Long before I was a Priest under the Holy Order of the Golden Cross, I was a shamanic practitioner. I had a spiritual awakening in my early 20s that was nurtured and guided by the Great Mother- the feminine face of God. She guided me on a journey of rediscovery of the world as well as my own sub-conscious. While walking the shamanic path, I felt a pull to get in touch with my Celtic roots. My surname is Scottish in origin. Before their loss of identity after being subjugated by the Anglo-Saxons, my people were either Scottish Gaelic or Pictish. After a lot of research, I found that my family originated from an area of Scotland known as “Strathclyde Argyll”. I would say the most ironic part of this is that I actually lived there when I was 11 years old when my mother was stationed there in the Navy, and had no idea that I was living in not only the same country, but the same REGION, that my ancestors lived centuries earlier!
Anyhow, after seeking to rediscover the shamanic traditions of my ancestors, I came across Samhain, which is now known as Halloween. I’m not going to get into the history of Halloween, which has been well documented, but rather the spiritual purposes and functions of it as I have utilized them. The Celts saw this time of the year as a time when the veil that separated the world of matter from the more ethereal realms as being thinned. It was the time of the great harvest and the time when the Sun God’s power began to wane in anticipation of the longest night, when he would be born again. This was a time to honor and remember the ancestors and those who had passed. It was also a time to connect with the souls of the departed.
The story of the Sun God is a universal story that is imprinted in the Mysteries and traditions of all peoples. This story is central to the story of the Great Mother Earth and humanity’s evolution. It is a epic and continuing story with many chapters, one of which involves the incarnation of this immense being as a flesh and blood human. Many take exception to this, even though this understanding of the identity of the Sun as a conscious spiritual being encompassing the orb we see in the sky is the precursor to Christianity, as well as the other great religions. However, if we look at the Sun as a physical manifestation of the Great Light that makes up all of Creation, then it can help to put these things into proper perspective. The Light is singular and universal, but it has many aspects and faces, the Sun happens to be a more concentrated embodiment of this loving Light that is the Light of men.
This Samhain, I had planned on doing a ritual to honor the souls of my friend Pat and my Nana, both of whom had passed in the last year, as well as to reflect upon my own mortality. However, something of an unexpected nature inserted itself into my evening. That night while I was at work, I got a distressed message from my partner. Upon arriving home that evening, she was startled by an injured rat by the sidewalk in front of our house. She saw him hobbling amongst the bushes, obviously injured and struggling to move. She told me of her internal struggle as on the one hand she was concerned with the potentiality of the rat to be diseased. I shared her concern, as I had seen these rats come out of the sewer recently, and rats are well documented disease-carriers. At the same time, she expressed her sorrow and compassion for the suffering creature, and her desire to help it.
She decided to leave it be and prayed for it, though still sad and unsettled. I affirmed that it would probably be best to leave it be, and that animal control would just kill it. When I got home later that evening, I saw the rat on the sidewalk. It had died. I knew I needed to make sure it did not stay there. Obviously there are a multitude of practical and sanitary reasons why you wouldn’t want a rat corpse in front of your house. But it was about more than that. I saw what is seen as a lowly disease carrying creature as being no less than a reflection of our Great Mother, perfect in his being, and deserving of no less respect in life or death. I wanted to be sure that it was treated properly and with reverence.
I buried it and said a prayer of rites. Later that evening, I sat in meditation and reflected on the nature of death. From the smallest and seemingly lowest forms of life all the way to human beings- death is the great equalizer. We die, just as rats die. This is not meant to cheapen the life of human beings and the magnificent potential of our consciousness that is unlike any other species on this planet. It is meant to remind us of the value in ALL life, as we are ALL- humans and rats- emanations of the same ONE Creator. We ALL live and move and have our being in the mind of God.
This Samhain, I payed respect and toasted my ancestors and my departed loved ones, and reflected on how I too am mortal yet eternal. I payed reverence to the great transition- the darker aspect of the Goddess.
As I sat in my sanctuary, I reflected upon Nana and Pat, and remembered them with fondness I meditated on their presence and felt them in my heart. I knew that regardless of where they were; in the heavens or going through the process of rebirth; I knew that the emanation of their soul- the record of their lifetimes that holds their true essence- reaches out across that place that is beyond space and time and is still with me. I cannot adequately describe this feeling or this knowing of how this works. I suppose this knowing is of a deeper kind that is beyond words. That part of them that is eternal is forever linked to my own Being across lifetimes.