This is my family's Day of the Dead altar. Pictured here are my husband's parents and grandparents, my grandparents on both sides, our dogs that have come and gone, Olivia, a Shipibo-Conibo elder teacher and a photo of an old family constellation.
This is my family's Day of the Dead altar. Pictured here are my husbands parents and grandparents, my grandparents on both sides, our dogs that have come and gone, Olivia, a Shipibo-Conibo elder teacher and a photo of an old family constellation. There's water on the altar to quench their thirst, fruit, and sweets to nourish their journey, marigolds - their strong smell carries across to the other side, candles to light their way, and other things they liked when alive. When we celebrate our ancestors, we're also celebrating the part of them that lives in us. When we honor the ones who've come and gone, its a form of praise for what once was and a way to make space for the missing and the ache we may have for them. It's not only a way to honor the dead, but a way to honor Life. When my children do this altar with me, I share stories with them of who these people were. They realize that death is a part of life, that there are people who came before who're essential to their existence, and they, hopefully, begin to appreciate the importance of Re-membering. They also begin to understand time, and the evolution of culture, as we explain what choices our ancestors had and didn't have. Remembering that there was a time when men could vote but women couldn't. That some could own property and others were considered property. That innumerable odds were overcome in the past in order for us to be alive today. As you can imagine this leads to a whole lot of explaining to little minds about history and the nature of human beings. Celebrating the Day of the Dead was not a tradition I grew up with. Through the years I've spent in other cultures, countries and traditions, I've come to deeply appreciate the role this ritual plays in supporting healthy community. I have sisters and Abuelas(grandmothers) who've generously shared these traditions, with the blessing and encouragement to participate and make my own altar at home. At some point back in my lineage, we had these ceremonies. It feels important to pick them back up, to wend and weave our way forward carrying the memories and dreams of our ancestors and tapping into our collective memory of reverence and awe of life itself. It feels especially important - when there is so much noise and uncertainty - for us to ground into our lineage and rise up into the future we want to collectively create. Questions for you: How do you honor your ancestors? What is your relationship to death? How would you like future generations to remember you? What choices do you have today that your ancestors didn't have then?
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