Ancestral Wisdom: Signs & Symbols From Beyond the VeilNov 08, 2023
November 7 marks the halfway point between the autumn solstice and the winter equinox, a day traditionally known as Samhain.
I know that most celebrated on Halloween or the day after on the Day of the Dead, but technically the veil thins between realms for a week beyond that hallowed eve.
When I discovered that we had a window—rather than a day—to commune with those on the other side, I decided to intentionally open a conversation with my Granny (Lee Ellen Crane Watson) who died almost 18 years ago. She and I had a special bond that still resonates within me as a soul connection.
I felt the kinship of our spirits intuitively, but there were so many conversations we never got to have.
She was gone before I had the language for a feminist spiritual awakening. We talked about our shared feminist consciousness, and one of my favorite ways to connect with her now is to replay on old episode of C-SPAN's Book Notes TV show—a tribute to pioneering feminist thinker Betty Friedan—where Granny called in and spoke on air for several minutes about the unrecognized contributions women made to this country during World War I. Linking to the episode here for the curious. She was 89 at the time.
So I asked her to have that conversation with me now. In the widow of the thinning veil that is Samhain.
The first night after my request for conversation, she answered some questions in my dreams. She sent a beautiful message about the freedom she found despite the cultural limits that kept her from fully grounding into a feminist spirituality. The message came in the form of elephants processing through a habitat bordered by short walls and in a flowing shape of interconnected wombs and birth canals. Elephants symbolize both the feminine divine and the passing of ancestral wisdom.
She told me that she was as free as she could be in her life and that I could be freer.
That conversation was so fruitful that I tried again the next night, imploring her to come again to my dreams. And then after making the plea, I could not fall asleep. I lay awake for hours feeling like a was missing out of the magic of communing with her in my dreams.
Finally at 2:30 am, the knocking came.
I first thought that I had imagined it and tried to relax my body back toward the elusive state of sleep. Then my husband sat up and pulled out his phone. "What are you doing"? I asked. "Looking at our security camera footage. I heard someone knocking at our door." Validated that he, too, had heard it, I peered over his shoulder at the footage, together rewinding over and over again through the past five minutes or so. Nothing. And the dog (sleeping in our bed) hadn't stirred when she normally loses her mind if anyone approaches our house.
"You sure it wasn't an animal in the attic?" I posited. "Positive," he said. "Definitely a knock."
Having done his due diligence, he drifted off to sleep as the reality sunk into me. That was Granny knocking after hours of waiting for me in my dreams. That is exactly what someone waiting at a door would do—"Hello? I'm here. You going to open up?" But how? I replayed the knock in my mind. It was calm, not a panicked middle-of-the-night demand for attention. And it sounded closer than the front door.
Sleep finally came for me, and in the morning I asked Greg a few questions before telling him about the source of the knocking. "Yep, it sounded calm." He actually duplicated it on the door frame of the bathroom. Just like I remembered. "Yes, it did sound closer than the front door."
I told him what had happened. Considering possible doors that Granny could have knocked on, I suggested that it sounded like it had come from our closet door and he agreed. Immediately I remembered that I had hung a painting of Psyche (an antique collotype print by William Sergeant Kendall) in there. It had hung over Granny's bed for as long as I can remember. I was enchanted by it. She said it looked like me and that she would leave it to me, which she did.
I wandered into the closet, gazing at the familiar image with a new knowing attached to it now that it had mediated communication between realms.
I reached up and touched the frame, instinctively pushing it back to the wall, closing the gap left by the wire used to hang it. I could replicate the knock by touching the frame to the wall several times in a row.
I had never researched the painting or its mythical subject, but now I was ready. She had a message for me. Psyche is the Goddess of the Soul.
My whole childhood, Granny slept not under a crucifix or some other symbol of a male god, but under the watchful eye of a goddess.
And then Monica Rodgers, my co-conspirator in mediating messages in their symbolic spiritual form, informed me that Psyche is also part of the mythic split that happens in women between Eros and Psyche within patriarchy when they evacuate their erotic power and get trapped in their fragmented psyche.
There is so much to unpack in the answers I got from Granny just by opening the conversation. Do you have questions for those who have moved onto the other side of the veil? Ask them! It is not too late. The veil is thinnest during the Samhain season, but the cave-like darkness of winter that's approaching creates a container for just such introspection and inter-realm wisdom.
If you want a ritual to usher in the season of cave time, join us this Sunday, 11/12 at 12 noon ET for a ritual led by Molly Remer to awaken the Crone of Winter. You can save your spot here or join our Sovereign Sisterhood for access to a full rhythm of support for women awakening to their self-sovereignty. And in 2024, we're adding a quarterly Myth & Symbol Circle to lean into the symbolic language of the spirit together.
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