I lovingly joke that counting the times I hear “when the veil between the worlds is thinnest” during this season would be a full time job. It’s true that October, home to the holidays Halloween and Samhain, has a strong association with the otherworldly. I’ve always loved this time of year because it seems extra magical: when else are we permitted to play with the spooky, imaginative, and uncanny sides of the human experience with such abandon?
This is also the busiest time of the year for a professional tarot reader, so finding time to squeeze in my personal celebrations has been a bit of a challenge. And what’s more, there’s some tenderness and pressure tied to Halloween as well.
A quick trip through “witch instagram” will give you hundreds of examples of rituals and tarot spreads to conduct for Halloween or the pagan holiday Samhain. And, in true instagram fashion, all of these are laid out and photographed alluringly with candles, crystals, flowers - the whole ritualistic shebang.
So you won’t be surprised to hear that I was pressuring myself to come up with something meaningful, elaborate, and photogenic. And, as seems to always be the case, my internal judgment and expectations lead to… nothing.
To be fair, I’d been running around hosting a big party and reading at several others the weekend before. When the 31st came around I was plum tuckered out. And, since Halloween and Samhain deal with all things ancestral (what’s behind that thin veil), I had a lot of emotions tied to contacting them.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” of any situation, and witchcraft and magic are no different. With instagram things get trickier. Those photogenic altars are meant to telegraph profound and developed personal practices. Many of them are. But they often gloss over the more challenging aspects and experiences.
For me, ancestral reverence and communication can be an emotional and complicated practice. Not all of us have straightforward or uncomplicated relationships to our ancestors. Many were complicated people making the best of a complicated time. Working with them can be an emotional experience and that side, I’ve found, is rarely shown online.
So instead of having a lush Samhain ritual, I simply sat and experienced my feelings. Grief, love, emptiness, and searching - all of them were enough to handle as I focused on making a very ancestral meal of pierogis/vareniki and relaxing the best I could.
And this morning? I got up early, clearer and more focused, and called my beloved ancestors into a circle for a tarot reading. The time was right and it was more than enough.