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Once your altar is set up and your circle has been cast, settle yourself comfortably and contemplate the photographs and/or mementos you brought into circle. More ancient, tribal cultures used rites of passage to mark the difference between phases of life. Once a person had passed through a stage, his or her old self was considered dead, and a new life was started. Often, the person received a new name or title to add significance to the life change. Your life has had these rites, too. You have had many names and titles in your life; infant, toddler, preschooler, sister, brother, teenager, boyfriend, girlfriend, high school graduate, college student, college graduate, lover, wife, husband, father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle. Even different jobs you’ve held have carried with them differences in responsibility and notable changes in title.
Each of those life stages has contributed considerably to the person you are today. Think back to times when you had to make difficult decisions, or undergo pain, trauma, or loss; you learned and survived because of who you were at the time. Chances are good that nobody said thank you to the younger version of you that made those tough choices, or who picked herself up and kept going, or who turned his life around. Take the time now to write a letter to a specific past self whose strength you admire; whose courage, perseverance, luck, fortitude, cunning, or resilience helped shape your current world. Tell your past self how you have been influenced by her decisions, and thank him for his efforts. Do this for as many past selves as you feel called.
…You have to know that you are my hero.
You are the pedestal on which I now stand
The foundation of my joy was bricked by your sorrow…
-excerpt from Letter to my Past
You not only have ancestors, you are becoming an ancestor. Every decision you make today becomes the story of yesterday’s past. Write your future self a letter; she is your spiritual child, the fruits of today’s labor. By the time this new you is born, the self you are now will be long dead. What are your dreams for yourself? What promises will you make to hold this budding new life sacred, to protect and preserve the foundations laid by the ancestors you just honored? What would you choose to say to this tender, far-away future self? Make those promises and share those dreams; say what’s hidden in your heart. Then fold up and seal that letter tight. Write a date on the front – perhaps next Samhain, or five years from now. Then save the letter and open it only when it’s time to read a message from your own past self.
Once you are finished with your letters, take a moment to honor your present self, to ground and center and cherish the energy that you are able to create. Then open the circle. I like to leave my photos and letters on my Samhain altar alongside the photos of my deceased loved ones and relatives.
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