Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reading Poetry to the Dead

In the pagan world, Beltane, also known as May Day, is the balance point to October’s Samhain evening, when the veil between the worlds is thin and spirits may come and go. The veil between the worlds, between the living plane and the ones coexisting around and overtop of us, is also thin at Beltane. It’s not so much a time for ancestral spirits to wander the earth, but for me it’s the time when the land spirits reawaken and, those that wander through winter, return.
Spirit is very strong at this time of year and we can see it in the blossoming flowers and unfurling leaves. The snakes waken and return to the surface to warm in the lengthening sun. Humans emerge from their homes and tend their gardens. Children play outdoors. Life emerges. In the spirit of springtime, I am moved to share that life with my ancestors, to share that energy with those no longer among us.
It was just after the first of spring when we buried my Grandfather years ago, and the life in bloom around me, the soft birdsong in the cemetery, was enough to ease my grief. I return that gratitude by reading aloud to the ancestors and the other spirits that share this earth. I read to the trees and the flowers and the birds in the air. Words are a language the dead can no longer use and as I release my voice into the air, I make an offering of my favorite poems and stories to Those Who Have Gone Before.
When you share poetry with your Ancestors, it should be something that moves you emotionally. It should be something you feel an innate connection with, so that the emotion might cross planes of existence to reach them. I offer one more today, this May Day, to my Ancestors, to the earthen spirits, and to you.

by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

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