This year, due to a family obligation, I will not be able to attend our women’s circle Samhain celebration. Knowing that I am going to miss out of that has me thinking about the holiday ahead of time as I look for my own way to observe it.
Recently, Heather at Nagoonberry and I have been talking about the things we miss about theism. There is comfort in many theistic beliefs and I sometimes miss them even if I don’t believe their underpinnings are true. Normally, I think about the things I miss about Christian practice, but in reading articles on Samhain, there is something else I almost wish I believed.
Many theistic Pagans will use this Sunday as an opportunity to reach out to their ancestors and their beloved dead. It is a beautiful idea, really. The problem is I do not believe in any type of afterlife that involves spirits waiting to be summoned. In fact, I am extremely skeptical about any afterlife at all, but I am a little jealous of those who take comfort from this day.
Reading about how some Pagans experienced Samhain, I got to thinking about my maternal grandmother and how I wish I could make peace with her. I am her namesake and she died just a few years before I was born. It is strange that I was the one to get her name as our personalities couldn’t be more different. From all accounts she was a gentle and loving saint of a woman, but she was very sad. She provided love for her children while struggling with the family depression her whole adult life, and her premature death cast a pall over her children. She has been dead for 40 years and none of them can discuss her without something changing and dampening in them. It is like the guilt suppresses their spark. I have always felt like I could never really understand my mother and who she is or my relationship with her without knowing more about my grandmother and why no one in the family has ever gotten over her death.
Most of the time I am a happy non-theist. The world is so filled with wonder it can satisfy curious seekers for far more than a lifetime. Sometime, though, sometimes I wish I could cast a circle and find peace with someone whose memory haunts me even though we never met. Whatever I end up doing this Samhain, I will dedicate it to the memory of my grandmother.