Dear monks, artists, and pilgrims,
I love this time of year as autumn envelopes us in the northern hemisphere and the days grow shorter. I find the dark nights inspiring. I love that in the Christian church November is the time of remembering the saints and ancestors.
My new book – The Love of Thousands: How Angels, Saints, and Ancestors Walk With Us Toward Holiness – is the culmination of many years of practice and healing. We are thrilled to also have a new album and prayer cycle as well (day 3 of the prayer cycle is now available!) These rich resources are to help provide you with sustenance and hope, with ways of listening at the threshold. (And I am leading an online series through Spiritual Directors International on angels, saints, and ancestors as spiritual companions starting Friday)
In the Celtic tradition October 31st is All Hallow’s Eve and the Feast of Samhain when the veil between worlds is said to be especially thin.
This is an excerpt from my new book about this potent threshold time and some practices you might consider engaging in:
In Celtic tradition there are many moments considered to be a “thin time” which means that heaven and earth feel closer and we might experience moments of connection to those who have gone before us in ways that we don’t usually.
These moments are the daily portals of dawn and dusk as the world moves from dark to light and back to dark again. They also include the eight threshold moments of the year which are the solstices, the equinoxes, and the cross-quarter days that fall between the solstices and equinoxes.
Of these eight, Samhain which falls on November 1st is considered to be the thinnest time when the ancestors and spirits walk among us. The door then is even further open than at other times. Samhain is the start of the dark half of the year. It is the season of rest, incubation, and mystery. It is the season of dreamtime. The perfect time of year to open your heart to connection with those who journeyed before you.
Listen for the messengers of the ancestors in those days especially – they will speak their wisdom through raven and stone, tree and rain, dreams and synchronicities. This is the language through which we receive these gifts and only need to open ourselves to them.
Winter invites us to gather inside, grow still with the landscape, and listen for the voices we may not hear during other times of year. These may be the sounds of our own inner wisdom or the voices of those who came before us.
The Celtic feast of Samhain coincides with the Christian celebration of All Saint’s Day on November 1st and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd which begin a whole month in honor of those who have died. We tend to neglect our ancestral heritage in our culture, but in other cultures remembering the ancestors is an intuitive and essential way of beginning anything new. We don’t recognize the tremendous wisdom we can draw upon from those who have traveled the journey before us and whose DNA we carry in every fiber of our bodies.
Suggestions for Practice
Consider spending some time each morning opening your senses to all the ways you might experience a connection to your ancestors. Keep a journal by your bed and pay attention to your dreams. We may receive a message while we sleep or be offered a symbol to help connect to us.
Notice the synchronicities of everyday life – those moments of meaningful coincidences and keep track of them as well. We can easily dismiss a subtle moment of connection to a loved one who has passed on or to the wider body of ancestors. If a song starts playing, or you encounter a meaningful symbol, or someone says something to you that brings a sense of deeper knowing, start trusting these as moments of connection. The more we dismiss them, the more faint the connection becomes. The more we cultivate an honoring of these kinds of experiences, the more we notice them happening. Often when a synchronicity happens we will feel a kind of tingling sensation or chill and you sense something magical or otherworldly is happening. When this happens, pause and receive. Notice when your mind wants to undermine what happened.
Spend significant time in nature and listen for the wisdom of trees and animals. I have often had experiences of encounter with each of my parents in creation. From coyotes to butterflies, cuckoo birds to rainbows, these moments gave me a sense of deep connection.
We are delighted to be offering several events to support you in this journey toward greater intimacy with the angels, saints, and ancestors. All of these programs will be recorded, so feel free to join even if the times don’t work for your schedule, although gathering in real time together is also a treat.
This Friday, I begin a 3-week series on Angels, Saints, and Ancestors as Spiritual Companions (hosted by Spiritual Directors International). This series is geared toward those who serve as soul care practitioners of various kinds including as spiritual directors, chaplains, pastors, and other soulful companions, but anyone with interest is welcome to join us. I will also be joined by Simon de Voil who will be providing music for our live sessions.
Next Monday, November 6th, Simon and I return with our monthly Contemplative Prayer Service and we will be joined by my dear friend Deirdre Ni Chinneide, a beautiful singer who lives near me in the west of Ireland.
And finally, I want to mention that starting in January we will be hosting a 14-week online retreat as a companion to my book. This will be the most in-depth of all the programs above and I will be offering weekly live sessions along with added conversations with some wonderful guest teachers and some beautiful meditations and prayer dances.
However you choose to honor this time, I do hope these reflections empower you to listen at the threshold for the love of thousands who whisper your name and celebrate your gifts for the world.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image © Christine Valters Paintner