I love a good sugar skull. A sugar skull is the most well-known image from the Dia de Los Muertos holiday, and I love that holiday. Today, actually, November 1. I love all the Halloween holidays/festivals/rituals.
The trick -or-treating of Halloween night and the Celtic Festival of Samhain on the 31st. November 1 brings more Samhain, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and the Catholic All Saint’s day. November 2nd continues Dia de los Muertos and adds in the Catholic All Souls Day. All wonderful and dark and witchy and full of love and remembrance, prayer and discourse with the dead. The veil is very thin these days and if we listen closely, and are open, there is much to be learned.
Samhain represents as “a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands.”
Dia de Los Muertos says: “Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.”
I have a little less love for All Saint’s (the 1st) and All Soul’s (2nd) day. I was raised Catholic and it is not my belief system now, so I tend to discount it. However, as with everything, all rituals stream from one another, and all have placed their personal stamps on the original, pagan ceremonies. Those days are described as follows:
“All Saints is a celebration of the communion of saints, those people we believe are in heaven, through good works and God’s grace,” said the Rev. Richard Donohoe, vicar of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Birmingham. All Souls’ Day is a day to pray for all souls. Among Catholics, prayers are offered for those in purgatory, waiting to get into heaven. On All Souls’ Day, Catholic churches have a Book of the Dead, in which parishioners have an opportunity to write the names of relatives to be remembered. “That’s placed near the altar,” Donohoe said. “That’s done all through November. It’s an All Souls’ tradition.”
You see how similar they all are, and I am sure there are more. I KNOW there are more because I made my own amalgam of rituals that work for me this year. I’ve done it in the past; I’ve always believed in and loved all of this stuff. This year was different though in that I had more specific goals in mind in a mash-up of all the rituals. And more specific beliefs.
Being sober informed parts of it. We are told to “not regret the past nor wish to close the door on it”, and that sticks in my mind as perfect for this time of year and also perfect for ritual. We have the 4th step ritual where we write down a clear inventory, from which we garner a list of people to make amends to. It’s hard when those people are dead though, and part of my ritual this year was specific meditation and thought on amends.
I have also found myself…hmmmm. On a path. I can’t explain it. It’s not solid, which I guess is ok. That’s what life is, a mystery and a surprise. I never pictured myself in love with yoga the way I am. As I sobered up I never imagined that my mind would open enough to allow the thought of a Higher Power to enter, or spiritual seeking to become so important and interesting to me. Part of my celebration this year is staying open, asking for answers from my ancestors and theirs (a Samhain idea), all in that vibratory, energetic place I talked about in my last blog. I believe there is something happening, cosmically, globally and personally. An awakening of sorts. Mind-boggling and wonderful. (I know…very “woo-woo”! Oh well)
I also wanted to celebrate my dead. To talk with them, to demonstrate love through building an altar. To not mourn but to celebrate their lives, to invite them in, feed them and stay focussed on death as that natural part of life, that place we all go. “We are ghosts..” right? This is more The Day of the Dead ideal, and it is fun, makes me happy and also grounds me in the reality of what life is, and my gratitude for those who have died.
And to bring back in the Catholic All Saints and All Souls Day energy was a wink to my parents, both dead, both on my altar. I clearly believe that we go on, that our energies don’t die, that our soul’s live and come back in different bodies until all lessons are learned. But there is something to the “purgatory state”…that waiting place between lifetimes, where we figure it all out. That idea works for me, and is probably culled from some Buddhist or Taoist tradition that I am not doing research on at the moment. But if my prayer and meditation rituals (which I am also incorporating this weekend around my altar and my dead) can help their passage in any way, then why not. I was at a psychic reading last weekend where we all joined in prayer for a woman who had just died that morning, helping her, as the leader explained, to transition from this world to the next. It was powerful, and I think of that as I sit in front of my altar.
I also think of my own transitioning. I think of my death, meditating on my corpse. I think of my life…my past, which is pretty much a corpse, albeit one I can learn from. My future…well, I try not to think very far or specifically, but I ask for help and ideas and thoughts about how to continually learn and grow. And my NOW, sacred now. I meditate on my breathe, on my ancestors, all represented by my 3 dead that are honored on my altar. I guess I do a Catholic “intercessionary”prayer thing, also certainly based on other ritual. and ask them for guidance and help as I stumble my way through the time I have left here in this body. I ground myself with the acknowledgement of death as a necessary and important part of life, and am grateful for the now I do have, this life, this body, this ability to think and grow and love and be useful. This stardust and moon dust, energy transitioning. These rituals of gratitude and acceptance. This wonder, all of this wonder.
(I’ve attached a picture of my altar. Some may recognize it as my “shrine to me”, which, actually started several years ago as an ancestor shrine (learned from a Sufi…lots of influences going on up in here!) that I made when Tom died. Then it transitioned into my shrine, and after this weekend I plan on recommitting to it as a shrine to me, adding in many new elements that are in keeping with my life today. It will be an ongoing process and continue to be the place I meditate and connect.)