Last night we had our Samhain ritual, the pagan spiritual part of Halloween. It’s the pagan New Year, the time when we acknowledge how thin the veil between the spiritual world and the physical world really is. We remember and grieve for who and what has died, acknowledging that “all that has passed comes around again, nothing fades forever, all that’s remembered lives” (so goes one of the chants). And then we celebrate the babies that have been born in the past year, passing from the ethereal world to the physical.

Twin Oaks has a graveyard in one of our forests, high on a hill at the far end of the community, and we held most of the ritual in the large pasture that sprawls out beyond the graveyard’s trees. After creating sacred space and drawing forth our most divine and wise selves, we traveled to “the Land of the Dead” (the graveyard), passing through a black veil as we entered. In the ritual, this space was the world where the non-physical reigns, where what has withdrawn from the physical world emerges. In the past, I’ve experienced this space metaphorically, doing the work in my head to feel the significance of the ritual and this space. And then last night, as we were walking though the forest, I felt immense grief welling up in me. I started crying, and then sobbing. At first I was worried what the people next to me would think, that they would be concerned for my sanity or be uncomfortable. But this is what we create this space for, to give ourselves the opportunity to grieve.

We had stopped around a grave and I sank down to my knees and curled up in a ball, my head resting on the earth, and I allowed myself to immerse in sadness and mourning. The intensity of the feeling reached a depth I don’t often feel in day-to-day experience, being completely consumed by an emotion — having no thoughts, just feeling. The grief wasn’t specific or directed for me… some people called out what they were mourning (people who have died, children in pain, the state of our country, the destruction of the earth) and my grief felt deeper with every word they spoke. I felt connected with a universal experience of grief and sadness.

I realize that I felt able to do this because I felt safe. This is my home, and the people facilitating the ritual are folks who I trust. I knew that, having created the space for mourning, they would also guide us in moving out of that space. The power of community — feeling safe, trusting.

We emerged from the Land of the Dead after being led through a trance to talk with a spirit. We returned to our circle in the pasture and spoke of dreams and moving foward in Life, intentionally creating the world we want to live in. We called out the names of the children who were born in the last year, celebrating and welcoming their lives. We danced the Spiral Dance, singing:

Let it begin with each step we take, and

let it begin with each change we make, and

let it begin with each chain we break, and

let it begin every time we awake.

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