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, October 15, 2014

Leave the Recent Dead to Rest

This is the time of year when neighbors decorate their yards with fake cemetery stones, when cobweb-covered skeletons hang from trees and porches. Leaves around us dry, fall and die, leaving the bare branches visible, and our minds wander to thoughts of loss. It is this time of year when those we have recently lost are close to our hearts and in our thoughts.
In my Ancestor practice, I talk a lot about actually working with your dead. For my purposes, there are three levels of dead. There is your Ancestral Dead, comprising those of your family line you never knew in life. Your Beloved Dead are those you knew and loved in this life that are passed, whether of your bloodline or not. And then there is your Recent Dead, those who have died within this last year, or since last Samhain, if you regularly wish your recent dead rest. Just remember that time is not consistent, for us or them.
I spend a lot of time honoring the Recent Dead in Samhain rituals, lighting candles for them and wishing them safe passage. I shepherd lost souls across to whatever comes next. I know some spirits wander because they do not know where to go. It’s like standing at a subway station and the train comes and the door opens and all that exists beyond it is space without firmament. The spirits who are still attached to their physical bodies don’t know how to move through that space, thinking in terms that no longer apply, so they don’t.
Mostly what I want to tell you about is why I don’t do work or call upon my recent dead. And why you shouldn’t either. It’s not about them. It’s about you.
Not all Recent Dead cross over, but mostly they do. Still, sometimes a part of them stays behind because they’re not ready, or they have unfinished business. And even if they do, that business can wait. Because you need to take care of you.
When we grieve, we are walking in two worlds. The world of the mundane, where life revolves and continues despite our sorrow, and the world where every moment is a reminder of how our loved ones are no longer with us. That’s the world where every time you reach out for them or you turn to talk to them, where every one of those moments is sharp and it cuts. And no one is in that world but you, existing slightly outside of the one everyone else is in.
Sometimes we forget that others around us don’t feel the pain we’re feeling. Sometimes they forget we’re still feeling the pain we’re feeling. So we are not in a stable place, even if we’re functional. That is extremely important. We use our intuitive bodies to do magic. Our intuitive bodies and our emotional bodies are not the same, though they overlap. And our emotional bodies are grieving.
I do not call on my Recent Dead for help or aid. I do not ask them to visit me in my work, in my meditations, or in my dreams. Because it would be too hard if they came. It would be too hard to open my eyes in the morning, after experiencing them, and re-remembering that they are gone.
A decade ago, friends of ours let us stay in their empty house while in town for holiday with my family. They were out of town for Christmas, as earlier that year my friend had taken his life in that house. His wife and son were recovering, choosing to spend their first holiday elsewhere. I woke in the middle of the night and he was standing at the end of the bed. He wanted to know where they were. It was Christmas. He came to be with them. Where was the tree? Where was his son? I took a deep breath. His eyes were so clear and bright, so much like the man I knew before his illness.
I told him he had to leave them alone. I told him it was too hard for them, because of what he did. I told him his being around made it hard for them to move forward. I told him he made his choice and he had to own it.
He was sad. But he disappeared. And I fell back to sleep. The human part of me wanted to ask my friend questions. But even spirits rewrite their own stories. It’s what holds them here. In hauntings, it is always the truth that sets the ghost free. And as a healer, as an Edgewalker, that was all I had to offer him.
Afterwards, my friends’ lives improved. The queer sensations that had been haunting them in the house stopped. Magic is real.
Magic isn’t safe.
So we don’t work with the Recent Dead. At Samhain, we ground that grief with flame and fire and we hold that light in our hearts. We know that peace of sorts will find us. And that we will accept the inevitable nature of death, even as it applies to us. Eventually. And that hope sustains us.

On All Hallow’s Eve I will offer the names of my Recent Dead and I will wish them peace. But I will not open myself to contact. I will not ask them questions. I will offer them tears and reach back to my Beloved and Ancestral Dead for comfort. Until next year, I will leave my most recently deceased to their rest. 


  1. I have put off telling you how deeply your blog has touched me in the weeks since I found it.I went back and read your archives and have leaned much and see many of the same thoughts and journeys I have taken.Thank you so much for sharing with us and know I read every post and appreciate you sharing your thoughts and journey.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! The most rewarding part of sharing my work has been how many people have found a bit of themselves in my thoughts... it proves to me how much we all have in common, even on our different paths we walk similar miles. Bless you!


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.