Monday, November 3, 2008

Dancing with the Dead-My El Dia De Los Muertos Experience

Skeletons, skulls, Virgin of Guadeloupe, candles, beer, cigars, pistachios, and lots of Halloween candy donated by my son Ian, graced our El Dia De Los Muertos altar this weekend. There was also a morning cup of Joe and bread and olive oil set out for breakfast. I had intended to make some enchiladas with my famous pasilla chile sauce, but did not get around to it. Maybe next year I will, since this was my initiation into a tradition that will last the rest of my life. I have several decades to make El Dia De los Muertos my own, and to pass it on to my son and loved ones. I chose not to put pics out because I have too many souls of departed loved ones to even count, plus ones that I never even knew, perhaps. I did think of my maternal grandma and paternal grandpa who were my favorites. I felt the presence of many souls, who I could not necessarily name. I did set out some Guinness beer to perhaps attract my Irish ancestors and some tobacco for my Native American (Cherokee and Choctaw) ancestors The candy was for the visiting souls of deceased children, the pistachios for my grandparents. The Virgin of Guadeloupe candle was to honor Mexican folk and the tradition beginning there. I didn't include flowers, but I did burn some Nag Champa incense to keep away any bad spirits. I kept my Virgin candle lit the entire weekend so symbolize purity and protection.
I can tell you that I felt an extreme sense of peace and comfort just like I would if I had a house full of my most favorite relatives and friends. It was a family reunion of souls, for sure. I felt an energy shift on November 2nd when supposedly all the dead return to their heavenly home. Things seemed very special indeed around here, now I have a cool new holiday to share with my son. Ian was really open minded and put his own Ofrendas on the altar, including Halloween toys and more candy and soda! I decided to dress up like Frida Kahlo to honor her memory. I have enjoyed getting to know her through her incredible artwork, I feel as if she's a friend. Hopefully she was one of my "visitors", since I feel a good connection with her. My grandmother was always the one to create new traditions in our family, and I believe this weekend her legacy was somehow passed on to me, the first grandchild. I am glad to have a new and unique tradition that I will add to each passing year, and to pass on to my son and future grand kids!


Kathi said...

Hi Laura,

I enjoyed your post and your "ofrenda". I enjoyed this assignment as it gave me time to reflect and remember what foods everyone enjoyed, etc. Like you, I would like to continue the tradition with my grandchildren. I like the idea of setting time aside to honor my loved ones who are no longer living but are still such a large part of my life.

Regards - Kathi

Lachlan said...

Hi Laura! This is really neat reading in the blog posts that many of us are wanting to make this alter construction a tradition within our lives and how totally cool, and really integrated, of you to dress up like Frida in the literal and figurative spirit of it all. Your photos are great!

Also wonderful that your son contributed his own items to the alter. My Dad was taking a nap when I put together mine but my husband James was around and, after looking at me as if I'd lost my mind, he began to understand what all I was up to and made some suggesstions for the alter. This made me think of how we, as a general culture, may view other culture's traditions as a bit off, strange or unnecessary until we begin to understand what all they are signifying and how much they mean to those participating in them...

Am always envious of people who have some American Indian heritage in them; have gone through my family tree and no such luck. Scotch and English straight down the lines with a bit o' Irish coming in from my Dad's family's side so lotsa' really bland food but some good beer to wash it down with eh? haha

Enjoyed your post and pictures.
Best, Lachlan

Gina said...

Wow, Laura. It sounds like a regular party of souls at your house. Everyone must have had a great time gathering across generations and cultures to see each other and how their blended genes created you, who was honoring them.

Lachlan, I know what you mean about people thinking you're nuts. I warned my daughter not to freak out if she came home and discovered our bombay chest transformed into an altar. She thinks I'm weird as it is. But she thought it was a very cool project and enjoyed looking at it. I'd really be interested to hear how many of us really do continue this as a tradition next year.