Remember...

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 5, 2021

Cleansing my Ancestor Altar

Moments.

I had to stop counting the number of the dead. I have spent a year watching the numbers and my soul is weary. My beloveds have lost beloveds to covid-19. We have lost people who could not get adequate services because the medical field is saturated.

When I am overwhelmed I stop and go back to the beginning, I go back to breath. I had been praying for so many people, for so many lives, that it became hard to focus my intention. So I went back to my altar, I stripped it bare, and I rebuilt it again.


Starting Anew.

I scrubbed the surface. I touched everything. Did it still have energy? Did it still feel sacred? 

Some items evolved into better, newer pieces. Some items felt finished and moved on to other homes.

The surface was bare. It was fresh, both new and familiar.


Adding in Ancestors.

I bought a second photo tree and added new photos. I have one tree for my maternal line and one for my paternal. There are items that belonged to my grandparents and stones I treasure. I have my candle holder made of fossil stone. I have my water glass for offerings.


My father's mother: Ruth Ruston, her parents Minnie Wicker and Frank Ruston, Minnie's parents Emma Whitcher and Hiram Wicker, Frank's parents Ruth Ireland and Charles Ruston.
&
My mother's father: Richard Riddle, his parents Harold Riddle and Elsie Durant, Harold's parents Lafayette Riddle and Frances Gillette, Elsie's parents Albert Durant and Louse Burnah.

My father's father: Mark Eaton, his parents Royal Eaton and Hattie Smith, Royal's parents Bennett Eaton and Theresa Tenney, Hattie's parents Silas Smith and Hattie Dutcher.
&
My mother's mother: Patricia Art, her parents Margaret Burke and Robert Art, Robert's parents Katherine Pils and George Art, Albert Durant's parents Rosella LaValley and Albert Oliver Durant


Preparing to Pray.

When I prepared my altar that first night, on the first of May, the balance point to Samhain, when the spirit energy is also thick, my heart felt a measure of peace. My thoughts were stronger and clearer, and I picked up my prayers, for my loved ones, for my community, for the world.

I called to my ancestors who had known struggle and disease, plague and famine. I ask them for guidance. I ask them for strength. I ask them to watch over those who are passing over and those who are left behind.


I call to my ancestors, names known and unknown, and I light my altar.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Irish In Me

Donegal County, from Lonely Planet

Most of my life I assumed I was genetically a European mix. After my DNA results came in from Ancestry I learned that I was only 46% European mutt. I was also 20% Scottish and 14% Irish. Then some German, Swedish, and French. I also know that, as my dad had no Irish in his make-up and 50% of mine came from him, all of the Irish comes from my mother.

Family research does show Irish ancestors on my dad’s side going back after 20+ generations or so but the Irish in my genes came from my mom.

The birds are trying to sing their spring songs outside, despite the snow flurries we had yesterday and the biting temperatures. We are so near the equinox. The days are lengthening and in my little garden, the tiger lilies are thinking about peeking out of the earth with their bright green shoots and we are planning the out the rest of the plots, dreaming about hands turning warm dirt.

And I am thinking about my Irish heritage. Because of how long most of my other family lines have been in this country, I was surprised to discover how recently all of my known Irish ancestors came to this country.

On my mom’s paternal side, the first of my immigrant ancestors from Ireland to step on American soil was my 7x great-grandfather David Calhoun, born in Donegal in 1690. He settled and died in Connecticut. David's grandfather was originally from Scotland, so his family blood was Scotch-Irish, but David only knew Ireland as his home until he left for America.

Thomas Riddle, also found spelled Ridel or Riddell, was born in Ireland in 1739. He was my 6x great-grandfather. He married in America when he was 20 and Thomas fought for the colonies in the Revolutionary War as a Private in 1775. I found other family of his listed Tyrone County as flax growers.

My 6x great-grandparents John Berry, born in 1762, and Nancy Matchet, born in 1767, came to America from Ireland together and settled in the small town of Mayfield in New York. There are still Berrys living in Mayfield; my direct ancestors lived there for four generations. They even have their own family cemetery. I have a current lead that Berry came from County Kerry in Ireland that I am investigating.

On my mom’s maternal side, my other Irish ancestors all immigrated to New York, where the Erie Canal was. Thomas Burke was born in Ireland in 1832. He is listed as living in Lockport in 1855 with his widowed mother Ann, employed in "boating." He later fought for the 12th Independent Company during the Civil War.

My 4x great-grandfather Barney Dowd came over from Ireland with his daughters and their families. I have always held him as a possible grandfather, because he was living for a while with Mary and David Conners, my 3x great-grandparents. But I found information that might mean the Conners came from Kerry County, which would make Mary’s last name Lenchen, which would likely remove Barney Dowd from my tree.

My Lockportian ancestors all lived in the areas of my hometown known as Lowertown, where the Irish who worked on the canal had set up their homes. In honor of them, and all those who came before them, I'll set out a bowl of warm honey and milk over soda bread and I'll pour a pint of ale for them.

I'll honor those who left their homelands for a country that treated them like vermin. I honor that Irish spirit that allowed them to persevere and plant roots. I call on that strength in hard times. They live on through me.

May it be so.


Monday, February 1, 2021

COVID-19 Deaths Month 11: January

We lost almost 100,000 Americans in one month.

 

We lost almost 100,000 Americans in one month.

 

I lost a beloved this month. It was cancer. But COVID-19 kept me from saying goodbye in person. My heart hurts. In my grief I see every maskless face as the reason we are still in the thick of this pandemic.

 

People I know are getting the vaccine. I already know people who have had their second dose. So there is light ahead. But there are also variant strains of COVID-19 spreading now. We must remain vigilant.

 

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Six feet apart. Isolate.

 

I check the total dead each day. I have a list of numbers. Every night at midnight I light my ancestor altar. I call on those who weathered plagues and mysterious illnesses that swept through villages and cities. I call on my foremothers and fathers who lost loved ones, and those who lost their own lives in such times. I ask them to guide the dead. I ask them to watch over the living. I ask them to wrap the world in some measure of peace.

And I chant the number of souls who died that day. I chant it seven times. I wish them ease. I wish them peace. I sometimes cry for their families, for the ones who died alone. Especially for the ones who died alone. Viruses don't care about human need. I try to remember that.

It's a simple ritual. It keeps me mindful of what is happening outside of my own isolation.

 

In January, we lost ninety-seven thousand three-hundred and eighty-three Americans.

97,384

That's near the total population of the city of Albany, NY in 2010.

Since the rise of the pandemic 458,121 Americans have died.

 

Dear gods and ancestors, we have passed 400,000 dead and are near to 500,000. Feel that weight. It’s been a long time. We’re coming up on a year.

 

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay six feet apart. We can do this. May we all come out the other side.

 

 

[Statistics gathered from this W.H.O. website. They have changed as the numbers have come in, so there is some wiggle room around the exact number.]

*

A Contemplative Poem for the Month


This is the time to be slow,

Lie low to the wall

Until the bitter wind passes.

 

Try, as best you can, not to let

The wire brush of doubt

Scrape from your heart

All sense of yourself

And your hesitant light.

 

If you remain generous,

Time will come good;

And you will find your feet

Again on fresh pastures of promise,

Where the air will be kind

And blushed with beginning.

 

~John O’Donohue

Friday, January 1, 2021

COVID-19 Deaths Month 10: December

 

Remember when we were horrified the death toll was nearing 100,000?

Hold onto some of that horror. Nothing should feel normal right now. The hospitals are getting full again. The medical staff are still running, as they have been since March. Only now they're tired. They're getting sick. They're dying, too. What happens when there aren't enough staff to care for the ill? Will we prioritize it then?

Be vigilant. Stay safe. Mask up when you have to go out. Be mindful of everything you touch. Wash your hands. Wash your masks. Stay home as much as you can.

[And be understanding of your possible privilege vs. other people's limitations. Staying home isn't easy for everyone. For example, the poorest of our people are the ones who work those drive-thru windows people are counting on right now. That one stimulus check has been long gone and bills are still due.]

Neighbors on both sides of us have all contracted COVID-19 because they have to work essential service jobs.

We can see another side coming. The doctors, nurses, and teachers I know are starting to get their first vaccine shot. We can see the other side we just have to survive the in-between. More and more people will have access to the vaccines after the essential workers get them. We have made it this far. We can be a bit more patient yet.

We have to be. Our ancestors are asking it of us.

 

I continue to pray that this does not get worse. Our numbers were so much better than I expected them to be this summer but they have been climbing again since the holiday season started. I get the Want involved with seeing family. I get why it felt more important this year. There have been years I have had to miss a holiday with my family for work reasons. It did not feel as much of a loss then as it felt this year. I get it. My family had a health scare this summer. It hurt not to see them.

 

But I know three people who were not allowed to be with a parent when they died this year because of the necessary COVID-19 protocols. That is a sacrifice they were forced to make. So, a quiet holiday at home? I can do that. I can do that for them. What my community Needs of me outweighs what I need or want.

 

The basic news still applies. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Six feet apart. Isolate.

 

Don’t try to pretend things are normal.

I check the total dead each day. I have a list of numbers. Every night at midnight I light my ancestor altar. I call on those who weathered plagues and mysterious illnesses that swept through villages and cities. I call on my foremothers and fathers who lost loved ones, and those who lost their own lives in such times. I ask them to guide the dead. I ask them to watch over the living. I ask them to wrap the world in some measure of peace.

And I chant the number of souls who died that day. I chant it seven times. I wish them ease. I wish them peace. I sometimes cry for their families, for the ones who died alone. Especially for the ones who died alone. Viruses don;t care about human need. I try to remember that.

It's a simple ritual. It keeps me mindful of what is happening outside of my own isolation.

 

In December, we lost seventy-one thousand eight-hundred and forty-three Americans.

71,843

That's near the total population of the city of Mt. Vernon, NY in 2010.

Since the rise of the pandemic 360,737 Americans have died of it.

 

Over 300,000 Americans have died and we are very near to 400,000.

 

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay six feet apart. We can do this. May we all come out the other side.

 

 

[Statistics gathered from this W.H.O. website. They have changed as the numbers have come in, so there is some wiggle room around the exact number.]

*

A Contemplative Poem for the Month

 

This is the solstice, the still point

of the sun, its cusp and midnight,

the year’s threshold

and unlocking, where the past

lets go of and becomes the future;

the place of caught breath, the door

of a vanished home left ajar.

 

~Margaret Atwood


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

COVID-19 Deaths Month 9: November

Most of my friends are working from home now (or trying to work from home while also simultaneously acting as IT person for their children all day). A lot of my friends are in the kind of jobs that require them to work and interact with the public. It’s retail season. I worry for them. I am certain the Post office will see a higher number of packages sent out this December.

And still, people are planning holiday visits…

I fear the numbers will climb after Thanksgiving.


I keep praying it does not get worse. I remind myself that we only know what we know until we learn it to be untrue. The science will change as we learn new things about this particular virus. It's important that we stay open to that. The basic news still applies. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Six feet apart. Isolate.

I check the total dead each day. I have a list of numbers. Every night at midnight I light my ancestor altar. I call on those who weathered plagues and mysterious illnesses that swept through villages and cities. I call on my foremothers and fathers who lost loved ones, and those who lost their own lives in such times. I ask them to guide the dead. I ask them to watch over the living. I ask them to wrap the world in some measure of peace.

And I chant the number of souls who died that day. I chant it seven times. I wish them ease. I wish them peace. I sometimes cry for their families, for the ones who died alone. Especially for the ones who died alone. Viruses don't care about human need. I try to remember that.

It's a simple ritual. It keeps me mindful of what is happening outside of my own isolation.

 

This month's death toll went up again.

 

In November, we lost thirty-six thousand seven-hundred and sixty-eight Americans.

36,768

That's near the total population of the city of Valley Stream, NY in 2010.

Since the rise of the pandemic 288,894 Americans have died of it.

 

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay six feet apart. We can do this. May we all come out the other side.

 

[Statistics gathered from this W.H.O. website. They have changed as the numbers have come in, so there is some wiggle room around the exact number.]

*

A Contemplative Poem for the Month

 

Today

 

Today I’m flying low and I’m

not saying a word.

I’m letting all of the voodoos of ambition

sleep.

 

The world goes on as it must,

the bees in the garden rumbling a little,

the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.

And so forth.

 

But I’m taking the day off.

Quiet as a feather.

I hardly move though really I’m traveling

a terrific distance.

 

Stillness. One of the doors

Into the temple.

 

~ Mary Oliver

 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

COVID-19 Deaths Month 8: October

I still can’t believe we have lost over 200,000 Americans to this virus. People are done with staying at home. They miss going out. They miss concerts and theatre and sports and… I get it. So do my friends who are essential workers and have HAD to leave their homes and expose themselves to the public.

My friends who are doctors and nurses and nursing care workers and hospice workers and housekeepers and custodians and janitors are tired. They are overworked and understaffed and they need us to be better than we’re being. And we can best help them by staying home as much as we can. I mean, some places still do not require masks in public spaces. I can’t believe we’re still questioning the science about how viruses spread.

This is the month where I specifically focus on honoring the dead. This month that focus was on over 200,000 strangers.

I check the total dead each day. I have a list of numbers. Every night at midnight I light my ancestor altar. I call on those who weathered plagues and mysterious illnesses that swept through villages and cities. I call on my foremothers and fathers who lost loved ones, and those who lost their own lives in such times. I ask them to guide the dead. I ask them to watch over the living. I ask them to wrap the world in some measure of peace.

And I chant the number of souls who died that day. I chant it seven times. I wish them ease. I wish them peace. I sometimes cry for their families, for the ones who died alone. Especially for the ones who died alone. Viruses don't care about human need. I try to remember that.

It's a simple ritual. It keeps me mindful of what is happening outside of my own isolation.

 

 

In October, we lost twenty-three thousand three-hundred and three Americans.

23,303

That's near the total population of the city of Peekskill, NY in 2010.

Since the rise of the pandemic 252,126 Americans have died of it.

 

 

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay six feet apart. If you think you are ill isolate yourself for 72 hours. If you think you have been exposed quarantine yourself for 14 days before exposing anyone else to you. Video chat with your loved ones. We can do this. May we all come out the other side.

 

 

[Statistics gathered from this W.H.O. website. They have changed as the numbers have come in, so there is some wiggle room around the exact number.]

*

A Contemplative Poem for the Month

 

Stay Home

 

I will wait here in the fields

to see how well the rain

brings on the grass.

In the labor of the fields

longer than a man’s life

I am at home. Don’t come with me.

You stay home too.

 

I will be standing in the woods

where the old trees

move only with the wind

and then with gravity.

In the stillness of the trees

I am home. Don’t come with me.

You stay home too.

 

~ Wendell Berry


Friday, October 30, 2020

Remembering Those Who Died of COVID-19 This Samhain

This is the night each year where I speak the names of the Recent Dead, which for my purposes is anyone who died since the last time I did my personal ritual. Sometimes I include people who I did not know had previously passed. I light candles and call to my Ancestors. I ask them to welcome the souls of those who have died in the last year. I ask them to show any stragglers the path to peace.

This year I felt called to be in service to a more specific intention and focus. I will still do my private ritual for the recent dead. But on All Hallow's Eve under the blessing of the Blue Moon I will do a ritual for those who have passed this last year as a result of COVID-19.

We are still in the thick of this virus. We do not yet have control of it and winter is coming. As of this morning there are 226,132 souls to bid passage and rest to, just from this virus alone.

Just before October 31st becomes November 1st I will light my candles on my ancestor altar. You don't have to use candles. Any source of intentional light will work. I will open my heart to my family lines of ancestors, both blood and chosen. And I will speak the number of the dead until I feel my intention connect with other world and I am filled with a sense of peace.

I invite any of you who feel called to join me. I will update the total number of dead after dusk: 228,185 souls.

Blessed Samhain co-walkers.

May those we love live on through us.

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