This short sermon was offered for the October 25th, 2020, streaming service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick. Full text below.
This is one of my favorite parts of the year. I think I am a constant disappointment to my friends who love beaches and summer. It’s just not my thing. Give me gray, blustery skies and strong winds. Leaves that shine in gold and red, and whirl through the air. Give me the season of the witch, and I am happiest.
When I was a little girl, I would grab the broom from the kitchen and when the weather was Halloweeny – windy, cloudy, and cool – I would play out front, pretending to be a witch. I would hold the broom between my legs and jump into the wind and pretend I was flying. The fact that the neighbor kids found me a little hard to handle is probably related to behaviors like that, but I was having a marvelous time.
There’s a wondrous appeal to the spooky, particularly if you’re a bit odd already. Spooky characters demonstrate a form of eccentricity that has power, that can maintain boundaries with others. They seem to be in touch with something deep and mysterious. They wield forces we do not really understand the extent of. Many times, their abilities go directly against all of the rational, logical things we know about life. And that’s what makes them so lovely.
We crave mystery. Contact with something larger, more meaningful, and bigger than we are. Something that takes all the well-researched science and logic and blows it away like so many leaves in the October wind.
I sometimes wish I could go back to my seven-year-old self and tell her that we did it. We became a witch when we grew up. Although I think she would be a little disappointed about the lack of broomstick flights, curses, and bubbling cauldrons.
One of the handful of things that is true of both fictional, green skinned witches and real ones is the pursuit of contact with spiritual forces. With things that are considered spooky to the rational, logical, Western mind. Most witches learn the skills of journeywork, a kind of meditation that takes us into realms very different than this one. We interpret journeying as contact with spirits, ancestors, deities, and guides. We come back with information and ideas that are not rooted in the linear or logical sources but are valuable and useful.
Last year, I was doing past life work for a client. The theory with that style of healing is that we can carry bits of trauma with us between incarnations. I found a life somewhere in the south Pacific where my client’s soul had lived through being terribly burned. I healed that piece and brought back the information from my journeywork. My client, as it turns out, had spent well over $3000 installing a sprinkler system within their home because of a deep fear of being burned.
Nonrational, nonlogical, nonlinear, and kinda spooky…and also very helpful and healing for someone who carries a terrible fear but doesn’t understand why.
Witches also work with the dead. Not in a Ray Harryhausen ‘commanding armies of skeletons’ sense of things, although that would be really cool, but in a resolving of ancestral trauma sense of things. There’s an entire branch of pagan practice devoted to healing and helping our ancestors. Just as we inherit the color of our hair, or the shape of our hands, we can inherit ancestral challenges that are rooted in the trauma of their lives. By working with our ancestors, we can keep the pattern of that trauma from repeating in our own lives and the lives of our descendants.
This upcoming weekend, my partner and I will visit the graves of all our ancestors and beloved dead buried near here. We do it every year. We clean the graves, clear them off and wipe them down where needed. We leave offerings and sit and talk with our loved ones. We always end at Arlington where my grandparents are buried.
So if you put this all together, it does sound spooky. Spirits and reincarnation and journeying and ancestors and graveyard visits…it sounds pretty Halloweeny. But what’s interesting is that these ‘spooky’ things are also deeply healing. They connect us with those who have gone before, and with the complex spiritual tapestry of this world. Leaning in to the spooky and mysterious can allow us to find answers and puzzle pieces that the logical light of modern science does not know how to reveal.
I think there’s room for both in this wide, wonderful world. I wish you a spooky, mysterious Samhain season. May you feel the love of your ancestors around you, and may you have at least one experience that reminds you that this incredible gift of life is part of the great Mystery.
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