Practice for All Souls Day

A collaboration between Ramon Szeitszam and Bishop Tim Mansfield.

As we come to the end of October, most people’s attention is on the candy and costume festival known as Halloween.

Like most popular, modern holidays, Halloween is a blend of an ancient pagan festival (in this case Celtic Samhain), a medieval church holy day and a liberal dash of 20th-century commercialism. Quite how much of each and where one begins and the others end is a matter of debate.

What church and Celtic tradition agree on is that this is a time for remembering our ancestors. The name of Halloween comes from All Hallows Eve – Hallows is an older way of saying Saints, and it’s the day before All Saints Day (1 November). The day after All Saints is All Souls (2 November). All Saints is a day for remembering our spiritual ancestors, while All Souls is for remembering and praying for our family forebears.

Ancestor veneration of one kind or another is just about a universal spiritual practice for human beings. Cultures as diverse as Japanese Shinto, Mongolian Tengriism and Nigerian Yoruba all have versions of giving offerings to, praying for and remembering those whose lives and choice made yours possible.

But ancestor veneration has become unfashionable for modern westerners. We think that’s a pity and we suggest you take advantage of the season to find a way to connect with your ancestors. 

It might be as simple as a quiet prayer (like the requiem prayer, below), or looking through old photos and feeling a heart connection.

A Traditional Prayer for the Departed

This is an old Latin prayer which may originally be Jewish. You may like to call to mind and name family members who have passed and then to say.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis: Requiescant in pace. Amen.

If you’d like some practices to connect even more deeply, try this Ancestor Practice.

Ancestor Practice

Cultivating Energy

Practice before and after Connecting to Ancestors

  • Quieten your mind
  • Bring your awareness to the centre of your body just below your navel
  • Become aware of the sacred flame at that centre
  • Breathe slow and deep, and release any tension in your body or mind
  • With each exhalation, the flame expands, becomes larger and hotter, and radiates out from you

Practice a few minutes at a time and only increase if you are comfortable.

Connecting to Ancestors

  • Hold your awareness at the point below your navel and the centre of each hand.
  • Inhale and gently hold your breath.
  • Ask your higher self to connect you to your divine, spiritual ancestors.
  • Exhale and give thanks to your higher self.
  • Repeat multiple times per day whenever you remember.

Ancestor Meditation

  • Focus on the blood circulating in your body, all the arteries, veins and capillaries.
  • Invoke the feelings of gratitude and love and expand this through your blood.
  • Give thanks to your ancestors for everything they have done for you to exist and expand your feelings of love and thanks to them.
  • Your blood is your connection to your ancestors.
  • Ask them to connect to you, speak to you and teach you in your dreams.

Ancestor veneration includes your parents, whatever that means for you. If you find connecting to them hard or if they are still here go back a generation or to unknown past ancestors.

All Souls Day can be a profound reconnection with all those whose lives led to yours. Remember that your ancestors don’t just include the human, but all your forebears to the most remote. Your ancestors lead you back directly to the Source.

Lux perpetua luceat eis!

Let light perpetual shine upon them!