The Immediacy of the Spirits

P1060959Yesterday, Boxing Day, brought gifts. In the afternoon a dear friend appeared on our doorstep with a generous quantity of freshly made biscotti. I have just finished one, with coffee; a lovely first course for breakfast.  The evening brought a cascade of hugs, e-mail, and affection from family and friends. Then, in the night, dream visitors came bearing love and magic, reminding me that even though I may feel alone, I always have company. I am tempted to write more, yet am acutely aware that the experience of visitation remains ineffable, impossible to speak.Christmas Eve night I placed rum and chocolate before the fireplace, offerings for the spirits and Ancestors. Christmas morning I discovered others of our family had added milk and Oreos, traditional Santa treats! This resulted in much merriment and laughter. Early in the morning Jennie and I went to the UU church where every Christmas morning a crew serves breakfast to all who may come. The temperature outside was a painful 8 degrees F. Jennie served tables and worked in the kitchen while I schmoozed with folks in the dining room. One guest, who may have been essentially homeless, turned out to be an accomplished poet. We sat together for a long time. I made numerous attempts at conversation to no avail, before I asked him about a book of poetry he was reading. He had just returned from giving two readings in New York! Others at the table asked him to read some poems; this resulted in a remarkable impromptu performance. One never knows who one may be blessed to meet! That “chance” meeting seemed to set the tone for a truly magical day.

Tomorrow marks the Feast of the Holy Innocents. In the Christian calendar it commemorates the mass killing of male Jewish babies at the order of Herod; an ill-conceived effort to destroy the prophesied Savior. For me, it is a time to remember the suffering and death of all people caught in the jaws of war or oppression. It is also a time to commemorate the many massacres of Native American people that took place at the Christmas season, as well as the Yule time programs against the Jews of Europe. It is a day to offer solace to those who have not found peace. Somehow our culture continually ignores or forgets the dark side of this glorious season. As a result we may forget to offer healing to those who so desperately seek it.

Last night I was reminded the helpful spirits and allies are generous, loving, and playful. They are immense presences, embracing us in our dreams and need. Walking with them we may feel enwrapped in love, chastened, or simply awestruck. Sometimes we may be afraid. Today, I am filled with gratitude for their kindness, love, and touch.

This season, from the end of October through early February, is a holy time in northern countries, a liminal space where the divisions between the world are particularly permeable and the spirits and Ancestors appear to come particularly close. It is not the only such time, for the immediacy of the spirits seems tied to season and place, a phenomena of the local. When are the spirits most present where you live?

12 thoughts on “The Immediacy of the Spirits

  1. I live in the UK, and the period you speak of, Oct-Feb, is my favourite time of the year. The time when I turn inward, the time when I hunker down with good books. And yes, the time when my thoughts turn to those who have gone before me.

    1. Andy, W hen I lived in the UK as a child the spirits were thick and immediate, and very present. The autumn and winter seemed to be a time for them to be intensely and immediately present.

  2. Winter always seems a liminal time for me, whether here in the West or back East, but more so back East.

    You are right that we do forget, Michael, in the joys and noise of the season that it is also a sad time – a time like any other with shadows attached – with many unfortunate historical associations, which leaves untouched the subject of despair that so many who live on the margins or who have lost those closest to them suffer.

  3. True, Jamie. It is the wintry inward motion of our attention too that makes us sensitive for deeper feelings.

    ‘When are the spirits most present where you live?’ I can’t say. To me it is more a matter of being perceptive than time. Or maybe you, Michael, are right. When we remember collectively the victims of WWII, yes, then we feel sad and surrounded by those who have been taken away at a too young age.

    I wish you and Jamie a nice NYE and a good start of 2014.

  4. “…the experience of visitation remains ineffable…” But reading posts like yours reminds me that there are others on the same part of the path at any given time. I deeply appreciate your insights.

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