Preparing the Hearth for the Ancestors

Samhain Elements Altar Mask

I’m preparing the family hearth for the holy days of Samhain, Days of the Dead, Halloween. At the center is the mask painted by my daughter showing the four sacred elements, imbued by the fifth, Spirit.

Samhain Dark Quarter Wheel

We who live here on the northern half of Mother Earth are entering the darkest time of the year. This detail of my personal Wheel of the Year shows Samhain, the old Celtic name for the holiday, in the darkest of all the colors, a dark purple. Between now and Yule the days will get shorter and shorter. People will become more anxious, fear of the dark being the most primal and least rational of all the old fears. We’ll fill up our time with countless errands and activity in preparation for the winter holiday, when the days will turn on the hinge of the solstice and begin to lengthen again. I turn my Wheel above my hearth altar at every cross quarter day, for it seems at these in-between marks, less dramatic than the solstices and equinoxes, the time shifts quietly and we begin another quarter turn, climbing toward the solstice peak, descending to the next cross-quarter day when I will again turn the Wheel another quarter turn. This is my Seasons of the Earth Year Round Calendar. This is our tradition.

Samhain Ancestor Altar Preparation



{ 5 comments… add one }
  • ronnie 10/31/2011, 4:06 pm

    ahhhhhhh – a NICE halloween tale to read…..

    I’m a viciously loud opponent of adopting halloween shenanigisms here in australia – because what is being adopted is the hollywood super capitalist model of costume drama and sugar fest…… so NOT what halloween originated as…. its both culturally and cyclically inappropriate for us in the southern hemisphere to be ‘trick or treating’ with pumpkins and hobgobblins in this our spring…… scheeeeez!!!!!!! Its so refreshing to hear a tale of authenticity …. tar cari

    • Cari 10/31/2011, 5:00 pm

      Right on, Ronnie! I am always careful around these times to say NORTHERN hemisphere. For a path that honors the earth so much, to ignore the seasons seems outlandish indeed. Glad you enjoyed it. I have a photo of a very cool seal skull I featured on another Halloween post, you can search for it. It’s nice to find the old ways underneath all the consumerism.

  • Greenconsciousness 10/31/2011, 4:10 pm

    WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MASK!!!!! I love it. I have those feathers on my altar -found them in a shoe box in the back yard. Do you know what bird they come from? I also had a lot of those silver star strings. I hear the children coming – it is a good night. Blessings from me to you and yours.

    • Cari 10/31/2011, 5:02 pm

      They are a mix of turkey, hawk and chicken feathers. The turkey feathers were given to me as an honoring gift; they are used in some Indian ceremonies. These feather just keep accumulating around this hearth, small to large. Then there are the ones in my studio, the quills I sometimes use for writing. Yes, I am very fond of feathers. Blessed All Hallow’s Eve to all.

  • cate 11/16/2011, 6:26 am

    Cari, I just loved this post, and the imagery is wonderful. It is always grand to see and read how other kindred spirits observe the wheel of the year in all its splendid turnings.

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