Sunday, September 19, 2010

October Theme: Rituals to honor the dead.

I struggled with how to word this theme, even though I can see the idea clearly in my mind's eye. For some reason that felt possibly the most important part of this theme to communicate--that sometimes we feel concepts completely before being able to verbalize, make statements and commit them to language. Such is the relationship many of us have with death, especially when we lose our babies. We feel this importance, this gravity of spirit, without being able to communicate it to others. This is why ritual and art become so significant. They give us actions and means to tell our story without speaking.

When our children die, we suddenly touch our ancestors in the same moment that we touch our legacy. It is like time has folded in on itself.  I know when Lucia died I felt comforted by the knowledge that she may see or feel her grandfather in this place I couldn't visualize and state of being of which I was wholly unable to grasp, even as I wrestled with my own beliefs about life after death.  Most of us have our first experience of death from losing a great grandparent, or grandparent, but later when we lose our children, we bridge the experience of the "natural order of thing". I hate using the word natural, because death is natural, but what I mean of course is the early death of our children.

October seems to absolutely vibrate with the energy of the dead. Some people think of it as a magical time, or a time when the world of the living is close to the world of the dead. Halloween, maybe the most popular holiday, has its ancient roots both in the Celtic holiday of Samhain and the Catholic holiday of All Saint's Day. Samhain in its own right is still celebrated by pagans, and has the most vivid connections with the earth and harvest, the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half". As Wikipedia says, "The Gaels believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain; because some animals and plants were dying, it thus allowed the dead to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames." Latin Americans celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, on November 2nd (also All Soul's Day), which specifically honors those that have died. It is a celebration both outwardly and inwardly. People march in parade painted as skulls, but also create private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Many people associate the morbid skulls and images of the dead to mean Day of the Dead is a dark holiday, but for most Latinos, it is a bright, fun holiday and an important part of their lifelong grief after losing their loved one.

So this month's theme is honoring the dead, our ancestors, our babies, and rituals around honoring them. I will break this down by week:

Community Poem
This month's community poem will be about rituals you do for your baby, be it light a candle, create an altar, sing a song, read a book. Write two lines based on a ritual you perform--the ritual can be something performed everyday, or it can be something performed once, like a funeral, planting a tree, or a religious rite. I hope to weave these together in a coherent poem, so while specifics of the ritual are important, try not to use specific names. There is a tie that will bind all these two lines together, begin first of two lines with the phrase, "In your memory..."

All community poem lines need to be submitted by October 2nd, for publishing on October 3rd. Please send it to Just note that our email address has the word 'days' in it. I know some people have sent things to another, more logical, email address, so if you have, please note the correct email, and try resending. I have attempted to contact the owner of that email address to no avail.

Photo Sunday
Taking the theme further for Photo Sunday, please take a photograph of a something that you have done as a ritual, or that someone else has done as a ritual honoring the dead. All photos must be in by October 9th.

Mid-Month Challenge
Mid-month challenge is explore this theme in art, music, poetry or craft.

Ten Questions will be posted on the day of the Community Poem.

Please direct all questions to the comment section of this post. I do hope this theme is interesting to all of you.

For further inspiration, Mother Henna hosted an amazing Day of the Dead art swap last year and has compiled a book of the artwork for free! You can view it here, and while you are there, please check out her other amazing stuff. If you are looking to explore your grief creatively, I urge you, no, I push you, to take one of her grief home workshops, or connect with her for coaching. She inspires me everyday.

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