They Are Coming

It’s Hallowtide week and you know what that means: there will be ‘visitors‘ — and they will need to be entertained.

Camera 360 Camera 360 Parentalia 2014

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U is for Undras

[Sorry for the delay, unexpected things happened. I’ll do this very quickly…]

Basically, Undras (or “Undas”) is Día de los Muertos for the majority of Filipinos. It’s not as ‘festive’ as its Latin American cousin–no parades, no costumes, no sugar skulls–but it’s certainly one of the busiest times of the year.

Supposedly a corruption of the Spanish honrar (to honour), Undras is both a religio-cultural and secular bank holiday in the Philippines, reserved for honouring one’s dearly departed. Whilst the local Catholic Church has long discouraged the practice of ancestral veneration on a festival ‘supposedly’ dedicated to the Church’s deceased holy men, nobody really cares. The ancestors get both All Saints and All Souls to themselves. My pagan heart rejoices.

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A welcoming feast of both Eastern and Western foods for the ancestors and honoured dead on the eve of Undras.

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We prepared little paper boats with the names of our departed loved ones and left the offerings to stand by the door. (It’s also customary to leave a lighted candle or lamp for the otherworldly visitors.)

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As with Anthestêria and Parentalia, Undras is a time when the shrine to the All-Gods is veiled to avert miasma. Naturally, the lower part of the shrine for the ancestors and the Underworld deities is left open.

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Every year, for two days, the cemeteries are filled with the living, and–with them–their love and devotion to their beloved dead. Despite it being a festival for people who are no longer with us, you’d be surprised to find nothing but glee on the streets as the living remember their departed with happy hearts, and feast and sing in their names.

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We bury our offerings on the third and last day. Deep in the black earth, in the flesh of the ‘mother of all and eldest of beings’, we plant our love and remembrance for our dead.

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… We pour them milk and alcohol and sweet honey. May they never thirst and may they always have enough in the lands beneath.

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With palms facing the earth, we say goodbye to this year’s Days of the Dead, and look forward to another year of making our beloved and honoured dead proud of our deeds.

(See the full album here.)

Hail, beloved and honoured Dead! When it is time for us to join you, may we do so with pride. But until that glorious time, may we live through our long years in health and happiness, peace and plenty, and many victorious deeds.

Happy Hallowed Throwback Thursday

Okay, so I never really cared for that meme. It may, however, have use for me on this particular Thursday, which happens to be a traditional time in many cultures for looking back and honouring those who came before.

Speaking of looking back, here’s the ultimate “throwback” meditation. You wanted to honour your ancestors? Well, here’s your chance to honour yours and mine, all at the same time.

For the more culturally specific Pagan, there’s Samhain/Samhuinn/Samonios for Celts and Celtophiles (which we ex-Wiccans are all too familiar with) and there’s also Winternights and Alfablót for the Heathens and Germanophiles. I’m not really sure if there are any others in other parts of the world during this time. There’s Día de los Muertos for sure, but that falls more under syncretic.

Speaking of syncretism, what I celebrate is actually a very syncretic holiday in itself. It draws mostly from the Catholic All Saints and All Souls (and thus, from Samhain indirectly), but it has very strong elements from Hellenic Anthestêria, Roman Parentalia, and Egyptian Wag, too.

Why not just celebrate honouring the Dead in February being more Graeco-Roman than anything? Well, as someone who lives in a country where All Saints (called Undras in my town) is a bank holiday–so people can flock to cemeteries and party with their deceased–it’s hard not to join in. I don’t celebrate Halloween, but if I had lived in the US, I would probably be making jack-o’-lanterns, too. It’s all about community and what makes ‘sense’ to the land.

Fortunately, this year’s “Nights of Remembrance” (which is what I call this syncretic event) fall conveniently on the 26th, 27th, and 28th of the lunar month (unlike last year’s not-so-convenient date).

During this time, we remember our departed; those dear, those honoured, and those we do not know. We will remember, not only departed humans, but also other animals and plant-life, including those we have consumed. May these days of remembrance also remind us of our own mortality, the importance of a well-lived life, and the eternal connection between beings that cannot be severed by death.

This was from last night's memorial. More pictures later!

This was from last night’s memorial. More pictures later!

Saints, Souls, and Apples

Okay, so I just got home from a 14 hour work-day (4 hours of which is travel time from my town to the big city). Exhausting, as usual, but I don’t dread it a bit. It’s a good paying job, it helps people, and I’m surrounded by a bunch of amazing individuals.

As promised, here’s what went on during our super extended “All Hallows”, when the Veil is thinnest, when the spirits of our departed — according to our belief — are granted free passes into our world as our honoured guests.

Why, I decided to make it a long holiday to bridge the two calendars (civic and lunar) was because I didn’t feel comfortable choosing which to follow with regard to such a large and important event. If I had chosen the lunar date, I would’ve missed out on a large communal event. If I had chosen the civic date, then what am I celebrating the cycles of the moon for? So, I chose both. ANYWAY.

First Night of Remembering: 31 October / 16 Pyanepsion, night after the full moon

  • Sunset, baked lots of apple pie (apples being the fruit traditionally associated with the Otherworld) and some dark bread, watched Hocus Pocus (a Halloween tradition for me and my late Dad for the past 19 years)
  • Evening, covered the upper and middle portion of the Household Shrine dedicated to the Olympioi and Lares to make way for a 3-day ancestral memorial, offered apples and dark bread to the Ancestors at the House Shrine
  • Laid out a candle by the door to burn through the night as a guide to visiting ancestors and for other departed loved ones to find their way to their families
  • Last day of work before a long 4-day weekend (WOOHOO!) as All Saints and All Souls are national holidays here
  • Shared some of my Apfelkuchen with office folks
Second Night of Remembering: 1 November / 17 Pyanepsion

  • Daytime, visited the Houses of the Dead with my family (as did the rest of the country), party time for our Beloved Dead
  • Evening, offered grain and honey to the Ancestors at the House Shrine
  • More apple pie and candles by the doorstep

Third Night of Remembering: 2 November / 18 Pyanepsion

  • Morning, visited the Houses of the Dead, poured milk and beer for the Ancestors by their tombs, and offered honey to the Pathfinders (Hermês and Hekatê as guides of the Dead) along the way to and from the cemetery
  • Sunset, started a sacrificial fire and offered beer, grain, and milk by the fields for our ancestors tracing “back to the beginning”, made the little paperboats with their names prior to the rite
  • You guessed right, more apple pie for friends and family and candles by the doorstep for ghostly guests
  • Midnight, old offerings to the Ancestors and Household Gods were buried outside

3 November / 19 Pyanepsion

  • Morning, cleaned the house, opened the House Shrine, and new offerings of grain to the Ancestors and the Household Gods
  • Between this time and the last night of the lunar month was decided to be the liminal period where daily offerings and prayers to the Household Gods may resume before the annual ancestral memorial officially comes to an end (at the end of the lunar month)

4 November / 20 Pyanepsion, 10 days before the new moon

  • Celebrated the first harvest of rice (the country’s staple grain), honours to Dêmêtêr, Korê, and Dionysos as Gods of the land’s fertility
  • Roughly the same time as the third and last harvest for our kinsmen in the Northern Atlantic, right before Jack Frost returns
7 November / 23 Pyanepsion, astrological date of the November Feast
  • My first High Day as a dedicant and the birth of this blog
  • Cooler days and nights begin as Amihan (the northeast wind) takes her place as Queen over the exiting King Habagat (the southwest wind)

The Last Night, when the old meets the new: 14 November / 29 Pyanepsion, last day of the lunar month

  • Covered the upper and middle portions of the House Shrine again, leaving the lower part open for the Ancestors and the Khthonioi
  • Honours to Hekatê and Hermês as guides of souls and as gods of the in-between, the traditional deipnon (dinner) for Hekatê laid out by the Household Shrine
Hekatê and Hermanubis

Hekatê and Hermanubis.

I forgot to add the garlic and roots.

I forgot to add the garlic and roots.

Last day before the rise of the New Moon, the Veil closes

  • Annual honours to Plouto and Persephonê as King and Queen of the lands below and of Haidês, Land of the Dead, wishing the Ancestors and our Beloved Dead a blessed and prosperous afterlife
  • Honours to Hermês for a swift and safe passage for our Dearly Departed as they return (free passes expire today as the annual ancestral partay ends)
  • Offerings of boiled rice and beans for the Ancestors as a parting gift (photo to follow as this will happen later)
And, because I’m totally OC, here’s what didn’t happen but could’ve:
  • Offering of an apple for the Dead and sharing of a pomegranate for the Living on the last night (idea from Ceisiwr‘s Samhain ritual) – I forgot to buy a pomegranate! Do you think an orange would’ve went just as well?
  • A soft prayer to ackowledge Death, our Coverer, and an apotropaic offering to send him away for another year
So, there. As I’m bad with endings, I’ll leave you all for now. Wish me sweet dreams!

The Closing Feast

It’s the last day of the month of Pyanepsiôn (Πυανεψιών) and I just woke up (I work the nights). It’s a special hena-kai-nea (last day of the month) tonight because not only is it Hekatê’s traditional dinner, but also a feast to close the series of ancestral rites that ran from All Hallows Eve through tonight.

It was a personal choice to extend the traditional ancestral rites because of the calendars my household follows (both the civic Gregorian and the lunar Athenian). The coming month is also when we raise up our Holiday Tree and welcome Amihan, the indigenous personification of the northeast wind.

I’ll post real pictures tomorrow morning and explain more in detail.