Tonight, I am looking forward to a visit with my mom.  She hasn’t been on this planet for quite some time, but we do keep in touch and it is always a pleasant surprise when she visits.  That being said, she usually comes when I least expect it, tonight may or may not be the right time.  Nevertheless, I will prepare an ‘ancestor feast,’ as I do every year.  Late in the evening, I put out my parent’s favourite treats:  vanilla ice cream for my mom and a beer for my dad.  Just to let them know they are welcome for a little celebration.  Then, I light candles and a nice incense, turn off the lights, talk to them (whether I feel their presence or not) and meditate. 

The first time my mom came to visit in spirit form was about a week after she ‘died.’  I missed her terribly and every night I sat in a darkened room in front of a candle and talked to her, just as I had during our phone conversations when she was alive.  I was afraid she wouldn’t come at all, in spite of our agreement.  Maybe when you die, you just die and there is nothing else.  That thought was devastating. 

My mom had been an excellent seamstress and, when she was alive, every time she came to visit me, she would mend some piece of clothing I owned (I’m hopeless with a needle and thread).  On this night, still miserable that I hadn’t heard from her, I told her about a beautiful cape a seamstress had made for me.  It happened to be hanging outside the closet and I looked at it as I spoke to her.  There were originally three frog closures on the cape, but the third one had been loose and the last time I wore it, it had fallen off.  A friend and I had looked everywhere for the missing frog, but could not find it. 

After I finished talking to mom (without any response), I blew out the candle and went to bed.  The next morning, when I went to put the cape away, I noticed one, two, THREE frog closures securely sewn on the cape!  For days after, I cried tears of gratitude and amazement.  Then I called the friend who’d helped me search for the missing frog.  “Yes,” she said, “I remember.  There were only two closures on that cape.  We looked everywhere for the third one.” 
the 3 frogs

There have been numerous visits since then.  Once or twice, I’ve actually seen her.  Her visits are always magical; they have made me laugh and cry and everything in between.  They’re kind of like ectoplasmic Hallmark cards.  My mom is nothing if not creative and humorous. 

Even more surprising are those visits from total strangers, many of whom have given me their stories. 

One day, while sitting at the computer writing my first novel, I felt quite strongly that someone was standing behind my right shoulder. The person did not speak, but the air was heavy with their presence.

I was writing about an old fisherman, making things up as I went along because I know next to nothing about fishing, manoeuvring boats, nets or even which fish are prevalent in the area I was writing about. I’d never even visited the remote area of Co. Clare I was writing about!  I stopped abruptly, unable to think of another Irish expletive, circa 1847.  I couldn’t use the same ones over again.  Suddenly, from behind my right shoulder, a gravelly male voice shouted, “Begob!”  I jumped and looked behind me, but of course, there was no one there.  I typed, “Begob,” not even sure how to spell it, and then continued writing.
The next day, weary of my own ignorance, I went to the library to begin research. I chose a book from the shelf that was fiction, but at least it was the same time period as my story.  I opened the book to an arbitrary spot in the middle and the first word that leapt off the page at me was: “Begob!”  I gasped out loud, the book slipped from my hands and hit the floor with a thud.  Other people in the library stared at me.  When I opened the book again, I couldn’t find the same page or the word until I took it home and read the whole thing.  Sure enough, it was there in print.  “Begob!” Damn!  And I spelled it right too! 

Later, after loads of research, I was to find out that much of what I had written in this historical fiction novel was indeed fact.  In one instance, I even got an old man’s last name right.  Just lucky guesses?  Or were spirits really there, dictating to me in some fashion? 

I believe that we are all being visited by spirits.  We may not realize it, but they are there, standing next to us, whispering stories to us, touching our lives with their after lives. 

If you crave a visit from an ancestor this evening, I would recommend this powerful meditation:
Turn off the lights, light a white candle and stare at the flame for a minute.  Then close your eyes and see that flame become a fire.  Someone is sitting before the fire.  It is your ancestor.  It may or may not be one that you recognise.  Notice what he or she looks like and say hello.  Now, sit beside him or her and watch the flames.  If you wish, ask your ancestor a question and wait to hear the answer.  If you do not have a question to ask or do not hear a verbal answer, hold out your hand and allow your ancestor to give you an object.  What does the object you receive mean to you?  Stay by the fire and share whatever you will or just keep quiet and listen.  When you are finished, say ‘thank you’ and offer a hug or other gesture if appropriate. 

This meditation is wonderful if there is someone you’re longing to speak to, but it can be particularly useful if there is someone in your past you need to release.  And tonight is the best time to do that.  Who knows, if you’re participating in NaNo, you might even attract someone who can provide a good portion of the 50,000 words you’ll need to finish! 

However you choose to celebrate tonight, here’s wishing you and your ancestors a most joyous holiday!  And please, do share any stories of your own to add to the celebration. 


“This quiet dust was gentlemen and ladies, and lads and girls, was laughter and ability and sighing and frocks and curls.”  - Emily Dickinson

Understanding the Significance
From early times, and still today in Celtic countries, children born between the months of October and November are believed to possess special attributes.  According to the famous seanachie, Eddie Lenihan, they are ‘touched by the faeries.’  That doesn’t mean those of us born in October and November are crazy (necessarily); it means we’re likely to have some sort of psychic ability, especially the ability to see spirits and/or faeries.  I believe everyone has this ability, especially at this time of year, when twilight quickens, shortening the days . . . When the veil between the living and the ‘dead’ gets so thin it’s almost non-existent . . . When, whether we realize it or not, we’re right up close and personal to those who have left their bodies. 

I object to the word ‘dead.’  To me, there is no such thing.  Once we leave our body, our energy merely changes form and moves on.  I’ve had loads of experiences with departed loved ones who send love or do favours, with acquaintances who just stop by, and even with total strangers who’ve helped me write books.  All these experiences have led me to believe that we don’t go far when we leave our bodies.  In fact, we’re just around the corner, so to speak. 

The name of the upcoming holiday of Samhain (pronounced ‘Sow-ihn) comes from two Irish words meaning ‘summer’s end.’  On my calendar, the month after October and before December is referred to as ‘Samhain,’ so its current definition is ‘November.’  But Samhain is really a season of its own, and we’re in the midst of it now. 

Make An Appointment
Years before my mom passed away, we made an agreement.  Whichever one of us was to ‘leave’ first, we’d come back and visit the other and give some idea of what ‘death’ was like.  My mom has kept this agreement, over and over again through the years, visiting and always surprising me in the most amazing ways.  I highly recommend that you make verbal agreements with all your loved ones.  It isn’t necessary, but it makes this process a lot easier for the one who remains in physical form. 

If you want to contact someone who’s no longer on this planet, sit in a darkened room and light some white candles.  Meditate until you feel centered and calm (with no music, T.V. or distractions).  If you have a specific question, ask it aloud and/or write it on a piece of paper.  Let the candles burn out on their own and go to bed.  In the morning, when you wake up, if the candles are out but have not burned down completely, you should consider that a form of response.   

Responses can come in a variety of ways:  synchronicities, waking dreams, unusual sounds, smells, and most frequently, electrical interruptions.  Most importantly, they probably will not come right away.  It may take hours, days or weeks.  For me, it often takes 24 hours and then there is a seemingly miraculous response.  Next week, I’ll give a couple of examples. 

In the meantime, I would suggest you might want to practice making contact between now and October 31st.  You never know, all sorts of wonderful things may happen.  There is only one constant:  Love will always defy death.  

Pilgrimage to the Eternal Flame

Last week, I went on a mini-pilgrimage to the other side of the country to visit Kildare (in Irish, Cill Dara or church of the oaks).  Appropriate for a druid, don’t you think? 

I went to research Brigid, first a Goddess, then made a saint by the Christians, for another novel I plan to write.  
Bronze Statue of Brigid
Before Brigid was a saint, she was just your typical female trinity deity.  The great Celtic empire of Brigantia (including Britain as well as Spain and France) worshipped her as a goddess of healing, poetry and, mostly notably, flame (and, by extension, smithcraft).    Since the Goddess Brigid was worshipped by many across Europe, it stands to reason that many females were named after her in various dialects (BrĂ­d, Bridie, Bridget, Bree, Biddy).  In later centuries, the name was so frequently given to Irish girls that many who went to America and became maids were automatically called Biddy (no matter what their actual name was). 

One Brigid, born approximately 450 C.E., loved the Goddess Brigid so much that she became part of a female priesthood who kept an eternal flame burning in honor of the Goddess.  Years after her death, this woman was to become a saint.  It’s her life that interests me, for she must have been a remarkable woman – a devout Pegan Christian.  Someone who worshipped the Goddess and the old ways, while extending her worship to include the ‘new’ Christian faith.  In this way, she worked to unite the warring factions around her.  The legends that surround her life are fascinating and mysterious.  
The Holy Well
Last week, while gathering material, I interviewed two ‘Brigidine’ nuns who have been the most recent keepers of the not-quite-eternal flame (which was re-lit in 1993).  I also visited the castle, the holy well (which was holy long before Brigid’s time in the 5th Century) and the wishing tree, where hundreds of pieces of colourful ribbon, cloth and even an old sock, were tied by people making wishes.  For good measure, I lit a candle in the shrine to this Goddess and patron saint of poetry, because I figure she wouldn’t discriminate against a writer of prose.  
The Wishing Tree
It was an enlightening journey, and one I know I’ll make again. 

Until next time, deep peace of the sacred grove to you.  

'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' - Keats

For some reason, autumn has always been a motivational season for me.  Maybe it’s the crisper air, the ripe blackberries I can pick on my walk around the lake, the vibrant colors in nature.  It could also be that this time of year is when the veil between the worlds gets progressively thinner, allowing us contact with those who have moved beyond the physical plane. 

Whatever the reason, during this 'season of mists,' stories pop out at me from a wide variety of locations . . .
Not far from where I live, there’s a circle of standing stones that was probably erected thousands of years ago.  When I visit this place, I can practically hear beating drums and chanting voices.  The air fairly vibrates with some ancient energy.  It makes me wonder if there are spirits there, longing for their story to be told. 

Spiders are always frantically spinning webs this time of year.  I awoke the other morning to a metropolis of spider webs outside my barn and suddenly had an idea for a very dark, arachnid-dystopian sequel to Charlotte’s Web

A friend gave me a ride into town the other day to pick up my car from the mechanic.  Her car is ancient and inside it was littered with old blankets, dirty clothes, a paint-by-numbers kit, a bicycle tyre, discarded soda cans, various toys and things I couldn’t identify, and every kind of food wrapper imaginable.  Given an afternoon alone in that car, I think I could have come up with a dynamite spec script for a sitcom about a dysfunctional family. 

Once I nearly bought a pair of old shoes from a thrift store that were 3 sizes too small, just because they gave me a great idea for a crime novel. 

This morning, I drove by the local castle that Oliver Cromwell blew a hole threw with one of this canons.  (Clearly, that man wasn’t getting enough fiber in his diet or he just never got laid.)  From a distance, the old building looked sad and beautiful, but as I got closer, a flock of ducks quacked at me incessantly and tried to usher me away from the castle.  I speculate these ducks were Cromwellian soldiers in their past lives and have been reincarnated as water fowl and forced to guard this castle for all the foul deeds they committed in their past lives.  Don’t tell me there’s not a story there.  
An autumnal challenge for anyone who’s interested:  Sit down with paper and a pen in some location you find interesting and try automatic writing, without even looking at the paper.  I’d love to read of anyone else’s favourite places and the stories those places inspire.