Samhain and The Dishonorable Dead

Samhain/Parentalia Shrine
Samhain/Parentalia Shrine (Photo credit: Sasha Kelley)

In response to someone asking who I honor at Samhain, I replied “everyone who has influenced my life, my outlook, and my path”. Then I realized that this is not true.

Not everyone who has influenced me gets honored on Samhain. If the truth be told, some of the most profoundly influential people in my life were absolute jerks. These are individuals who taught me by their examples how not to treat people, how not to relate to the world, how I do not want to live my life. I’ve learned the value of kindness, compassion, and love, not so much from the people who embody these qualities, but from those who do not. My awareness the sanctity of life has been deepened by witnessing the actions of those who would disregard it.


This brings up the question of what to do with the dishonorable dead on Samhain. Should they be recognized or ignored? Should the good that they unintentionally caused be remembered? Should I honor those who were on the receiving end of their bad behaviors instead?


Has anyone else considered this and/or found a way to handle it in your own practice?