Autumn has fallen here in the mountains. The trees are turning inwards, curling their leaves into colors of copper, ember and dusk. The canopies empty in a thick caramel of fire, and suddenly that which felt obscured or far away is close and able to be perceived.
There is a kind of haunting that comes with the arrival of autumn. Aches and old wounds, nostalgia, seeking, and the feeling of the veils between the seen and the unseen growing thin. It is no accident that Autumn is considered the season of the otherworld. A time of magicians, spirits, ancestors and ghosts. Most of us grew up hearing ghost stories, tales about past energies that linger on to wreck havoc in the living world. And if you were anything like me as a kid, then maybe these scary stories kept you up way past your bedtime. Unlike living people, ghosts do not play by the proper laws of living. Their presence cannot be prevented with locked doors, swords, or even the presence of a hero. Early on in life I learned that once a ghost appears in your life it cannot be ignored.
Little did I know the truth that every grown-person knows in their bones— that to be an adult is to walk with ghosts.
Several years ago I was introduced to the Daoist concept of ghosts and it was as if some keystone clicked into place, shifting the gears to provide entrance into a long locked tomb. It just made sense.
For the ancient Daoists, ghosts were anything that haunted you.
Past relationships, old traumas, hopes left behind, barbed nostalgia. Within Daoism everything on earth is considered to be animated by consciousness and energy. Unlike in Western culture where we consider the past to be history, in Daoism events and interactions carry their own energy, one that can attach to our own spirits, linger on.
Ghosts are created anytime there is a resistance to what is. When a trauma is too great to bear, when we cannot accept the hurts endured, when a word spoken was too painful to let in. For the Chinese medicine practitioners who work with releasing these energies the phrase “ghosts of the past” is literal. When something powerful gets to the core of our being— whether it be a belief system, relationship or ache— part of its power is left there. It changes us.
To be an adult is to have experienced your fair share of ghosts.
And even though we’ve all been indoctrinated with scary stories of ghouls and poltergeists, ghosts are truly just a natural part of being alive.
Ghosts are here for a reason. They remind us of the integration that still needs to occur and they give us a golden opportunity, to face those things that haunt us the most. To set them free. Because, in truth, all energy aches to be recycled, to move. And just as psychics will bridge the energy of a person left behind into the light, the ghosts of our own past want to be released from their duties of haunting and sent back home, back into the creative vortex of energy that they came from.
As autumn begins its extravagant display of copper and death, we are asked to do the good work of releasing and composting what has fulfilled its purpose in our lives.
So what are your ghosts? What events or people from the past do you still dream about? What memories would you rather avoid? What makes you feel listless, nostalgic, depressed? Because in autumn, even the oldest ghosts can be released.
Ghosts are a natural part of being alive, and so is the process of letting them go. As we tip headlong into this season of embered forests and wood-stove glows we are also blessed with a cabinet full of medicines that can help aid us in our journey of releasing.
p.s. Are you intrigued by these energies of the Otherworld and the practice of releasing ghosts? Come listen in on a brand new online class, Herbs for the Otherworld. Learn the contours of the Otherworld in this online course. Explore the plants + fungi that can help you to open the portals to this realm of mysticism and experience a meditation to bring you over the threshold.