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!

20151101_083344

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

20151101_083442

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.

20151031_185141

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.

Advertisements

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.

IMG_20140213_201209

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

IMG_20140213_201314

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

IMG_20140213_201411

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

IMG_20140213_201542

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).

IMG_20140213_201704

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

IMG_20140213_201806

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.

PhotoGrid_1392359339656

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!

IMG_20140213_202305

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!

dionysos

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

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.

PhotoGrid_1383967214282

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

PhotoGrid_1383967184042

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.)

PhotoGrid_1383967147247

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.

PhotoGrid_1383564952947

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.

PhotoGrid_1383966934643

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.

PhotoGrid_1383966967335

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

PhotoGrid_1383967099404

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.

A Prayer of Safe Passage for Haiyan’s Dead

The numbers rise every day. I mourn with their loved ones. I mourn with my country. I mourn with the world.

“Hither [to Haidês] all shall come, hither the highest and the lowest class: evil it is, but it is a path that all must tread; all must assuage the three heads of the barking guard-dog [Kerberos] and embark on the grisly greybeard’s [Kharôn’s] boat that no one misses … But for you, may the ferryman convey to the place whither he gives passage to the shades of the righteous the body no longer tenanted by your soul.” — The Elegies by Propertius via theoi.com

I dedicate this to Kharôn for the peaceful journey of Haiyan’s dead:

Hail Kharôn,
Ferryman of the Dead,
Old Man with the grim oar,
thou Bearer of souls
from each end of the Styx.

In ancient days,
a coin was given to thee for each soul,
a payment fitting for safe passage
across the sunken river.
Such recompense
we would continue to pay thee
had not Haiyan ravaged us
of both wealth and life.

Be gentle now, O son of Erebos,
and take pity on my countrymen
who are no more.
See their shades waiting by the shore,
famished and unclothed.
I haven’t enough silver
to pay for each one,
but consider these prayerful words
a great piece of my treasure
to pay for their safe way through the mist.

dontpay

[Submitted to Neos Alexandria’s future Kharon devotional, praying I won’t need to create a prayer like this again.]

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!

A Buffet for the Ancestors

Yesterday was one of those days when I just woke up and wanted to prepare a feast for my ancestors. Maybe they wanted it or maybe I did, it doesn’t matter. Good food and good company are always welcome in our house.

Preparing a meal for the ancestors is never easy, at least for mine. I’ve got ancestors from all over the world, so I have to consider their individual tastes when preparing a collective menu. Maybe they come anyway (being already a part of the household gods) or maybe I have to draw them forth (not unlike a flashy invitation card), again, I don’t know, so I play on the safe side. Personally, I would like my favourite dishes served, too, so I work on that (let this be a note for my future children and grandchildren).

I also never forget to have a special offering put aside for Hermanubis, whom without our dead would not be able to cross over and attend our offerings. He’s a great interpreter, too, especially when I don’t speak all the languages my ancestors spoke.

Camera 360 Camera 360 Camera 360 Camera 360 Camera 360

And so give praise to our fathers and mothers of old, blood of our blood, breath of our breath. May they have peace and plenty in the Undying West and may our deeds honour them for ever! May we always live under their guidance.

Camera 360

A is also for Anthestêria

I know I should be in B by now, but turns out, I’ve got too much in my head that starts with A. Plus, I never really had the chance to blog about this year’s Anthestêria, so this seems only fitting.

I won’t go into detail, though, as many others have already written about it so beautifully (herehere, here, and here). But, as a short introduction for the uninitiated, Dver sums it up here quite well:

The first day was called Pithoigia or the “Opening of the Jars”. This was when the wine casks were opened for the first time, and masters and servants alike were allowed to taste the new wine.

The second day Khoes or “Cups” was celebrated with a great public feast, and young children were given their first drink of wine. At Dionysos’ oldest temple, the Lenaeon, the wife of the Archon Basileus “King and Ruler” was wedded to Dionysos in a Sacred Marriage. The Basilissa was thought to represent the country, and thus her wedding with Dionysos was seen as a way of uniting fertility with the land once more. It’s not sure how this was done, whether a Priest of Dionysos functioned as a stand-in for the God, or whether the Basilissa made love to the ancient phallic wooden statue that was housed in the temple, or whether her husband the Archon Basileus impersonated the God. There was a general sense of erotic expectation in the air, which may have culimnated in nocturnal orgies.

The third and final day of the festival, Khutroi or “Pots”, was entirely given over to the spirits of the dead. Sacrifices of cooked vegetables and seeds were given to Hermes and the dead.

Sannion also has a lovely set of poetry reposted here, too. I read each aloud over the three days.

IMG_20130331_085319

On the first day, I brought out all the wine in our house, old and new, and presented it before our household shrine. My best friend and I were lucky enough to chance on the most beautiful flowers and the sweetest grapes in the market, so we presented those, as well. After the hymns and libations, I covered up the shrine, but left out the Hermanubis (Hermês of the Underworld) and Dionysos icons. None of us got drunk, but we had a fitting feast of fruit and meats.

Interestingly, we have a festival of flowers here, too, and it occurs around the same time as Anthestêria.

IMG_20130331_085140

On the second day, I… I won’t tell you what happened on the second day because I’m keeping it between me and Dionysos. *wink*

IMG_20130331_085226

God-shrines still covered — with the exception of our shrine to Jesus (he’s died at least once, anyway!) — I prepared for the third and last day of Anthestêria. At sunset, I gathered all the beans in our house and prepared the panspermia (pottage of seeds). I offered some of it to my ancestors at the ancestor-shrine (with a generous libation of cerveza negra, no less) and took out the rest outside to the All-Dead. I turned my back and poured out honey by the doorway for Hermês.

There was no pitch to smear on the door or hawthorn to chew, so I used what was locally traditional to ward off unwanted otherworldly visitors: salt and garlic. Works just as well in my experience.

IMG_20130331_085102

IMG_20130331_014451

Come sunrise the next day, any remaining pollution was driven out by chunks of frankincense (known locally as kamanyáng) and the household shrine was uncovered. Out ye Keres, it is no longer Anthestêria!