Honoring Our Ancestors: The Thinning of The Veil

Summer has come to an end and winter is fast-approaching. Historically, this is a time of year to honor the fruits of our harvest, the hardships we’ve overcome, those whom we have lost, and to prepare for the darkening of days.


Both Dia de Los Muertos (November 2) and Halloween (October 31) are special holidays to honor our ancestors. Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic tradition, Samhain (pronounced saw-in). Samhain, which is Celtic for “summer’s end,” was a pagan harvest festival in which people danced around bonfires (derived from “bone fires”) and dressed in disguises to ward off ghosts of the dead. Because Samhain took place at winter’s door, a season associated with death, the Celts believed the veil between worlds was thinnest at this time, allowing those who died in the past year to roam the earth where they had walked before and interact with the living. 


During Samhain, the dearly departed were welcomed back; however, during “the thin time,” the Celts believed that those who were welcome were not the only ones who would appear. In order to deceive spirits who may have meant harm, the Celts covered their faces with ashes, which later progressed to wearing masks. This allowed them to reveal themselves to their dead loved ones, but disguise themselves from the spirits whom they did not wish to see. Furthermore, feasts were held in order to please all of the spirits. 


Later, All Saints’ Day (November 1) became a Christian holiday to honor the faithful departed, and All-Hallows Eve, was celebrated the night before. “Hallow” means “to make holy.” All-Hallows Eve eventually became what we know as Halloween today. 


We have always sought meaning within the mystery of death. We have attempted to define death and imagine what lies on the other side. We have held onto the hope that just because our loved ones have left their bodies, it does not mean we will not see them again. And perhaps this is true–there is still much we do not understand. 


This Halloween, I invite you to honor your ancestors in your own way. Take a moment and think about your parents, your grandparents, and your great grandparents. It doesn’t matter how well you knew them–take a moment to consider their lives. Imagine the times they lived in–their upbringings, hardships, celebrations, and everything in between. Imagine everything they encountered and overcame in order for you to be reading this now. 


You can light a candle for your ancestors, visit their grave, give an offering to the fire, cook their favorite food, host a feast in their honor, or gather with other loved ones and share your favorite memories. In meditation, you can say a prayer for them, or ask them for guidance and help. You can also create an ancestor altar of your favorite pictures and heirlooms of your dearly departed. 


There are many ways to honor and give thanks to our ancestors, and there is no better time than the days encompassing Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos. Have fun honoring your ancestors and enjoy the thinning of the veil, for you don’t know what magic may slip through.  


To your health, 

Dr. Dan


Get healthy. Stay present. Help out. 

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