Would you rather listen?
Dias de Los Muertos Ritual I
My Dias de los Muertos or Day of the Dead* experience affected me so profoundly this year, that I’ve decided to share it with you, my community and tribe. I received an ancestral initiation that, in the telling of it, I hope inspires you to set aside some time during these potent days to tap into your own ancestral line.
The night before my initiation, on October 29th, I danced with Heather Munroe Pierce and 30 other women at her TransDance Samhain Ritual in Oakland. I moved, spun, rolled and cried amidst altars blazing with candles honoring our beloved ancestors who have passed on, the season of harvest, and many oracular traditions.
My sorrow at missing my mother’s presence dominated my experience that night. As her dementia continues to deepen, the woman I once knew feels farther and farther away. During my recent visit with her, I felt a palpable loss of her presence, even as she and I found ways to connect with and enjoy each other.
As I danced that night, my heart ached for her. Missing her, I haven’t been able to fully grieve the loss of her as she continues in this world in her still healthy body. Yet in the physical realm, in ordinary reality, the mother I knew is gone. The apparatus of her brain no longer functions to facilitate our communication. Her wisdom rests elsewhere, on the other side of a chasm that I cannot reach in daily life. Her love and appreciation for me continues in a childlike form, that odd reversal I have heard so much about. I find myself dangling between the worlds.
Dias de Los Muertos Ritual II
Rain poured down the next morning, on October 30th, as I made my way to Body Prayer, my Sunday morning spiritual practice based in the Soul Motion tradition. Steamy inside, dancers stretched on the floor, shook and gently moved to awaken muscles, sinew, and cerebral spinal fluid. I felt easy in my body and anticipation in my heart. Even so, I was not prepared for what happened.
The edges of my sorrow arose as our facilitator, Barbara Aman, invited us to stand with then move with an ancestor. This morning’s practice, similar to the dance I’d attended the night before, was dedicated to honoring our ancestors in the Mexican tradition of Dias de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.
At her invitation, I dropped inside myself, opening to what ancestor wanted to become present to me. This time as I felt for my mother love flushed through my body. “I love you, Mom”, I whispered to her and myself over and over again, “I love you, Mom.” I came to a standstill, tears on my cheeks, my heart beating strongly. I felt my mother’s presence arise behind me, warm and enveloping.
On my daughter’s birthday, two months before, she and I had had a potent psychic conversation. At that time, I felt her presence so strongly that I wept even as I was driving into town. She had sent me love, compassion, affirmation, and comfort that I was sorely needing at that time. She told me that it was because it was Emma’s birthday that a portal had opened and she could speak to me so clearly.
Back at the dance, I gratefully opened my heart even more to allow in her presence. I knew the feel of her so distinctly. I was struck by how, when I was in her womb, the egg that would become my daughter was inside of me even then. Three generations together.
My Ancestors Arrive
Then, surprising me, I felt her mother behind her, the grandmother I had known best and loved dearly, Dorothy Troy Young. Then her mother behind her, Julia McGregor Troy, who had died before I was born, and whose name I bear as my middle name. And then her mother behind her, Lavina Furnifer McGregor, who none us knew. And her mother behind her, and hers behind her, on and on and on it went, stretching out behind me, generation after generation after generation.
Emotions roiled within me. Energy poured into me, transmitted from my female line back, seemingly, into infinity.
Mother’s Love. Mothers’ Love. The most powerful force on earth.
Beloved, beloved, beloved. You are always beloved. You are always held. You are always loved. You are never alone. You are always held.
You are always beloved.
Voice upon voice upon voice.
Embrace upon embrace upon embrace.
You are always beloved, always beloved, always beloved.
Daughter, beloved daughter.
Mother’s love for her daughter.
We taught you, protected you, abused you, loved you, cherished you, hid you, hit you, molded you, loved you, loved you, loved you, always always loved you.
Voices, sensations, awareness saturated my cells as I opened further to receive their transmission.
Ten thousand generations since the time we became aware.
We kept you alive during the dark time.
Now you are leading the way forward into the Light.
Beloved beloved beloved, always beloved.
Never alone, never alone, never alone.
Tears drop through the hands holding my cheeks. I wipe away the saliva dribbling down my lip. My body stands, slightly hunched forward, held still yet widely open.
The room around me has dropped away. Occasionally another dancer touches me, either to offer comfort or to invite interaction. I step away from all contact, maintaining focus on my inner world.
You are strong. We have been strong. We have made it to this time.
You are strong. Daughter of daughters of daughters.
I draw upon every practice I know to become more receptive to their blessing, their transmission, the felt sense of such powerful, all pervasive love that has secured my line through time.
Shaman ~ Healer~ Priestess. You are.
Shaman ~ Healer~ Priestess. Remember.
Shaman ~ Healer~ Priestess. Stand strong.
Shaman ~ Healer~ Priestess. You are.
Continue to heal your physical body. You are needed for many more years, and just now are you coming into your full power. Continue to upgrade your strength, your vitality, your well being so you can be fully alive for at least the next 30 years. Continue to take care of yourself for you are needed for a long time yet to come.
I note with satisfaction how healthy and strong I feel in my body. My efforts have been paying off and I feel more vitality than I have in years.
I feel their focus on me, a sense of destiny and purpose without specific content, strong and palpable nonetheless. Weighty and yet not burdensome.
B r e a t h e. I breathe and receive their blessing, their direction, their reflection and affirmation. My body hums with their charge. Slowly I spiral into awareness of the room around me, dancers moving, music playing.
Never before have I had such a strong felt sense of what I knew intellectually to be true. As I emerge from their embrace I know also that they are not gone.
Even today, two days later, I know they stand behind me as I move in ordinary reality.
Connect with Your Ancestors
My wish for you, beloved ones, is to experience your ancestors’ blessing and love for you in ways that empower and inspire you. Perhaps light a candle, or take a walk, or dance or breathe and call them to you, and receive.
Blessed Be, dear Ones. Blessed Be.
*Dias de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico and places of the Mexican diaspora like California, typically on November 1 or 2. This holiday overlaps with All Hallows Eve, from which Halloween emerged, and Samhain, the Celtic New Year. All of these traditions recognize that at this time, halfway between Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice, the veil between the worlds thins and we may connect more easily with those who have passed over. Dias de los Muertos in particular honors our ancestors and celebrates their experiences and contributions to who we are today.