Ancestral Dreams at Samhain
Samhain (usually pronounced Sow’ en in Irish, other ways in other countries, called Hallowe’en in the United States), a sacred Celtic celebration that occurs Oct. 31-Nov. 1, marks the end of the harvest and is the gateway to the dark time of year. It stands opposite Beltane on May 1, which opens the season of light. At Samhain the veil between the world of the living and the spirit world is thin. As the darkness increases, this can be a powerful time for dreaming, particularly of our beloved dead, our ancestors.
In modern American society, we may tell stories of those who have gone before or do genealogical research, but we often don’t consider our ancestors to be active influences on our lives. In a shamanic way of living, the ancestors are important guides, supports and helpers for us, bringing us gifts and offering protection. They may ask for offerings in return. A wonderful way to honor the ancestors at Samhain is to create an altar with their photographs and mementos, candles, flowers and food from the recent harvest for sustenance in the spirit world.
For those of us with histories of trauma, honoring those who have gone before is not always easy. Healing may need to take place. There are many ways to do this healing, including meditation, shamanic practices, and Systemic Family Constellations work. One can do this on one’s own or call on a practitioner for help. It’s comforting and encouraging to remember that such healing is possible and that through it the seeker can release pain from the past and connect with ancestral love, strength and wisdom. In Systemic Family Constellations work it is common to call on the presence of a whole healed ancestor. There are such ancestors in every lineage; we do not need to know who they are or when they lived to reach out to them for help and support.
In looking back over my dream journals for the last several years, I notice that I often have strong dreams of my ancestors right around Samhain. The ancestors may call to me to connect with them, and I do so in meditation or through a shamanic journey. In some of the dreams, my attention is drawn to situations that need healing or patterns of beliefs and practices that need to change. Sometimes dreams like this can be disturbing or frightening. We may feel overwhelmed and not know how to respond or what to do.
The story or pattern may simply need to be witnessed and acknowledged. Sometimes a journey, ritual or constellation may need to be done to illuminate and fully release it. My understanding is that our ancestors do not want us to carry their suffering. They passed on the gift of life to us. Whatever their flaws while living, they love us and want us to live our lives in the present to our fullest capacity.
This Samhain, consider asking for dreams from your ancestors. Frame a simple, straightforward question, write it down, and hold it in your mind or ask it aloud as you go to sleep. An example might be, “What guidance do my ancestors have for me at this time?” You can ask the question in this general way. Or you can ask a specific ancestor for help or ask about a specific issue that’s troubling you. My experience is that the ancestors are eager to communicate with and help us. If you want to learn more about formulating questions or understanding the dreams that come, you might want to attend my Shamanic Dreaming Workshop Nov. 30-Dec. 2 or schedule a dream consultation.