Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dead Mans Party: Honoring Ancestors 101

You can keep your plastic gloves full of stale popcorn and shredded dress shirts caked with corn syrup body fluids.

At my house, October is all about dead people. 

As in Ancestors. Remembering, venerating, visiting, learning and loving all of the people (and companion animals) that have Passed On. 

Want in on the party but feel squeamish or unsure where to start? Here are a few suggestions to get started and celebrate your dead!

My 2016 ancestor altar

Write letters to the dearly departed. This can be a great way to engage in ancestor healing or bring feelings of closure to unfinished business. Is there something you wished you had said during their Life? Ask forgiveness? Or offer forgiveness? Maybe you simply need to send kisses and check in to see what the weather is like.

Write your letter and place it on an altar, leave it at the cemetery, drop it in a mail box, stash it under your pillow, bury it in the yard, tuck it in the pages of a book, or just keep it somewhere that feels right to you. You'll know what to do.

Do you know where your kin are buried, stored, scattered, resting? Visit your ancestral resting places. Go with friends and make it a R.I.P Round Robin!  Bonus points for tending to graves that need TLC.

Have Lunch in the Cemetery. Grave yard picnics aren't just for mall goths! This is a long standing tradition in many communities and makes for a lovely afternoon. Sunshine, grass, a blanket and a box of donuts can be a great way to talk to our kids about family history and provide a safe place to discuss issues like death and dying.

 It's strange to think how little many of us know about our familial history beyond a single generation. Take a free trip in the Way Back Machine and do a little research about the towns, countries and continents of your origin and be bamboozeled by what you find.

Invite your dead to dinner. Make a meal in homage of your ancestors. You may feel inspired to recreate a memorable dish or experiment with recipes that nod to your heritage. Or perhaps your style is more casual...

My favorite way to celebrate a meal with my grandfather is to cut a cardboard thin frozen pizza into saltine cracker sized squares and crack open an off-brand orange soda-- just like we did as kids. 

Don't worry. You can't mess it up.  

Broadcast to the Otherside by creating a playlist your loved ones would enjoy. Blast it often. Include songs they loved, tunes that make you think of them or maybe music that have ties to earlier descendants (i.e. folk songs ). I have a polka power station I use to honor my family's polka booster past.

Animal companions are family.  

Anyone who says that pet deaths aren't "real deaths" are probably sadistic androids plotting your demise and you should get away from them as quickly as possible. 

I include companion animals on my altars beside family because they are family.  

Honor their gentle furry, feathered and scaly souls by sprucing up or making a "proper" marker for their resting place, framing a favorite picture or support a shelter by donating in their name. (I personally purchase new toys for my Spirit Kitties to place on my altar and later gift them to my living fur babies.)  

Make an ancestor altar. An altar may be as ostentatious as a pile of memorabilia, snacks and knick-kacks or as simple as a framed picture or lit candle. Creating a communal altar as part of a Halloween party by asking guests to bring an object or a picture that relates to their ancestry also yields interesting results. (P.S. Kids love this. They want to help. Yet another opportunity to discuss death and family.)

Don't worry about making it perfect. Make it your own. Need inspiration? Here is a quick video tour of my altar.

Care for dead strangers. Maybe your family lives far away. Perhaps there's plethora of complicated and painful reasons you are no longer in touch with your tribe. Maybe you're just a weirdo who loves a good wander about the cemetery... 

Be a custodian of your local ghosts by sweeping away crispy grass clippings from fallen headstones, 
read the names on the markers out loud,
trace their names with your fingers,
spend a little time with people who have no one left
or have been long forgotten. 

 Make up your own traditions. All of the traditions we celebrate started that way-- someone made them up! If you feel drawn to honor your ancestors and loved ones by standing under the full moon with sparklers in your ears and playing the tuba...DO IT. 

Anything we do--no matter how silly it seems-- 
is sacred when done with Love and Intention.

There is no wrong way to express your love and appreciation. 

Go forth and venerate your dead! 
How do you honor your ancestors, Moon Babies?

Love, Kisses & Graveyard Dirt,


1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of making a donation to an animal shelter on my companion animals name... And I think that a donation to the elderly on the name of my grandfather would be nice too...