It’s that time of year when witches, black cats, ghosts, and goblins are omnipresent. For some of us, connecting with magical energies beyond the veil are just a normal part of everyday life. For others, it’s time to get their Halloween groove on, and attend costume parties or take the kiddos trick-or-treating or tell spooky ghost stories. Maybe even visit a haunted house! Boo!
For Pagans, this time of year heralds the sabbat called “Samhain” (pronounced sow-en), and it’s the time of year that the veils between the physical and metaphysical worlds are at their thinnest. At this time of year, we remember our ancestors — known and unknown — and feel the natural energies of the ever-turning Wheel of the Year slowing down. Samhain is traditionally the end of the year for Pagans, and we relax into the waning daylight and feel the energies of the environment slowing down as we approach the winter solstice. (Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere! There, it’s the exact opposite!) Traditionally, Samhain would inaugurate a time of rest and reflection — which is completely in contradiction to the mad rush of “the Holidays.” Balancing both can be a challenge!
Whether Pagan or not, ghosts are very popular this time of year. I saw a post this morning lifted from TheScareFactor.com, which allegedly showed the number of haunted houses by state. After poking around the website a bit, a lot of those haunted houses are actually Halloween-type houses where you pay admission to be scared out of your skin, and not actual dwellings of lonely or disgruntled spirits. Google offered a more traditional, less commercialized list of haunted places — considerably fewer in number than The Scare Factor.
Whether Halloween fun or metaphysically saturated, it got me thinking… I’ve had experiences in places where an energy was quite detectable… an unseen but felt presence… received transmissions of messages via feelings or images… and sometimes even an urge to get the hell out of there now.
How about you? Have you ever inexplicably had a gut reaction to a place or an experience that confirmed that there are definitely energies existing on another plane of awareness or consciousness… and that they were trying to contact you? Spirits? Ghosts? Or???
I’ve had two significant experiences with the Otherworld, both beginning in childhood, and both recurring. The first was an apparition that appeared at my bedside when I was about 3 or 4. She was a woman, 30s-ish, slender. She had brown hair cut just above the shoulders. She always wore a plain black or dark gray slim skirt, and a plain white blouse. She never moved. She had no facial expression whatsoever, and would just stare at me, blankly. Her eyes were black — as in no white, or colored iris — and when she blinked, it made the sound of two pieces of paper rubbing together.
It was the scratchy sound of her blink that unsettled me the most. When she would appear, I’d hide under the covers and just wait it out. When it was quiet again, I’d peer out and she’d be gone. She never made any sort of threat or attempt to frighten me, nor did she welcome me either. Her energy was… “Why are you here?”
The woman appeared several times at my bedside in this house, which was my first home. I don’t know the history of that house, but my theory is that she lived there at some point in time, and I was sleeping in this room where she thought I didn’t belong. Did it belong to her? One of her children? I don’t know. She never offered any clue or information, other than to stare, and blink. Once we moved out of that house, I never saw her again. However, recalling her image still makes me a little uncomfortable — was she friend or foe? Or neither?
When we moved to our second house, when I was about 8, I had my second experience with an Otherworldly energy. It only made itself known through a specific tapping sound, that I recognized immediately as a communication. Like the Lady By My Bed, it never wavered in its communication… a tapping that merely said, “I’m here.” However, unlike The Lady, this energy felt distinctly more benign. It only wanted to be near me, and for me to be aware of that.
The tapping sound was very soft. First a single soft tap, a slight pause, and then an even softer tap: Tap… tap — Tap… tap — Tap… tap. This would go on for several minutes and then just stop. What makes this metaphysical energy even more interesting is that unlike The Lady, it followed me through several residences. It contacted me at that house many times, and then followed me to my first apartment when I moved away to go to college.
In those days, I didn’t really have a good grasp of the Pagan or spiritual world. One morning, as the Tapper was letting me know it was there, I got annoyed. A wild and raucous night of college partying the night before, with its residual splitting headache that morning, didn’t help. I decided I’d had enough of this whatever-it-was, jumped up out of bed, and slammed my hands against the wall where the tapping was coming from.
“Stop it! Go away!” I shouted, and stomped back to bed.
And… it did.
I moved to several residences after my college days, and the Tapper didn’t make a single sound at any of them. However, it apparently was silently sticking with me, because not long after I moved into my current home (and also opened myself up to the Pagan and metaphysical world) it returned.
I was telling my “ghost story” to my daughter one day, when she was in her early teens, mimicking the tapping sound with my knuckles on the table, and suddenly she went completely pale, her eyes wide. She told me she’d heard that exact knocking coming from her closet. (She now insists that she dreamed it, but I know what she said at the time!) She was very unsettled that a spirit had been visiting her, but I soothed her concerns, noting that the Tapper never, ever transmitted any harmful or frightening message. It had always seemed harmless.
In addition to harmless, this spirit was a bit shy, or maybe just very obedient. It had never made itself known to me personally since the day I commanded it to stop contacting me, until…
Years after my daughter moved out to go to college herself, I was standing at my ancestor altar on Samhain, admiring the soft orange glow of candlelight amid photos and cherished personal items of friends, relatives, and ancestors who’d passed through the veil, and paused to close my eyes and welcome any messages or feelings any of them would like to send. And then I heard it, coming right from the side of the altar: Tap… tap — Tap… tap — Tap… tap.
A smile spread across my face, and I said softly, “Welcome back, old friend.” I stood there for a long while, just listening, and being open to anything the entity might want to say. The message hadn’t changed: “I’m here.” And also, “And always have been.” Instead of being annoyed, this time, I welcomed it, and told it that as long as its intentions were peaceful, it was welcome to visit. After a few moments, the tapping stopped. The following Samhain, it returned, in the same place and manner as before. Oddly enough, last year, when my husband and I were honoring our ancestors together at our altar, the spirit did not contact me. I found that peculiarly interesting, particularly since it had contacted me at the altar in the past when my husband was present in the house. But when he was actively participating at the altar in a ritual to remember our beloved dead, the spirit remained silent.
So, that’s my own real-life “ghost story.” How about you? Have you been contacted from beyond the Veil, or have you had metaphysical, spiritual experiences in particular places? I’d love to hear about them. It’s that time of year when we open ourselves up to spirits unseen.
A blessed Samhain and happy Halloween to one and all.