Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: All Saints Day

The Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama creates a much-needed space to think about and remember a profoundly formative period in U.S. history, a period whose echoes remain strong today. The emotional power of a memorial is hard to quantify, but it fills an essential human need. Photo by Audra Melton/New York Times/Redux.

Remembering matters

All Souls Day, because remembering matters

The words "All Souls Day" and "Los Días de los Muertos" float above a fabric pattern of dog "muertos," skeletons of dogs in the style of Mexican Day of the Dead skeletons.

Yesterday’s post questioned who “the saints” in All Saints Day are. And we found the answer varies.  Today, however, the festival is “for the rest of us.” This is because, no matter who we are or who we love, remembering matters.

Some traditions roll All Souls up with All Saints. Some particularly focus on the “innocent souls” of deceased babies or (a more recent take, which informed my choice of a background design for the header) animals.

Many Christian traditions see All Souls as the day to commemorate the “Faithful Departed.” In other practices, and in non-Christian traditions, we generally commemorate ancestors, departed friends and honored family members whom we personally remember during this season. In other words, All Souls is for “the rest of us.

Rontisha Brown holds a memorial candle and wears a memorial t-shirt for her brother Rahkeem at a New Year's memorial vigil for murder victims in Liberty City, FL in 2019. Photo by Maria Alejandra Cardona.
Rontisha Brown holds a memorial candle and wears a memorial t-shirt for her brother Rahkeem at a New Year’s memorial vigil for murder victims in Liberty City, FL in 2019. Photo by Maria Alejandra Cardona.

How do we commemorate a deceased person?

One way is with an album or display of photos or videos, or small items the person used or liked. I’ve seen many commemorative albums or slideshows at funerals or memorial services that would be equally appropriate for today

One of my most enduringly popular blog posts described the idea of creating a virtual ofrenda, patterned on the memorial displays set up for the Day(s) of the Dead ceremonies.

Some families create a memorial wall inside their home, where photos of deceased relatives or friends are displayed. There’s also a brisk trade done in memorial items, such as statues, candles, jewelry, Christmas tree ornaments, or other items. 

Some people create memorial T-shirts, especially the families of those who have died by violence. I’ve seen memorial statements placed on cars, too. Another way is to create a landmark. You could plant a tree or donate a memorial bench or other feature to a public area. Many create memorial websites.

Archaeologists excavated the bones of two women, along with shells, necklaces, and antlers, in a Middle Stone-Age grave in Téviec, Brittany.
Archaeologists excavated the bones of two women, along with shells, necklaces, and antlers, in a Middle Stone-Age grave in Téviec, Brittany.

Why create a memorial?

The need to create memorials for deceased family or group members is one of the oldest human impulses we know about. And that’s precisely because archaeological excavations of ancient graves imply so many memorial practices. The contents of ceremonial burials, have yielded many clues about early cultures. 

Throughout time, humans have had to grapple with the reality of death, since eventually it comes to us all. We deal with grief and loss in part by creating memorials. The creative and restorative process of a healthy grieving cycle is a painful, essential reality of our existence

The memorials may be different. The lengths and intensities of grief may vary. But the basic human need remains the same. It is embedded in the idea that to be forgotten is to truly be annihilated

Whether it be collective memory or individual memory, remembering matters. This is why we have funerals, create grave markers, hold vigils, and create public spaces such as the Holocaust Museum or The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

No matter how we remember, and no matter who . . . very simply, remembering matters.

The Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama creates a much-needed space to think about and remember a profoundly formative period in U.S. history, a period whose echoes remain strong today. The emotional power of a memorial is hard to quantify, but it fills an essential human need. Photo by Audra Melton/New York Times/Redux
The Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama creates a much-needed space to think about and remember a profoundly formative period in U.S. history, a period whose echoes remain strong today. The emotional power of a memorial is hard to quantify, but it fills an essential human need. Photo by Audra Melton/New York Times/Redux.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Fabric.com’s “Timeless Treasures Day of the Dead” fabric design collection, which I used for the background of my header image for today. This one is called “Pups Black.” Many thanks to PressFrom and Maria Alejandra Cardona for the photo of Rontisha Brown memorializing her murdered brother Rahkeem Brown. The image of the ancient burial is courtesy of Red Ice. The Audra Melton photo from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is from The New Yorker. I deeply appreciate you all!

Which saints do we honor on All Saints Day? It depends on what cultural tradition we're talking about.

Which saints do we honor today?

Blessings on All Saints Day

The words "All Saints Day" and "Los Días de los Muertos" float above a fabric pattern of sugar sculls and circles of colorful dots.

This is one of those “universal” days celebrated in several cultural traditions. But exactly which saints are we venerating on this day? Who are they, and where did they come from? That depends on which tradition you mean. 

The ever-flexible early Christian Church adopted Celtic Samhain and reframed it in a culturally Christian way. Robust traditions in Poland and other Slavic countries point to pre-Christian roots as well. Missionary priests rediscovered it in their Mesoamerican and Filipino converts a few centuries later

Thus, neopagans todaytraditional Christians, and followers of Aztec, Maya, and other native/First Nations traditions of North America all find themselves in a similar place at this time of year, venerating (or at least remembering) some group of the dead. 

So, which saints are which? 

That’s a good question. The answer has changed over time. As early as the fourth century, Christians at Antioch gathered to honor those who had been martyred. In the seventh century, church leaders set the Day of the Dead on May 13thAt that point, “saint” apparently meant “martyr.”

The Martyrdom of St. Alban, from a 13th-Century manuscript now at Trinity College Dublin, was inscribed and illustrated by Matthew Paris.
The Martyrdom of St. Alban, from a 13th-Century manuscript now at Trinity College Dublin, was inscribed and illustrated by Matthew Paris

Later the definition of All Saints was broadened to all venerated saints. This included a great many “baptized” local gods and goddesses. Also , the observation moved to the fall season.

While not precisely the midpoint between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it’s within a week of it. Since the earliest pre-Christian observances lasted over several days, it might be called a “season.” 

Converts from many traditions came under the umbrella of Christianity. The early break between the Eastern and Roman churches, and later the Reformation (Might note that Reformation Day is October 31) divided Christians into yet more subgroups and denominations. Each developed its own focus. 

Protestants, who don’t venerate capital-S Saints with the same understandings as Roman Catholic traditions, often speak “the saints” in terms of “the Church Triumphant.” By this they mean all Christians who have died

But no matter which saints you understand it to mean, I hope you have a blessed day.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to OneQuirkyMoose on Etsy, for the “Day of the Dead” fabric pattern that forms the background of my “All Saints Day” image. The photo of The Martyrdom of St. Alban by Matthew Paris, is courtesy of Wikipedia.

Days of the Dead: Remembering victims of natural disasters

It’s important to remember

This has been a rough year, all over the world. Recent posts in this space have focused on natural disasters in North America, but throughout the world, the lives of everyone who died this year because of natural disasters should matter.

Here is an updated listing of wildfires all over the world in 2017, along with the scope of their devastation, lest we forget.

I will argue that some natural disasters–such as increasingly violent storms driven by rising global temperatures, and wildfires in drought-parched regions–may have been exacerbated by human irresponsibility. But it’s also important to note that humans really don’t control everything. The only thing each of us can truly control is ourselves.

A review of the statistics for Hurricanes HarveyIrma, and Maria is sobering.

Storms, fires, and earthquakes have gone on since the earth began, and they’ll continue till the end. How do we respond to them? While we mourn the dead, how are we responding to those they left behind? That’s an open question until we answer it.

The devastation wrought by the Central Mexican earthquake of 2017 was not limited to Mexico City.

Do we respond with empathy and love? With generosity and support? With creativity and energyEach of us gets to answer that one on our own.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Casa Bonampak, for the Days of the Dead Papel Picado banner at the top (handy place to buy them),  to Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images and CNBC for the photo of the burned-out neighborhood in northern California, to The Daily Wire and Twitter for the photo of a drowned neighborhood in Puerto Rico, and to The Wall Street Journal and Getty Images for the photo from Mexico City in September 2017. Finally, I am grateful to Inspired to Reality for the image and quote.

A “virtual ofrenda” for All Saints Day

Today is All Saints Day, and the first of los Dias de los Muertos. This is the day for remembering deceased loved ones.

Who are you remembering today? I’d like to invite you to create a virtual ofrenda with me. The traditional Mexican ofrenda has three levels, or tiers, so ours should, too.

On the top tier, we identify and invite our loved one to our ofrenda, usually with a photo of the person. If you’re thinking of someone, picture them in your mind, or find a photo. Perhaps this poem can be our invitation:

On the middle tier, we try to make them feel welcome. On a typical ofrenda, this welcome often takes the form of food or drink that the person enjoyed–a favorite dessert, treat, or brew/vintage/spirit. Take a moment to think about your loved one. Did they have a favorite drink (were they a Coke or Pepsi person, for instance?), or perhaps a favorite treat? I had an aunt who loved carrot cake. At dinner on the day of her interment, we remembered her with carrot cake for dessert.

Traditional ofrendas offer sweet breads, in addition to personalized foods: pan dulce or pan de muertoThey also decorate with calaveras (decorated sugar skull-shapes) and bright yellow and orange marigolds, the Aztec flower of the dead whose scent is thought to invite the spirits closer. On our virtual ofrenda, perhaps these will be appropriate:

On the bottom tier of the ofrenda, there are almost always lit candles, and frequently a washbasin of water, towel, comb, etc. so the spirit can refresh itself. The spirit realm, it seems, is a desolate, dusty space. So let’s offer your loved one’s spirit a virtual spa day.

The point of an ofrenda is honor and cherish loving memories of a person who is no longer living. To remember is to help extend your loved one’s legacy, and in a way to help them live on.

Let’s complete our virtual ofrenda by thinking of something sweet, loving, funny, or otherwise typical that your loved one did or said, that brings a warm feeling to your heart and a smile to your face. Such feelings are the best legacy of all.

I hope you (and your loved one’s spirit) have enjoyed my offering of this virtual ofrenda. If you’d like to extend your loved one’s life-in-memory and share a fun or touching story in the Comments section, I’d be honored.

IMAGES: I found the image with the poem by John F. Connor on Pinterest. Many thanks! I also am grateful to AskIdeas, for the “Welcome Back” sign, and to Milissa Silva-Diaz, whose La Experiencia Mexicana page gave me the photo of the pan de muertos, marigolds, and sugar skull. Thanks are due to Creative Blogging, for the “spa day” evocation photo; I feel refreshed, just looking at it. The “Remembering Good Times” image is from QuotesGram. The “Good Times + Crazy Friends” image is from hplyriks, via the QuotationInspiration Pinterest page. The “A Good Friend Knows” image is from DailyInspirationalQuotes, via Quotes By Who. The “Most treasured heirlooms” Quote is from Picture Quotes. MANY THANKS TO ALL! 

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén