pleasing to you and if possible that has resonance with your Beloved Dead. The presence of incense carries over into the marigold flowers you often see on Dia de Los Muertos altars – these flowers are associated with the dead because they have a pungent and sharp odor that allows the dead to find their way to the altar. For in several traditional understandings our Beloved Dead does not have possession of the senses we do. In fact, the only sense that is left fully intact is their sense of smell which is what they use to find their offerings and places of honor. This is why having a scent is so very important.
  5. Offerings – Offerings for the Dead call upon what they enjoyed in life. Where I live we make a special bread called pan de muerto which is offered, but we also offer up elaborate food: usually I whip up a batch of drinks using my family’s secret margarita recipe, add chips, salsa, cerveza, enchiladas, and tamales. I might make a big pot of chili and I always give my maternal grandfather a can of Big Red as that was one of his favorite indulgences.Offerings of tobacco and alcohol are also common. Some schools of thought encourage such offerings to be left out, but I have found that as long as the individuals being honored did not have a destructive addiction to their favorite substance it is fine to include it on the altar.It is fine to create a small plate of goodies and put that on the altar and then eat the rest of them yourself. A bunch of my family members are buried in a nearby military base so I make their margaritas and serve them up graveside!
  6. Flowers – these can be plastic, paper, fresh or dried. Flowers are not absolutely necessary but they do add a nice touch!

Timing
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.

Communion
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
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!

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.