Autumn is thankfully fast approaching and already it feels like there is so much to do to get ready for what is, for me, a very important time spiritually. (I also loathe summer with a passion so I’m always glad when it’s over). Starting with the fall equinox, I begin a rather intense ritual season. While I honor my ancestors all year round, as autumn approaches suddenly it seems like they are very, very present and my whole world becomes about them, the military dead, and Odin pretty much through the new year. The Hunt comes after all, as the weather turns (please Gods) chill, and scours the world for wondering or maybe wandering souls (1.).
This year it has begun so much earlier than normal. For about two weeks now, the military dead have been close. My own ancestors have stepped back to allow this particular group to press forward with their voices eager to be heard. I do not know what they want this time, beyond the offerings I normally give, beyond giving them a voice as best I know how in my work. This time it is the WWI dead and they began to make their presence known two weeks ago. I started waking from dreams of hell in the trenches, half-remembered images of experiences that are not mine. These images like shadows haunt my waking hours and suddenly references to that war seem everywhere. There’s a growing sense of them ever more palpable and they whisper around me and it’s started so early this year. Usually this doesn’t happen for at least another month but now, now since July they’ve been with me, a growing presence.
There are a few stragglers from WWII, a handful from Vietnam but for the most part it’s WWI dead. The ‘war to end all wars,’ which didn’t, this war that destroyed the world, ending in reality only twenty seven years later with the decimation of Europe and Japan. They come to me, the dead, and I walk with them. I hold rituals and make offerings to them. This time the press is so very strong and I do not know what they want, and rituals previously held have no power now to stem the tide of remembrance. Perhaps that is what this autumn will bring: new ways of remembering, of carrying their memories forward, the screaming of those who died choking in the trenches or returned home carrying hell within as we send generation after generation off to die. They were haunted by the war and I am haunted by them. There is no one left living (to my knowledge) who shared their experience. World War I has passed out of living memory and we are, I believe, the worse for that.
If you can, go talk to the veterans in your family. Record their stories. Buy them coffee. Listen. Listen to the weight they carry and the dead that walk with them too. See if there’s anything you can do to help your local VFW.(2) Go and learn their stories. Remember. That is, I think what they want and why they come shrieking forward so powerfully now. Remember. We are a world tumbling forward into exactly the same type of hellish morass that so many of them found themselves catapulted into in 1914. I think that is why they are now so loud.
- I’ve always been intensely amused by the folklore that says that to ward off the Wild Hunt, wave a sprig of parsley at the leader’s horse. I have this image of some poor fool standing in a field, eyes closed, holding out a piece of garnish as though it were a cross to repel a vampire. LOL.
- The British Royal Legion has a program I very much support called Every Man Remembered. It allows you to personally commemorate a WWI soldier and at the same time help living veterans. They also record their stories.
(Photo below, titled “Doughboy” is my own.)