In contemporary Pagan terms, this preoccupation with death is not morbid. Rather, the attempt to communicate with the dead has healing implications. Weed says, "Grief can disable the immune system. To deal with grief and loss through memory is to re-member. It helps us to continue on...and if you believe the ancestors are watching and depending on you, life is lived in a sacred manner. We see ourselves as part of an unending chain of life, recognizing the gifts of those who came before us. And we are more conscious of what we are leaving for those who follow."
When asked about the trivialization of the holiday, with children playing at goblins and demanding candy in return for good behavior, she describes such modern holiday practices as "the jump-rope of existence." All Hallows' Eve is one of eight seasonal markers on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year - events that were critical to our ancestors, who depended on the regular cycling of the celestial bodies that in turn affected the nature of seasons on Earth: the rebirth of plant life in the spring, the heat of summer to bring forth crops and animal maturation, the culmination of growth in the fall when harvest could take place and the quiet of winter for rest and inner rejuvenation. The jump-rope analogy points to the fact that good health is dependent on good rhythm, and in celebrating these seasonally significant holidays in any way - even in the seemingly trivial act of trick-or-treating down the street in a skeleton costume - we move with the rhythm of our planet and reestablish the rhythm of our health.
Contrary to popular myth, modern Wiccans do not necessarily busy themselves with the theatrics depicted in "teen witch" television programs. Their deep connection to the rhythms of Nature, here on Earth and amidst the planets' revolutions around the Sun, consumes their energies.
Weed's primary areas of focus are folkloric herbalism, eco-herbalism, ethnobotany, pharmacognosy, the philosophy and psychology of healing, comparative religion and women's health and spirituality. She conducts monthly Moon Lodges for women, weekend workshops for women and men and takes on long-term apprentices to learn in Nature. She is especially interested in altered states of consciousness as they pertain to learning, healing, birthing and dying. Weed has instructed students at venues such as the Yale Nurse Midwifery School, State University of New York, Kripalu Yoga Center, Benedictine Hospital, Vassar Brothers Hospital, Northern Dutchess Hospital and many others. With no earned diplomas, Weed has four books in print, is published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and is recognized for her contributions to the health and well-being of women of all ages - and of the planet.
Having produced multiple workshops at her home and in gatherings nationwide this year, Weed is winding down for the long darkness of winter. The last Moon Lodge took place last Friday night: a gathering of 13 women from 25 to 63 years of age, who sang and danced and listened to each other's stories. She'll not conduct a public ceremony for Samhain, but will hold a Work Exchange Weekend at the Wise Woman Center located between Saugerties and Woodstock. Participants can help clear the garden, turn compost and clean the barn, "done in the spirit of jumping to get over the rope!"
For more information about the Work Exchange Weekend and any other learning experiences, contact Susun Weed and the Wise Woman Center at (845) 246-8081 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her websites are at www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com.