So, it is late fall, and weíve been celebrating samhain, Halloween, All saintís day, and recognizing that this is the time to honor the dead, our loved ones gone before us. For many, this is also a time of divination, a time to communicate with the dead. The veil between worlds is thin.
Many of more monotheistic bents tend to think that communion with the dead is evil, necromancy. But what is the truth behind this? Why should we be concerned with communion or communication with the dead when we are so admonished by some that this is dangerous? Is it really dangerous? What is there to learn or experience that would be worth any risk?
Itís interesting that communication with the dead is something that, even in the Christian faiths, engenders many different attitudes. On one side, we have the Catholic attitude which believes that our beloved dead are still aware of, and care for us. This is part of their understanding of saints, and the reason that some Catholics pray to saints. People can pray to these people, and ask them to pray for them as well. Itís somewhat of a one-way communication, but it is still communication.
Then there are the evangelicals who believe that such communication is evil. They believe that such communication smacks of paganism, and is thus prohibited. They believe that prayer should be only to God, and to no-one else. This attitude though requires the assumption that anything that is not specifically permitted in scripture is prohibited.
To many pagans though, communication with the dead is not something spooky or mysterious. It simply is. Most pagans recognize that our bodies and our spirits are connected, but separate. We know that our bodies will die, but we believe that our spirits will survive. And as our spirit is in intimate communication with our bodies, and as we in our bodies can communicate with each other, so should our spirits be able to communicate with each other. If our spirits can communicate, and if one who has died still exists in spirit, it stands to reason that we should still be able to communicate.
At this time of the year, itís believed that the veil that separates the worlds of the physical and the spiritual is thin, and easily crossed. Thus, communication between us in the living world, and those in the spirit world is much easier.
Thereís a great deal of hype about the ritual that goes on during this time. So what is the ritual, and the costumes all about?
Humans have an interesting capacity Ö through ritual, we can change our brainwave patters. We can make ourselves focus better, become more attentive, more able to handle different situations. Ritual, in a spiritual context can make us more receptive. This is one of the reasons that religious ritual works. For Pagans. Communication with the dead is a religious undertaking, and the ritual, the symbols of death, the droning of the drum, all these things create a mood and a mindset that makes us receptive.
Some people are able to communicate with the spirit world a bit easier than the rest of us. Some are amazing mediums, able to see and speak to those in the spirit world, seemingly as easy as most of us communicate with each other. Some of us use tools such as Tarot cards, Ouija boards, scrying bowls, black mirrors or other tools. In each of these cases, what weíre doing is opening up some sort of channel to facilitate that communication.
So, why do we communicate with the dead? There are probably as many reasons as there are people. Some of us want to know that our loved ones are ok. Sometimes we want to tell them something that we didnít have the chance to say before they died. But there is another reason to communicate with them.
But there is another reason as well. In Pagan traditions, we know that in one sense, our bodies fetter our spirits. For as much as our spirits are connected deeply to our bodies, weíre somewhat confined in our ability to perceive. When, however, we are freed from our bodies, such as through death, our spirits, when free from the body gain a greater degree of freedom. Where our bodies are confined to one place in space and time, our spirits are not so restricted. Those who we love, who have died have a greater perspective than we do. They are in a position to help, to offer some advice.
Does this mean that they have all the answers? Of course not Ö while they may no longer posses human bodies, they are still human, whatever human might mean. There is always a possibility that some souls or spirits can be malevolent Ö just as in life, not everyone has the best intentions, itís possible that some spirits may not be benevolent. Thatís one of the reasons why some groups of people have ritual which is designed to banish malevolent spirits. Christians have their exorcisms, pagans can perform banishings. Still, once again, this is done through religious ritual.
In any case, this is the time of the year that lends itself to this sort of communication. Some Christians celebrate All Saintís Day, many religions take this time to honor their dead. Some pray to them, some strive to communicate with them, but most of us do take time to remember. Perhaps as this is the beginning of the holiday season, that time of year when many of us do gather together, it makes sense. But if this is something that you really want to do, try to make an effort to do so with someone who is experienced. It will probably make it easier, and it will help to make it safer.
© 2008 Deirdre A. Hebert