Tag Archives: ancestors


Given that this is the season to honor and remember loved ones who have passed from this world, I thought I would make today’s blog post a more personal one and talk about a beloved relative, my paternal grandmother.

I forget my exact age, by Grandma Harris passed away when I was very young, before I began school, if memory serves.  The past several years of her life, she battled cancer.  I vaguely remember many nights where my sister and I would sit in the hospital waiting room with one of my parents while the other one would go upstairs to visit Grandma during her latest hospitalization.  I cannot think of Grandma without thinking of memories of her failing health because I never knew her before her battle began.

I am told that Grandma was a caring and strong woman all of her life.  I’m inclined to believe that because of the strength, grace, and dignity with which she faced her fading health in her final years.  Anyone can be strong and loving in the best of times.  However, it takes a special person — like Grandma Harris — to be strong in sir darkest hours.

One of my most cherished memories is of a day I spent alone with my grandparents.  Grandma Harris gave me a peanut butter cookie1 and I laid on one of the couches in my grandparents’ single-wide trailer munching on it.  Now, like any preschooler, I was a messy eater.  And peanut butter cookies are prone to leaving lots of crumbs.  By the time I was done, both I and the couch were covered in crumbs.  My grandparents saw it.

Grandpa Harris — who had a much harder edge than his wife — started to get upset and critical.  But Grandma Harris calmed him and told him that these things happens.  Besides, Grandma Harris had a solution.  She told Grandpa to go get the old vacuum cleaner.  He did and Grandmother began to vacuum up all the crumbs, both those on the couch and those on me.  Grandma Harris was a rather practical woman.2

When I think about the kind of person I want to be, I often think of Grandma Harris.  If I manage to embody half the love, strength, and no-nonsense approach to living that she did, I think I’ll have done a great job.  And I’d like to think she’d be pleased with the man that little boy grew up to be.

[1] Grandma Harris loved making peanut butter cookies, and they are forever intwined with memories of her in my mind.  If you asked me for an honest evaluation of which cookies I thought tasted the best, I would likely say chocolate chip cookies.  But if you ask me what my favorite cookie is, I will still tell you “peanut butter” cookies more than three decades later.  It’s not about how they taste, it’s about the fact that they are the cookies Grandma Harris used to make.

[2]  Plus it gave me countless opportunities to watch people’s reactions whenever I mention in passing that I got hovered by my own grandmother.

The Underworld

As Samhain approaches, my thoughts turn to the ancestors and the realms of the underworld.  As a witch whose practice tends to be highly shamanistic in nature, I’m quite familiar with these realms and spend a bit of time exploring them and drawing on the wisdom of their inhabitants.

Some of my friends — including Pagans who tend to focus on the brighter side of the divine and upper- and mid-world beings occasionally ask me about my interest in the darker places of our spiritual cosmos.  They find the underworld realms a frightening and daunting place.  And there wariness is not unwarranted.  The underworld can be a strange chaotic, and troubling place.  After all, half-formed and malformed things live their, including our own shadows.  As a witch, I’m thankful that I have guardians, guides, and other allies to walk with me in such places.

But just as I wouldn’t amputate an arm just because because it’s broken or is suffering from pain, the troubling aspects of the underworld are not sufficient reason for me to ignore it.  There is great power and wisdom waiting there.

In addition to everything else it is,[1] it is the home of the ancestors, those who have gone before us, built up the world we lived in, and even gave us our lives.  These are the ones who have set the stage we now walk upon and helped form the person we would become as we walked on them.  The ability to visit them, thank them, and learn from their experiences is cherished.

The fact that we come from the ancestors who inhabit the underworld is also one of the things that makes the underworld the home of all potential.  It is the place where dark — as in unrevealed and unformed — forces exist, waiting to be given shape, form, and purpose.  As a shamanistic witch, I seek to seek out and explore these potentials that lay in the underworld so that I may draw them out and pull them into something in this realm.  It is the realm which provides the source material for new beginnings.

[1]  Indeed, trying to describe everything that can be found in the underworld (or mid-world or upper world, for that matter) is not something I can do in a thousand blog posts, let alone this single post.