The Dead Are Not Really Dead

Even if you don’t believe in a literal afterlife, the Dead do get to live on, whether in the form of memory or recycled matter. And what would be more pagan than to celebrate this fact of nature with poetry and ritual? We are our ancestors and our ancestors are us — yes, quite literally — we can only honour them by living good, full lives.

And good food. You can’t miss that. Good singing, too!

And so, praise to the souls of those before us, who sustain us still:

O Ancestors,
those who have tread upon this earth before us
those whose blood now flows inside us
those whose journey we continue
those who have seen the years of old, as we now see the new

We open our eyes to the time you have seen
may we now learn from the things that have been
we open our ears to your wise words and voices
you who have walked many roads, and named many choices

We ask that you lend us wisdom and light
when troubles and vices blur our sight
we ask that you lend us courage and desire
that no dark act can erase our inner fire
We ask that you lead us to our destinations
that we may not fall into resignation
to make decisions we were born to make
to choose the paths we were born to take

O Forebears,
those who have tread the soil that we now tread
those who have breathed the air that we now breathe
my gratitude I send across the Greatest sea
to the light in the horizon, shining endlessly
we remember and wish you well,
wherever you may dwell
a sound that never dies
an infinite bell.

All hail, our most noble and mighty Dead and the Gods that keep them. Peace, everlasting peace to them! May they never hunger nor thirst!

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Light to guide them on their way here and back — and the sound of bells, so that they know they are welcome

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May our bonds be as sweet and everlasting as honey!

Until that day, far from now, when we might meet again, we shall feast in your honour and drink to your memory, and treasure the many gifts you’ve left us. You are ever in our thoughts as you are ever in our flesh, blood, and bones.

PS: Hope you liked the apple pie; it’s the best I’ve baked so far.

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I was too lazy to make the top crust, but it’s the best crust I’ve made so far. Tip: it’s the butter.

They Came and They Feasted

It’s been more than two weeks since Hallowtide, but I can still feel their presence. That subtle chill down your spine, cold yet also comforting, like the hands of someone you once knew, now entirely different and yet all so strangely welcome.

(Or it could be the November winds, too.)

Living in a predominantly Catholic country can have its perks, sometimes: there’s always that one guaranteed day off of work where you get to honour your ancestors with your family (two days, if you’re lucky, or three, if the government decides they want a really long weekend).

There’s something undoubtedly powerful about celebrating really old traditions in large groups, even if you’ve been doing it all your life (28 years and counting for me). As with Catholicism’s repetitive pagan-style prayers, these annual traditions have been nothing less than intimate for us. If anything, our dealings with our dearly departed have only gotten “deeper” through the years. After all, we’re only getting closer to reuniting with them as we go along.

Below are some of this year’s captured Hallowtide moments:

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For previous Hallowtide celebrations, just follow the Hallowtide tag, but here’s one from 4 years ago:

A makeshift ancestral altar for #Hallowtide from 4 years ago

To End Feralia, I Give You Salp’uri

Salp’uri is a Korean folk dance that was originally used in Korean shamanism after performing an exorcism. During the exorcism, the shaman removes the “sal,” meaning a curse, evil spell, or negative energy from the person by absorbing it into herself. Therefore, in order to banish the “sal” from her own psyche, she performs the Salp’uri dance. Additionally, it is used to express beauty and sadness in both relationships and separations by bringing peace to the spirits of the dead and leading them to heaven… [See more.]

I don’t think I’ve got any Korean ancestors–none recent or none that I know of–but I pray my ancestors will understand and appreciate this gesture, nonetheless. After all, it’s a beautiful dance perfect for the occasion, and it’s happening tonight in their name, Terpsichorê help me.

Flowers, Dead Things, and Spring

Sometimes, I wonder whether this is a blog or a photo album. Nevertheless, I’m sharing you this year’s Anthestêria through the following pictures:

Burong manggá for Pithoigia.

On the first day of Anthestêria, Pithoigia, I pickled some mangoes. We call them burong manggá around here, and they’re best eaten (IMO, at least) when they’re bordering on alcoholic. The jar, along with the wines, was presented to Dionysos and the Household Gods to kick off the festivities.

Burong manggá, lambanóg, and my mulled wine from Lênaia.

Here, you see my freshly pickled mangoes, a new bottle of lambanóg (“coconut wine”), and old mulled wine from Lênaia. True to my Mestizo heritage, I make it a point to offer produce/products from both sides of the family.

To the God who wears many masks.

After the sacred fires were lit, many songs were sung to the God who wears many masks…

To the Raging Bull.

…to the One who causes flowers to spring from the cold, dark earth.

A generous libation of mixed wine, a gorgeous bouquet of Marsh rosemary, and some upo from our farm.

The altar is graced with a generous libation of mixed wine (in a boat-shaped wooden bowl, no less), a gorgeous bouquet of Marsh rosemary, and upo (or calabash), freshly cut from the vine.

A libation of mixed wine crowns our rice supply for the next few months, blessing it.

Here, the mixed wine crowns our rice supply for the next few months, blessing it.

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On the third day of Anthestêria, Khytroi, the gracious Spirits Below are invited (and sent off) with the rattling jingle of sleigh bells.

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The Immortals and Once-Mortals who keep the Dead in peace watch on…

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In keeping with Asian custom: paper money to burn in sacrifice.

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As I keep one shrine for all the gods of my family, I leave two-thirds of it veiled (the portion for the celestial ones) and the remaining third open (for the ones below).

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Hermês Khthonios as Hermanubis grants our Blessed Dead passage and mediates between us and them.

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After setting aside portions for our family’s ancestors, the rest of the panspermia pottage was left outside to be buried, to feed the All-Dead, not just our blessed and beloved. We who survive, remember and honour those who have gone before us, as Deucalion and his kin once did.

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As we ended Anthestêria with a proper send off for overstaying “visitors” (including the “kindly” Keres and Lemures), we ushered the beginning of Parentalia, informing our Blessed Dead that they are welcome for the next 9 days to share our joys and hopes, and to bless us if they so will. Salvete Dii Parentes!

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Hail to You, ye beautiful, laughter-loving sons of Zeus, Openers of the door, deathless friends of mortals and once-mortals! Even when the shrines are veiled and the fires burn low, You are with us, standing in between, ye faithful guides and saviours of Men, in darkness and in light! Hail!

And that, my friends, is how I spent the first half of February. I hope you had beautiful celebrations yourselves, and I pray for only bigger smiles and better food in the coming festivals. As the old hymn goes:

« καὶ σὺ μὲν οὕτω χαῖρε, πολυστάφυλ᾽ ὦ Διόνυσε:
δὸς δ᾽ ἡμᾶς χαίροντας ἐς ὥρας αὖτις ἱκέσθαι,
ἐκ δ᾽ αὖθ᾽ ὡράων εἰς τοὺς πολλοὺς ἐνιαυτούς. »

“And so hail to you, Dionysos, god of abundant clusters!
Grant that we may come again rejoicing to this season,
and from that season onwards for many a year.”

Hail days past! Hail days to come! Hail Winter’s end and Spring’s beginning! And hail the Spirits that stand in between! Hail Hermês! Hail Dionysos! Hail our Blessed Ancestors!

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PS: In case you missed last year’s, here they are, too.

Of Farewells and Beginnings

Even if it isn’t exactly the start of your religious year, I’m sure–one way or another–the secularised Gregorian calendar has remained (or become?) an important part of our lives, if only just for bills or taxes. So, Happy New Year, folks! I hope you had a wonderful and auspicious Kalends of January!

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In other news, as if the winter holidays weren’t busy enough (as they always are), I took the liminality of the season as a good time to bid farewell to the country of my birth and its spirits. Yes, I’m taking a giant leap to go on a journey that’s going to change my life as I know it. I’m not exactly sure when, but I’m hoping to make it happen within this year. In the words of Dionysos through the Oracle of Eugene:

“It is time to go. Make offerings to the spirit of this place so they will let you go peaceably. 

“Light lanterns and release a dozen paper swans into the water and make a feast.”

“Invite all the spirits and the ancestors. Say your goodbyes, speak your intentions to them.”

“They will understand and bless you with the luck and success you will need in the year to come.”

And that I did.

A thanksgiving party for our landwights in the name of Hermês and Dionysos on the full moon.

On the last full moon of 2013, my friend (the Indophile) and I started with a thanksgiving party for our landwights in the name of Hermês and Dionysos. I can’t remember the first time we started acknowledging their presence, but it’s only been a most magical relationship through the years.

On December 16th, I said my farewells to our town patron. I may no longer be Catholic, but the spirits that dwell there have only been good to me and my family. They will always have my praises. [Photo credits: warrenski manuel, EddieMarRico, AspireCavite]

The next day, we said our goodbyes to our beloved town patron at her shrine. She is a beautiful holdover from my Catholic upbringing, and whether she’s the same Mary as other Marian incarnations around the world or an ancient tutelary diwatà of my hometown, she will always have a place in my heart.
[Photo credits: warrenski manuel, EddieMarRico, AspireCavite]

On Christmas Eve, at the stroke of midnight, the family gathered and said their prayers of thanksgiving over Noche Buena. Portions of our midnight meal were then gathered and offered them to the Ancestors in general but to the foremothers in particular. After all, according to old custom, this was the Night of Mothers.

On Christmas Eve, at the stroke of midnight, the family gathered and said prayers of thanksgiving over Noche Buena. Portions of our midnight meal were then offered to the Ancestors, but to our foremothers in particular. After all, according to old custom, this was the Night of Mothers.

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On Christmas Day, we gathered pine branches, and had a small party at the Indophile’s house, and feasted and toasted to our common deities. (It was a small feast, but we sung hymns and praises for a full hour, I think!)

Our last visit to the local Hindu temple for 2013.

Just before New Year’s Eve, we paid our last visit for the year to the neighbouring Hindu temple. Everyone was so beautiful, as usual!

To the Gods of good beginnings.

And then, on New Year’s Day, the All-Gods were honoured. Ianus was given his new wreath and offering-bundles for 2014, hung on the front door, and candles burnt for the Sun King at his seasonal space at the house shrine.

To the Gods of the household.

On January 2nd, the Agathos Daimôn “finger-painting” on our kitchen wall was re-painted, and a new garland crowned our lararium.

On January 3rd, had sweets and a toast for the Professor's 121st birthday. Because men like him get to live for ever.

On January 3rd, had sweets and a toast for the Professor‘s 121st birthday, because men like him get to live for ever. (Also, because he’s an amazing myth-maker, a fellow linguist, and my idol.)

Twelve Nights of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.

Hêlios-Solis Invictus here on the Eleventh Night.

The dark-maned sea

Finally, on the Twelfth Night, we headed to the beach.

A feast is prepared.

A feast was prepared by the shore, and the swans were made ready.

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Each paper swan was crafted on each of the Twelve Days. Now, they’ve finally come together for their team swim.

The swans are made ready.

Some of the food came to us as timely gifts from the holidays: the Spanish wine and Tunisian dates, in particular. Thank goodness for gracious friends and family!

Lanterns.

I couldn’t find any lanterns in the market, so we made one (well, two) from paper cups and candles. Still quite lucky!

Whispering prayers of good fortune.

Whispering prayers of good fortune before letting the swans go.

A most epiphanous feeling.

A most epiphanic feeling (on Epiphany, no less) to stand there, where earth, sky, and sea meet. The world is just amazing.

Praying westwards this time.

Saying goodbye has a bittersweet feeling, but there’s also that promise of adventure, a new life or a chance to come back better and happier.

I’m thankful for 2013, I really am, even if it was a little rough on me at first. Things are clearer now, and I know I’ll be thanking my people, my gods, and my spirit-friends again for this year in 2015. May all be well, may all be fortunate.