[This visit occurred in April, and marked my first graveyard experience since embracing my Path.]
I've never felt pulled to a location before via digital information. The quest was simple: satisfy the inexplicable urge to collect some graveyard dirt while both the sun and moon were in Taurus. I had found an old cemetery during previous research that was a powerful admixture of Russian Orthodox and Alaskan Native influences: my prior experiences with such places- prior to embracing the Path- were intoxicating. As I searched in vain to recall the exact location of that nearby graveyard, I stumbled upon scant hints of another cemetery a few more miles down the road. The people buried there were all workers of a now-defunct salmon cannery that operated a stone's throw from the cemetery; the dates of the deaths ranged from the late 1800's to the last resident's burial on Samhaim in 1982 (one week after I was born). A gallon of gas would purchase me the trip to what was, in essence, a mystery of death and history.
Springtime in my corner of Alaska is ludicrously glorious. Flat, gray winter skies give way to cotton-ball clouds and moss-covered stones. I embraced a bit of tongue-in-cheek melodrama on the drive out, blasting Rachmaninoff's 'Isle of the Dead (Opus 29)' on the vehicle's speakers as I took the winding two-lane road to my destination.
Access to the site was paved in gravel. It slipped from a smattering of spruce into maritime bogland, offering brief glimpses of the river that provided the mainstay industry that is responsible for the livelihood and eventual deaths of the very men whose graves I was traveling to visit.
The picket fences surrounding a few of the graves were a sharp contrast against the trees admist they were nestled. I swerved into the makeshift parking spot, killed the engine, and gathered my "witchy tactical bag" that contained a newly-ordained special spoon and fresh latch-top jar. As I trekked the few yards from my vehicle to the cemetery, I was struck by the utter calm and silence. The lack of birdsongs was conspicuous, as well as the sound from what should have been resounding surf from the ocean crashing in the beach just a stone-throw away.
Having left all expectations at home, I let go of all control and dug deep to the level of simply "being". That's when I felt her- and a female it most certainly was. Curious, observant, charming, protective. I felt an air of judgement, then immediate acceptance. Not used to such a sudden response from a spirit, I took my time on the remnant of a trail leading to the graves, which threaded its way through a small patch of treeless grasses into a cluster of evergreens.
As I paused at each wooden grave marker, I was surprised that I was able to connect- albeit faintly- with the spirits of the deceased. It became a bit of a game with myself, a challenge to see if I could get a feel for their personality and heritage before reading their respective marker. My enjoyment of the experience abruptly turned sour as I approached the last marker.
Confused, I instantly stopped and knelt down, closing my eyes and willing the veil to thin even more for me. My eyes fluttered open and were drawn to the ground in front and to the side of where I was standing. There was a sadness, resignation, and also a bit of anger emanating from the soil. "There are far more spirits here than there are marked graves, because there are many more buried here!" my intuition screamed. I attempted to gingerly pick my way through the area, but was hit with a resounding "Leave us be" communication. Quickly doubling back to the marked graves, I observed appropriate protocol as I gathered some dirt.
As I commenced the leisurely stroll back to my vehicle on a different trail, I noticed an awkwardly-fallen tree at the exact perimeter of the cemetery. Curious, I traipsed over to inspect it. Perched on the trunk was the largest artist's conk (Ganoderma applanatum) I had ever seen. After snapping a few photos, I turned heel to continue my walk when something- not sure what- told me to take the conk. Perplexed and worried that the fungus was entirely too large to be removed from the tree without tools, I grasped it and gave a good tug. It came right off!
On the drive back home, I had the feeling that some spirits of the deceased had somehow attached themselves to me (or the graveyard dirt or the conk). Nonetheless, they began to detach individually as I drove on. By the time I was 4 or 5 miles from the cemetery, I felt that they had all departed.
Upon returning home, I set about researching my experience. It should be important to note that on intentional, first-time witchy expeditions such as this, I try to avoid researching too thoroughly, for fear of influencing or pigeon-holing my perspective during the experience.
Prior to the trip, I was unaware that various cultures and belief systems have long established certain female spirits and deities as being the protector of graveyards (Kali in Hinduism, Maman Brigitte in Vodou, etc.). Perhaps it was one of those whom I felt evaluated by upon entering the area.
On a sad note, my feeling that there were many more people interred than indicated was absolutely spot-on. The marked graves were for American and European employees, but quite a few migrant Asian workers at the cannery also died. Why they weren't given a proper burial is a question my research has yet to answer.
Even more troubling is how the entire cemetery is abused during an annual fishing event. The nearby river is opened to a horrifically-managed, resident-only subsistence fishery for two weeks every year, and folks from all over the state flock to the area to fill their freezers with salmon for the winter. Unfortunately, my state has a lot of transients who have little regard for respecting nature or landmarks. As a result, the graveyard's idyllic location and overgrowth of trees attracts drunkards and other destructive types who use the graves as a toilet. Every year when the fishery closes and the vultures go back from whence they came, the state has to remove mounds of toilet paper and beer cans scattered throughout the cemetery.
Overall, the experience was a memorable one. As a child who was terrified of anything even hinting at Death, it was quite lovely (if not healing) to have such a fruitful visit.