Celebration of Life, and Death

October hold some important celebrations, Navaratri, and Yom Kippur to name a couple.  For me the more important holiday is “Dia de Los Muertos”, Day of the dead, which takes place from October 31st to November 2nd. It is a syncretic holiday and a cultural holiday in which you take time to remember your ancestors, all of those who came before you, and you leave them offerings, oftentimes openly on their graves. On private altars at home, which are created specifically to welcome the dead, you leave a special type of offering called Ofrendas. These are used to bring the spirits home for the fiesta. You would normally leave calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls), favorite foods and beverages, items of the deceased, flowers (traditionally Mexican Marigolds (cempasuchil)), and usually a photo of them. Day of the dead developed from ancestral traditions of pre-Columbian cultures.

Rituals celebrating the death of the ancestors have been practiced for a long time. Offerings are also sometimes made to a goddess known as the “Lady of the Dead”, particularly projected in more modern Mexican tradition as La Calavera Catrina. Though also seen as Santa Muerte, or sometimes skinned in a more serious light as as Mictecacihuatl, Aztecan Goddess of the underworld and the dead.

There are three days of Dia de Los Muertos. The 31st, for the children to make the altars which allow child spirits to come back, the following subsequent 2 days are the days of celebration, veneration, mourning, and honoring. Traditionally, you bring Mexican Marigold (these are said to attract the souls of the dead), Pan de los Muertos, a traditional bread offered, Calavera, Skulls made normally of sugar, or clay, and decorated finely and colourfully. Skeletal figures, Papel picado (a type of tissue or paper, finely cut, and displayed), fruit, nuts, and/or incense.

Toys are brought for the child spirits, and tokens that were favoured by the dead for the adults! These were usually left on the graves, or brought as a way to anchor a spirit to this world during the festival. During this time, people would often have picnics at the graves of their ancestors.

The Day of the Dead is a very social holiday, not a time for isolated mourning. For the Fiesta, people often dress up, sometimes wearing costumes of Calavera Catrina, getting their faces painted with bright skull patterns, wearing colorful and bright and flowy costumes dresses and suits, and engaging in social connectivity, and a fiesta, as this helps to draw the dead.

There are a variety of cultures that have unique properties to their version of the Day of the Dead, however, it’s very clear, there is a worldwide desire to connect with our ancestors’, whether recently deceased or passed on ages ago.

It is common to find a celebration now, and a desire to feel the presence of our ancestors, even if just for a second. And so, for this upcoming Day of the Dead, I would challenge all of you who may not normally participate in social gatherings or who don’t know much about this particular festival, to find out if anything is happening near you and if it is open, to participate. If you can’t find a local celebration, hold one yourself.

Even if you don’t have a connection to your ancestors, or don’t feel that you have any ancestors worth honoring, there is always an unmarked, or untended grave could use some fresh bread and something to drink.

Simple Edit and a Note: It is important to acknowledge the struggles of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico,and what the holiday means to them from Pre-Columbia era to today. Be mindful of your celebration! But celebrate life!

Death, wandering thought, and the past.

I stare at the blank slate wondering what I should enter into the void existence. I wonder what would be a good thing to write, what would people want to read? I asked my Names what I should write about. The response was “Write”. I asked my other Deities if They want me to write anything in particular. The answer was to write. So here I am, writing.

I’m starting to explore my family’s past more, and my Akhu (ancestors), and am reminiscing on the death of family members. How their passing marked a new era in my life, or major changes that affected everyone around me, not just me. How their presence, while not gone, snuffed from reality. Our ancestors are never truthfully gone. They are a part of us. Their DNA exists within me, whether through marriage, or by blood, I feel their presence around me. I embrace the warmth of their presence and take hope knowing they are there. Though, I wonder off-handed if I should be doing more for them.  Going to visit their graves more, making more offerings. I hope they are pleased with me and all I am doing.

My first encounter with death was very young. My uncle Tommy passed away when I was around 12, maybe 13, years old. I was kind of frightened of him at the time, he was loud, and different, but he was still fun, and kind. My next encounter was my grandmother Lynda. She passed away quickly  many years after my parents divorced. She was a huge support in my life, and got me into Wrestling  (Old WWE) (big Undertaker fan!). She passed in 2015-2016 ish. I wonder if she’s proud of me.

The next two deaths were close to each other, my Grandmother Marilynn passed away almost 1 year ago (2018) in March. Then my neighbour and family friend Pamela (Pam). She was the first supporter I had when I came out. She suddenly passed after complications in the hospital.

I think as a Western Society, which is what I live in, Death is considered Taboo, and I dislike that. Death is a part of life, death is part of who we are as a core being. We live to pass our knowledge on then pass away. We live so that we may experience the next step of life. We have to find a way to better re-personalize death. Why are we so shy to the concept of spending time with those who have passed away?

I have many questions.