Maia Toll
This past week autumn has begun to beckon. Her call is still faint: a crisp edge to the breeze, a few yellowing leaves waving amidst the lush green of summer.

My thoughts have begun to drift toward my autumn rituals, the luscious time of harvest and, ultimately, rest. Inevitably autumn thoughts are Ireland thoughts since that is when I began my studies there…..

We parked in a rut on the side of the road and hiked up a barely-seen track and then across a stile before clambering up a fence line edged with Hawthorn and Elderberry.

This route had become familiar, ‘though I doubt I could find it now, fifteen years later.

The stone circle at the hill’s top was off most maps and worn down like ancient teeth. Walk clockwise to build energy; the stones like that my teacher murmured.

So I set off in a sun-wise direction, moving slowly, trailing fingers over moss and bird droppings to feel the ancient rock beneath. Once, twice… the walking became a meditation. I stopped seeing my teacher, the sun, the gnarled roots beneath my feet.

For just a few moments I knew the vibrant stillness of stone.

When I finally sat, snugged against rock, messages came. Stories about time and its passing from a perspective so different from human, so much more ancient than tree.

It’s hard to speak of these mysteries in a way that doesn’t create distance and disbelief. So let’s simply say I’d walked myself into a trance state, a place in which the world is more vocal and alive than the place we inhabit daily.

It’s this place which called to me this morning as I contemplated the season’s new-found chill.

I love this time of year: the curling into your core, shaking out sweaters, and rescuing nutmeg from the back of the spice cabinet. I relish the fading light and even the ghosts, the hungry parts of myself and my ancestry, which have not yet found rest.

Healing ancestral wounds is part of our work toward wholeness.

It’s easy to give in to maudlin or angry or even self-righteous as these ghosts rise from their shallow graves.

Instead I sort them gently:

You are new, I say, grown from regret of things not done this year past. And you? (Why this year? I wonder.) You are my younger self’s heartbreak over a lost love. And then there’s you, who aches from the misunderstanding of your fragile psyche, who moans as electricity arcs through your brain (“Hello, Grandmother,” I murmur). But you, my friend, you are ancient dust and bone… You’re tangled in my DNA, in pogroms, and genocides, and the feeling of homelessness.

Each year I watch them gather round me. Each year I whisper what do you need?

The answer is always the same: love, honor, respect, to simply be seen, a wake, a funeral, a moment of mourning or week of shiva.

It’s tempting sometimes to give myself over to the ancestral grief locked in my blood. To become ancient rage and hatred, to succumb to nostalgia and regret.

But raging against the grandchildren of Nazis, the great-great-grandchildren of Russian Tzars, or the ten-times great-grandchildren of Spanish Inquisitors won’t heal these wounds.

We are called to honor the past, not to recreate its resonance in the present.

So I gently disentangle the threads, me from not-me. I honor the ghosts but don’t let them inhabit my body or become my being.

On the nights when they’re near I make an offering of tears or whiskey (a remnant of my time studying in Ireland) or squares of chocolate. It’s my way of saying I see you, you are not forgotten. Like laying flowers on a grave.

How do we repair damage in a pre-generational past? How do we weave the threads of ancestry which have been cut or torn? I think of the matrix, the soil, in which our ancestral roots grow. Comfrey which strengthens bones also amends soil. I tuck a bit in my Medicine pouch.

I sat this morning with the stones I keep close (two crystals, one odder looking than the next). I think about time and the quantum loops of past and future. And I think of those ancient standing stones which I still feel supporting me more than a dozen years later.

Perhaps it’s as simple as this: when we lean into the stones and the trees, we remember we’re part of a greater whole which has a different timeline than humanity’s. In the broad sweep of history, we are all ghosts…

... So we stay in the present, in the now, because this is the place where healing is possible. Click To Tweet

What ghosts will you lay to rest this season?

This is autumn’s work, this year and every year. This is the work we do together each year in Witch Camp. If you want to join me at Witch Camp to do the work of honoring and releasing, click below (it’s beautiful work made more beautiful by community).

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