I was born at full moon time on Día de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, two days after Halloween. So, this time of year generally has me thinking about both birth and death.
Día de Los Muertos is a holiday celebrated in Mexico (and other places) to honor departed loved ones. It is said to have originated some 3,000 years ago from practices of the Aztecs. Back then, people had a more cyclical view of the universe and saw death as a fundamental part of life to be celebrated rather than mourned. Therefore, contemporary Day of the Dead gatherings are opportunities for people to welcome back the souls of their deceased loved ones with food, drink and sometimes music and dancing.
My relationship to death has not been particularly festive. Death in modern U.S. culture inspires fear and dread because it seems like a permanent ending. When I think of death in terms of my beloveds, I’m terrified, yet I’ve experienced it before and with time I’ve carried on with a happy life. I know deep in my soul the ending is not permanent, yet it feels that way sometimes.
This is not unlike my relationship with metaphorical death, or change. Change is pretty easy when it involves something I judge as positive. But when change seems to have been forced on me or feels sudden, fear takes over. I try to resist because I’m afraid, just like I want to resist actual death. Of course, neither is possible.
In her monthly Divinestrology message for November 2021, Sara Wiseman, a spiritual intuitive, channeled this: “Change is always. The myth of security, stability, of things remaining as they once were or always have been—these are projections of the mind created to stem fear. In truth, everything changes, and when you accept this, your experience of life is easier—by this we mean you experience less suffering.”
So true! It’s my resistance that causes my misery, not the change itself.
Día de Los Muertos ofrendas are altars set up to remember, honor and welcome ancestors and departed friends. They are especially poignant to me now when so many have lost loved ones to Covid. Some ofrendas are simple. Others are elaborate, filled with bright colors, flowers, photos, candles, artwork, food and drink.
Seeing ofrenda photos this season made me wonder, what if I could build an ofrenda to change? What might I include to honor and welcome the changes in my life so that I don’t cling to the fear involved?
I would start with bright marigolds offering me the opportunity to appreciate the beauty often hidden in transition. Next, I would add some water to welcome the ability to move gracefully through the twists and turns of life. Calaveras de azúcar, or sugar skulls, would remind me that life without variation would be sour indeed. My altar would definitely include candles, honoring fire as a symbol of transformation which is impossible without change. I’d add some pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, so I could nourish my soul rather than starve it with stress and struggle. Above my altar to change, I would hang some colorful papel picado, or perforated paper. This would remind me to look at the big picture, and to see the beautiful patterns contained within. Photos of loved ones would prompt me to be grateful for every day I have with them in this lifetime, no matter our petty differences.
Finally, my ofrenda would sport a bottle of tequila. Actually, I’d rather it be a bottle of champagne, even though that doesn’t quite fit the metaphor. This I would use to toast the light and the darkness, birth and death, the ever-evolving cycle of life.