Autumn Ritual to Honour the Dead

Midway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is considered to be thin. It's a good time to honour our dead, and many cultures celebrate holidays with this theme at this time of year. 

You can honour the recently deceased or your more distant ancestors in many ways. Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Add family photos, heirlooms, or other items of significance, to your autumn altar
  • Visit the gravesite of the deceased, or a place they frequented
  • Wear an item of clothing or jewelry that belonged to the deceased, or that reminds you of them
  • Prepare an extra plate when you make your meal, and leave it outside as an offering (make sure nothing you include is toxic to your local wildlife)

A Simple Ritual to Honour the Dead

This candle ritual is a simple way to honour those who have passed. You will need:

  • Two candles (white is a great all-purpose colour or choose a colour that connects you to the deceased you wish to honour)
  • Oil to anoint them 
  • A carving device, like a pencil, pin, or other pointed object

Gather your supplies and place them before you, on your altar if you have one. If you cast a circle in your tradition, do so now. If not, simply set the mood by centering yourself and sitting quietly to set your intentions. You can smoke cleanse your space with herbs (including cannabis!) and light candles to create the right atmosphere.

When you are ready, take the first candle. Using the carving device, write the names of the dead you want to honour tonight. If you're using a small candle, initials are fine. Think of each person as you mark the candle, wishing them well.

Anoint the candle with oil and place it in a holder. Take the second candle, and anoint it while you think of your ancestors whose names you don't know. Every person is the product of two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents... by the time you reach your eighth-great-grandparents, we're in the thousands! Even if you don't take after anyone in your immediate family, chances are there was someone a few generations back that dreamed of having a descendent like you. 

Place the candle in a holder, and light them both. If you feel moved to do so, you can say a few words. Here is a prayer I use:

Tonight, while the veil is thin and the night is deep,
I take time to remember those of you on the other side.
You are gone from this world, but never forgotten.

Please join me tonight as I honour
All you gave to me in your life,
And for watching over me in death.
I ask you to continue to protect, guide, and love me
As the wheel of the year turns. 

In my heart you live on;
In the hearts of generations to come,
Your blood carries on.

Sit and contemplate while the candles burn. You can close your circle, or say thanks and complete the ritual. If it is safe to do so you can continue to let the candles burn into the night while you continue your other celebrations, to let the dead know they are welcome in your home. I usually let them burn while I eat dinner, and set a plate for the dead between them while I eat.

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