Honoring the Ancestors

Autumn ShadowWe  are approaching the Days of the Dead, the festival that inaugurates the period during which Indigenous people in the Americas perceive the veils between the worlds of matter and spirit to be at their thinnest. Between Halloween and the mid-January there are numerous festivals and ceremonies honor the Ancient Ones.

At many of these events corn will be served, acknowledging the profound bond between the Corn Mother and the People. It is said the Ancestral spirits love the taste, fragrance, and texture of corn, of maize. They also adore sugar. Any doubts one might have about the latter should be dispelled by the vast array of sweets prepared for the Days of the Dead, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas Holidays, all festivals associated with the presence of the Ancestors. Marzipan and chocolate are the traditional sweets, but any sugary confection will do.

No autumn/early winter celebration would be complete without a delectable prepared from corn. Perhaps no dish is more ubiquitous at this season than the tamale. Tamales come in a great variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. (One of my favorites is chocolate with hot chilies.) Further north corn or Indian pudding, corn cakes, cornbread and polenta replace tamales on the festival table.

The presence of dishes made from maize reminds us that our Ancestors sacrificed themselves so we might live. Throughout the Americas Indigenous people tell the story of the Corn Mother or Corn Maiden who sacrificed herself so the People might have food. Here is a link to a Penobscot version of the story.

Indigenous people in the Americas believe we must acknowledge the debt we owe our ancestors, and our obligations to those, of all species, who will come after us. We are taught to consider the consequences of our actions for those who will be born seven generations hence, keeping in mind that all actions have unintended consequences. We look at our histories and see that we have made mistakes that harmed others and must not be repeated.

In the weeks to come I will write more about this sacred, feast filled time of year.

7 thoughts on “Honoring the Ancestors

  1. i bought some hominy corn the other day and looking forward to making three sister soup later on today. the taste of this type of corn is amazing! i have a question about “perceive the veils between the worlds of matter and spirit to be at their thinnest.” do you think or have knowledge of how ceremonies at this time help us on this side? i’m just thinking about what’s going on in the east coast anti-fracking demonstrations and how it’s peaceful and ceremonial. i find this part of the narrative very interesting and has me meditating on it. it’s good to be reminded of this time of year. miigwech!

    1. Hi Vera,
      Thank you! The soup sounds awesome!

      I believe we do ceremony to honor those who are on the other side, knowing some of them take a profound interest in us and aid us. Ceremony helps build a truly reciprocal relationship. I’m not sure why folks perceive the veil to be thinner now, although I also have that experience. Perhaps it reflects the presence of those who are less interested in helping out, those who are less engaged in our worldly struggles and joys.

      Anyway, I believe doing ceremony helps us to focus our gratitude, and remember our place in a complex World. It also reminds us that even tough we would like to imagine we know who we are and what we are doing, Life remains a Great Mystery to which we are unimaginably connected. I think ceremony also offers us opportunities for healing, sometimes curing. Somehow ceremony heals even though it may not perceptibly change the course of events. I like to think that maybe I will better understand all this over time.

      1. Yes ceremony is important to get us connected to spirit, our ancestors and all life really. It’s interesting to see how disconnected we get. And ceremony gets us linked up. Connection at it’s finest. Thanks for responding to my questions. I appreciate the sharing.

  2. Which is yet another reason why “Terminator” seeds are so offensive. The overly masculine energy of our current cycle must dominate even this. . .

    And yet, with all the effort to ban GMO’s, there are signs that we are finding our way back again…I pray tht we learn how to embrace the Feminine again, and understand that when we rob the plants of their next generations, we do so with all our other relations as well…

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