Samhain moments

We had a great holiday… in a burst of good timing, one of the local history museums had a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival on Sunday, the day that we observed Samhain.

Moment 1: Several local members of the Latino community built ofrendas (memorial shrines to an ancestor, basically), and were on hand to explain the significance – including one created for Paul Newman, to help us Anglos feel the significance of it more fully. An ofrenda is supposed to include items that were important to the person being memorialized, or that remind the builders of them in some way – photographs, favorite foods, items related to a hobby or vocation, whatever is meaningful about that person. The Paul Newman shrine included a movie camera and film reels, as well as some bottles of Newman’s Own salad dressing with a paper skull taped over his face on the label. Absolutely fascinating. (see pictures below)

Moment 2: The museum’s standing exhibit is a history of the city, from the earliest days of settlement to the present. One of the exhibits is on our religious diversity, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and… earth based religions! Yes, the Pagan presence (so named in the exhibit, even) is large enough to warrant inclusion in an entirely mainstream museum exhibit – in one of the largest cities in the Southeast. The times they are indeed a-changing. (We’ll see who takes NC in the presidential election, though… that will tell a big part of the real story.)

Moment 3: Another part of the standing exhibit was a replica of the interior of a church, including genuine, beat-up old wooden pews and an altar salvaged from some old church somewhere, and old, dirty stained glass windows almost exactly like the ones in my last childhood church, where my grandfather was the associate pastor. When I walked in, one of his favorite hymns was playing, and suddenly I could almost feel his presence; it’s still hard to believe he’s gone, almost 10 years later. I wish he (and my grandmother, who has been gone 12 years now) could have known our daughter; they would have loved her beyond all reason.

Moment 4: Finally, after all that (and aikido in the evening), we came home and had a simple Samhain observance. My wife and I talked about some of our family memories, she helped our daughter rehearse her maternal lineage, and then we went outside and offered sweet wine and pomegranate seeds to Hades and Persephone, and to the ancestors. All in all, a lovely holiday.

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