Sunday, October 31, 2010

Touching the veil

Samhain has assumed a special significance for me this year, having spent the last few weeks in the company of Death as I sat with my Mother. I talked to her often about those who had gone on ahead, and who would be waiting to greet her.  Whether she could hear or understand me at the time,  I don't know, but I found it deeply comforting to think of the ancestors being there for her.
John O'Donohue writes in his beautiful book, Anam Cara, that as someone approaches death, the veil between the worlds becomes transparent and may even lift, as those spirtiside await their loved one. We felt this thinning in several ways. My daughter and son both had dreams of their Gran looking happy and relaxed in a place of light.  The night after she died, my husband dreamt he was in a high, white airy room looking at the negative image of a candle flame, through which my Mother had apparently passed, and the same night, my uncle, who is almost 80, dreamt he was in his Grandmother's house with my Mother.  

For twenty or so years, my cousin and I have been, separately researching our family tree, pooling our findings when we can.  It is the kind of hobby that is all consuming for a while, but then becomes ignored for several years, until something sparks it off again.  I have been stuck for a long time now, trying to trace details of my maternal great great grandfather, who was born around 1835.  He was a bit of a character, it seems, and changed his forename from Patrick to Peter when he joined the army - living in Presbyterian Edinburgh at that time no doubt made having a Catholic sounding name a bit of a handicap.  Anyway, I feel eyes glazing over here, so I will attempt to be brief.  I came across him on the 1861 Edinburgh census, where he gave his place of birth as St Andrews. I excitedly and diligently spend a whole day at Register House, searching for him in the previous census and old parish records of St Andrews to no avail. Then I found him on the 1871 Leith census where he claimed Edinburgh as his birthplace. Was this a fabrication also?  I never found out until - my cousin came to visit my mother last week.  As we sat, chatting by her bedside, he mentioned his discovery that our great grandfather (son of Patrick/Peter) had been born in Cannonball House . Leading on from this very interesting finding, I sought his opinion on Peter's two birthplaces - why would he say St Andrews and then Edinburgh?  Ah! said my cousin - it wont be St Andrews in Fife - it will be St Andrew's parish in Edinburgh!  And, of course, he was right, but I rather think Patrick/Peter was nearby and decided to provide a bit of inspiration.
Anyway,I proceeded to spend the next two nights on the wonderful Scotland's People website, where for £6 you can obtain 30 search credits and before you know it you have frittered away £18, but you are on a roll and just one more £6 and you will fill that gap on the third branch.  I found many chinks in the various brick walls I had run up against several years before, and many gaps were filled. What a lovely feeling it was as each one revealed themselves to me. I really felt I was touching my ancestors through the veil - true magick.

And so we find ourselves again at the end of a year.  A time to look back at what we have created, how out plans made last year have worked out - let go those things we no longer need.  Time also to look forward, to plan anew, to make divinations, and draw ourselves in for a time.  The spiral never ends.
All being well, my next post will be from Lewis -  a land where the month of November is called  Samhain in the native language.  Blessings to you all.


  1. Blessings Jacqui, I agree with you about the thinning of the veil, and have my own experiences too. Safe journey to you all back to Lewis.

  2. True words Jacqui.
    Safe journey back to the land of your dreams.

  3. a blessed Samhain to you and your loved ones.....

    also wishing you safe travels back to your northern keep..:)


  4. This post is just beautiful. I wish I had the patience to research my family tree.

  5. Blessings to you and yours this day and throughout the year.

  6. Your family have especially been in my thoughts this Samhain. Blessings to you all.


  7. A special time to be together, sharing the memories and experiences.

    Have a wonder filled Samhain. xxxx

  8. Fascinating post! I have never heard of the thinning of the veil. What a comfort to know about it!

  9. Jacqui Blessings and Peace be with you. XXX Don


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