This year, my Samhain ritual was more last minute than usual. I hadn't written out or researched anything in advance, and had loaned the book containing the ritual I intended to perform to my boyfriend, Storm. I got off work later than expected, and my living room (aka ritual space) was a disaster, thanks to the boxes I've still never unpacked, containing tons of old junk mail and sales reports from my time at the now-defunct bookstore corporation. I got home perhaps half an hour before Storm arrived, sans book, and I was completely overwhelmed at trying to shove everything off in the bedroom to be dealt with later. I nearly threw out all the ritual plans entirely and went to bed. Between the disastrous apartment, working long hours at work due to a recent promotion (yay!) and the overall malaise I've felt for the past couple of years, it just felt like too much to handle.
However, the last time I held a Sabbat ritual was last Samhain, and with the recent loss of my beautiful grandmother, a time to honor the dead felt more necessary than ever. Altar decked with black candles and a photograph of my grandparents, I cast a simple circle and called to their spirits, then succumbed completely to grief and tears. I finally let out everything I'd been holding in, telling them how much they taught me, how much they meant to me, how much I miss them, and perhaps most important, how lost I felt without them. They were always the first people I called to talk about anything big going on in my life, and not being able to talk about my promotion, my impending divorce, and even about losing them, has been difficult.
When my tears were spent, I sat for a while, and Storm stepped to the altar, asking his guides, the Otter and the Raven, to keep an eye on my grandparents' spirits. It was his turn to tear up, and he looked at me and said, "they're okay." He pressed his Otter figurine into my hands, and I was guided to the place it is the spirits of my grandparents are resting. I had what can only be described as a moment of communion with them, and was left with just one impression: it is time to let go. It was then that I realized the absolute truth of something I have told others over the years, and something I said at Grandma's funeral two months ago. So long as we keep our memories close, and remember the lessons we were taught, those who were closest to us are never really gone. But we have to keep going, because the world doesn't stop for us.
But that lesson doesn't just apply to the dead. I realized I have been holding on to so much that was lost, emotionally, mentally, and physically, that I've been weighted down, unable to move on or focus on what I need to do for my own sake. Since the ritual, mention or thought of my grandparents, and Grandma in particular, hasn't left me choking back sobs mid-sentence. That's not how they want me to be. Do I miss them? Of course, but that's better handled by telling their stories than it is by crying at the thought of them.
The weight it's lifted from my shoulders has helped motivate me to take care of a lot of other necessary cleansing in my life, too. Boxes and boxes of old papers, run through the shredder or burned, pared down to only the things I actually need to keep, or items of particular sentimental value or interest. Regular burning of sage to cleanse the dense energy vibrations in my apartment. Finally catching up on my dishes. Organizing my book collection. Daily meditation and affirmations.
Samhain, in many ways, is about the end of the year's cycle, but this year for me, it has been about ending so many unhealthy cycles I had built up around myself. This is a time for cleansing, and healing. As the Witch's New Year has begun, and we build toward the start of the Light Half of the Year at Yule, I've been left with a lot to think on, not least of which my devotion to the Craft. For the first time in a long time, I truly feel in tune with the cycle of the earth. And of all people, I have my Grandma to thank for that one last lesson.