Wednesday, October 17, 2007
In this culture we mostly don't think about the practice of ancestor worship, of honoring the dead, except at funerals. Some of us remember by placing flowers on the graves of those we love. One of my friends creates the most beautiful wreaths to honor the members of her family who have passed away. But that kind of loving devotion is rare.
More universal in our culture is the practice of pagan traditions that attend this time of year. We put pumpkins out on our front porches, providing a nice place to rest for all the wandering souls. Did you know that's what they're for? Once the jack o'lanterns are carved, the dead can peer out at the world of the living through the eye holes. Or so they say. We build altars to the dead in our front yards, burn candles, tell ghost stories. Ancestor worship is part of being human, no matter how modern and rational we are.
Most of the ghosts I know about are completely harmless. I'm sure they would move on to more comfortable realms if they knew how to, but a lot of them seem lost or stuck. Maybe they're working out some kind of karma. They seem so confused.
Of course there are spooks, too, scary ghosts with agendas who love nothing better than a chance to give those of us who are still alive the goosebumps. I know I have days like that, and I'm not dead yet. Why wouldn't ill-tempered souls keep up their unhappy ways after passing away?
Whether we are in a mood to admit it or not, most of us in this culture have a sense that the shades and shadows of those who have passed away leave some kind of resonance in our reality. I think that's why we're so good about honoring the spooks, ghosts, and wandering souls at Halloween, even if we tell ourselves it's for the kids, it's traditional, seasonal or whatever.
Whether you believe it or not, it's the time of year to honor the dead - even dead aliens, apparently. On Capitol Hill we go over the top in a frenzy of decoration at Halloween, just one more reason I am so in love with my neighborhood.