"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Welcome, Beloved Dead

This year's altar for the Day of the Dead. It's been an especially busy few weeks and I'm afraid I did not have time to make the kind of elaborate altar I would have liked to. Especially I feel bad about not looking through the photo box for pictures of all our dead. Instead I simply wrote (in silver glitter glue) "Welcome, Beloved Dead." I hope our ancestors and friends will be satisfied with a simple recitation of thier names as we enjoy our chocolate and sweetbread. 

I did make sweetbread - it's in the oven right now. And I have the traditional essentials on the altar - flowers, liquor, salt, snacks, a candle to light the way and a doll for the spirits of the "deceased innocents," or children. 

Of course, it doesn't matter what's on the altar, not really. It doesn't matter that we celebrate according to any particular ritual or any tradition. As I once said at the end of a class that I led on making altars: "wherever you lay your altar, you lay it on your heart." Or, as Black Elk said, "The sacred Mountain is everywhere." 

 It doesn't even matter that we name our dead, or that we know their names. What matters, and what all the trappings are designed to help us do, is to give thanks. What matters is that we recognize and honor the effort of all the generations before us. We are only here because of their tenacity and sacrifice. We are only alive today because of their dedication and success as parents.

When they were alive, they suffered and sweated and worried. When they were alive, they worked to feed us  - their children - and teach us. They handed down their skills and their wisdom, hoping and praying that it would be enough to sustain us. They healed our hurts and they defended us with thier blood. They tended us when we were sick and they laid out our brothers and sisters with tenderness and grief when they died. They did their damndest. 

So we light candles and we invite them to come on home for a little while and listen to us express our gratitude. We show them - look, we are alive. We are well, we are fed. We are safe. It was all worth it - here we are. 

Why does it matter to do this? After all, let's be honest, they're dead. They probably can't hear us. They probably don't care. Why should we pretend that they can and they do? 

Because, dearly beloved, because thus do we remind ourselves of the sacredness of our duty to our own children. This is how we say "let us never do less than they did." By honoring them, we are honoring ourselves. By recognizing the sacredness of their work, we are acknowledging the sacredness of our own work on behalf of the future. 
We know ourselves as mothers and fathers and even if we are not
Mothers or Fathers we know our importance to the future and honor the incredible privelege we have of making the world new again, now and forever, Amen.