Friday, October 30, 2009

Lost in Translation



When you think about how much trouble we have communicating with each other, it follows that there are going to be some serious misunderstandings between the living and the dead. Ghosts and humans have had a terrible time, throughout the ages, trying to talk to each other. Even mediums and other psychics who channel the dead (this is one of the things I do, btw) are just guessing. At least I am which is why it's always so amazing how my clients appreciate even my second class translations of what the ghosts want to convey. Sheesh.

One of the big obstacles to mutual understanding is that ghosts don't have, as a primary directive, the survival instinct. They may moan and groan about how much they miss the sensory delights of being a human, but in fact they forget that we MUST breathe, drink water and eat food, or. we'll. die. They're already dead, of course, hence way outside of the food chain. If you can imagine what that would look like, an existence not dependent on survival issues, you can begin to get why we've had so many misunderstandings throughout history.

My dear brother Donald Engstrom insists that the ancestors MUST help us. In return, we must honor them, remember them. We're not too good at that here in the U.S. at this moment in history. In my culture, we are not great with ghosts. We dismiss them summarily, the first culture in all of history to be so rude. Instead of building beautiful shrines to honor our ancestors, in general when we contact the dead, we regress and behave so recklessly.

We spook each other out by telling ghost stories even though officially we don't believe in ghosts. I'm sure they love this. No wonder they add a nice cold chill to the room when the story calls for it, oh yeah! When we're frightened, we're very vivid which they appreciate. But there are other, more pleasant ways to be vivid!

To be fair, it's hard to imagine any truly easy relationship between the living and the dead, no matter where you are, (though I imagine - is this a fantasy? - that the everyday communication between living and dead on the continent of Africa, for instance, is completely different than here. I have no idea, I've never been there, just guessing.)

My ancestor altar is different every year. Sometimes it's quite elaborate, other times not so much. This year it is completely basic, featuring only my immediate family. That's my father and mother holding opposite poles on the altar (very much as they did in life). Of course Jake is prominently featured. The other pic is of my sister Karen with two of the living: my sister Deborah and me, as a baby. The herbs are rosemary, thyme, marigolds and one sprig of late-blooming lavendar.

N.B. When I talk about ghosts or spirits, I usually mean the whole lot of the dead - including the neurotic ones. When I say ancestor I mean a soul that, in some way I don't pretend to understand, has done some serious apres-life healing and has returned to our realm, on purpose, to assist us. The ancestors are wise counselors, a completely different animal than the jerks who come when you pull out the Ouija board.

17 comments:

Reya Mellicker said...

Elizabeth I changed my mind about posting a pic of my altar. Thank you for suggesting it!

Reya Mellicker said...

Listen up: Ouija boards are bad. Very very bad. Seriously they attract only the lowest slime of the ghost world, spirits who love getting us all riled up.

Rose said...

Do you ever get messages for bloggy readers? You could do a special samhain session for the dead of your readers. I say this a little tongue in check...

I used to go to a spiritualist church. Mostly I liked the singing. Not one of my relatives ever came a-visiting. I think this is a good thing, they are not tied to me I think.

This year I shall remember my recent dead, Uncle D who died a few weeks ago and my beloved Big Dog who died earlier this year. Along with the less recently dead...

I wish you much fun at your parties tomorrow! Happy Samhain!

Whitney Lee said...

This is lovely. The photos are great. You're right about us not honoring the dead. I'm afraid it ties into not honoring the elderly and the sick, as well.
I have a large framed photo on the wall in my hallway of all of the people at my wedding. It was a huge group shot we asked for. It is sad to me how many people in that picture are no longer with us after only 7 years. My daughter loves to be picked up and point people out for us to identify. It does my heart good to be able to see all of these people that we love and miss happily smiling out at us.

lakeviewer said...

I love this picture of you going through pictures and relics. I knew though that you were the live one!

p.s. the only 'ghost' I ever felt was my mother's, soon after she passed. She came to warn me; she has done that regularly.

Joanne said...

A beautiful event happens at a nearby cemetery on All Souls day. There are about 10,000 graves on a sloping hillside, and most are illuminated with candles late in the day, along with immense floral bouquets. It's a sight to see on All Souls Night, after dark, that hillside lit up by thousands of flickering candles. It's a Catholic ritual here, they say the candles are to bring God's attention to the souls in purgatory. I never tire of seeing that peaceful illumination.

Nancy said...

I never allowed my children to play with a Ouija board. Although I did it as a child - and was freaked out - because I was not, I repeat not, moving that little piece moving all over the board! (This after reading your fist two comments.)

I love your alter, however, it is a mindful way of giving love and gratitude to those we care about, living and dead, including nature. Soulful, Reya, as always.

ellen abbott said...

Thanks for showing us your altar. I actually have small jars with some of the ashes of both my parents. Usually they sit out all the time in a spot that I pass often during the day. right now everything is still packed up.

Reya Mellicker said...

Rose, what is remembered, lives. May your uncle and big dog fly high!

Whitney when your daughter wants to point out the people in the pics, this is a form of ancestor worship. Your daughter was an ancestor before she came back as your child, of course, so she no doubt recognizes these faces from times before now. Love that image!

John Hayes said...

Have you ever heard about the Famadihana ritual from Madagascar? In this ritual, people actually disinter the dead annually, re-wrap them in new silk shrouds & dance with them. Eberle & I saw it in a documentary called "Like a God When He Plays" about a musician from Madagascar. One of the most amazing things I've ever seen, even if only onscreen. There's a little info about the festival here.

debra said...

This should be an interesting season for our family, since so many people have stepped off the planet. I wonder who will come this year? Interesting things have been happening at my late brother-in-law's home as we prepare to work on it...

Reya Mellicker said...

Debra: I bet! For all of us, the passing of so many people, private and extremely public (Michael Jackson for instance) doubly magnifies the intensity of the season.

Today and tonight on Capitol Hill has been quite intense. Many people out and about, some costumes, lots of intensity. Oh yeah.

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm so glad Elizabeth suggested that I post a pic of my altar. At first I thought it was too personal, but I was wrong!

Love the way I positioned the pics so Jake would be gazing intently at baby Reya. Very cool.

Ronda Laveen said...

Yes, I am glad you posted a picture of your altar. For some reason, I don't see the picture of your mother. But your father and Jake are exuding the same type of energy. Strong, attentive, agressive, proud, so natural. And you with Karen and Deborah. You look so much like Karen as an adult that it is uncanny.

RE: "I could write a book of ghost stories"...I'm w-a-i-t-i-n-g. I work all day tomorrow but my rosemary plants are strong and healthy. I will trim some sprigs when I come home in the evening and align with the fresh garlic to line out the spacing.

Happy All Hallows Eve! Actually, it is Maaco's, my male dog, birthday tomorrow. 7x7, he is!

Pam said...

Hi Reya - it is certainly an interesting time in your part of the word, whereas we don't make such a big thing of Halloween in Australia. It never really 'took'. I am determined to make more of an effort for All Souls Day however this year, and make a special effort to remember ancestors, the presence of which my daughter and I feel close to, and influenced by, all year. It is a way to say thank-you.This morning however,I had a thought regarding public 'performance' (for want of a better word) with spirit communication which intruiged me.Why do so many clairvoyants have trouble with names do you think.ie.I have a person with me who's name begins with the letter S, a name like ... sounds like...could be..etc., and yet go on to give messages from that same person with astounding detail and clarity? Just wondering.

Reya Mellicker said...

Hi Pam! I think it's polite to honor the ancestors throughout the year, but here in the northern hemisphere this week represents the final harvest, the time when farmers slaughtered animals before winter set in. So the carnal aspects of Halloween make perfect sense.

For us, the veil is very thin, but it might be more connected to the season than anything else. I wonder if your veil thins around the first of May as you descend into your winter?

As for the name thing, that's funny. Just like translating from one language to another, big chunks of info come in blurry, almost unreadable form. Like I said, we guess.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

I like this. Like the feel of the altar, the thoughts of our past, and keeping them in the present also, on another plane.

I have Mike's ashes in a cat urn on the stair landing as I go to bed, I say goodnight or miss you or this was my day kind of thoughts. It comforts me.

I have all my past kitties ashes too, and have them in spots they loved and that I see daily so they are always thought of and brought to mind.