Next Saturday, November 1, is the holiday Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This is a Mexican holiday that has currency now throughout the world—but especially in California. After all, in 2014 Latinos will surpass whites in California demographics. It is prevalent at this time in Southern California to see sugar skulls decorated—to even have children make decorated sugar skulls and honor the dead. The holiday provides a focal point for a centered observance and prayer dedicated to those who have died in the past year. It is connected to the other holidays at this time, particularly Halloween where as we Wiccans often say “the walls between the worlds are thin.”Another tradition celebrated at this time is creating an altar for loved ones—or several altars or ofrendas. The altars can hold sugar skulls, photos and artifacts of the deceased, and marigolds. Marigolds are a symbol of death and are referred to as “the flower of death.” Marigold petals might mark a path from a home to a grave in a village so that the dead can find their way back for this holiday. Marigolds make arches and decorations in and around the altars/ofrendas for the scent of the marigold is purported to draw the dead back for the Day of the Dead reunion. The holiday has its roots in indigenous Mexican holidays and continues back possibly 4,000 years to Aztec rituals honoring the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Queen of the Underworld. So, this holiday has its roots in feminism, goddess worship and a sharing of oral history/herstory—as well as the decorative arts, It is a perfect union of feminism and religion representing the often under-represented—those who will not, in most cases, have “official” altars built to them. It is an asking for guidance from the spirits. But, more than that it is an asking directly for guidance from our now personal guides—those who have passed before that we now hope will return and help us in the next year of our life. …read moreat feminism and religion
Author Marie Cartier lost both of her parents in the past year, so she is feeling deeply the oncoming holiday, this time for us to Dance with the Dead. Certainly a time to celebrate ancestors, it is also a time to look at all those who have come before us, who have made our lives possible today.Cartier honors women who came before in her recent book, Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars and Theology Before Stonewall was published last year, with the following dedication:
To all of the gay women who came before me, cleared the path for me, and walked the path with me…butch, femme, kiki, androgynous, lesbian and transgender who dared to walk into a gay women’s bar and acknowledge themselves and their community and made a community for me to walk into. To my mother– Joanne Marie (Curtin) Cartier– a woman who came of age in the 1950s.
How do we hold the stories and honor our dead?
Tell me about your beloved dead, those who walked before you, blazed a trail, gave you comfort and strength. Whom will you honor, and how, on Dia de los Muertos?
My Sunday ritual with the New York Times is edifying, and often gives me insight into weighty and troubling issues of our times. Good thing: if it were only the grim and terrible news, I couldn’t bear to read it. So this Sunday, these two seemingly unrelated articles entwined in a way that helped me see my own strong views more clearly:
1. Is there a ‘Bad’ Religion?
An ongoing debate launched by provocateur Bill Maher, whose guest Sam Harris, a widely published neuroscientist and atheist, challenged Liberals to uphold their principals of free speech and religion and equality for women and gays. He claims that by defending Islam as just another faith in the multi-cultural rainbow, Liberals are tolerating a hateful religion.
“We have to be able to criticize bad ideas,” said Harris “and Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.”
Three Short Films About Peace begins with a 15 video interview with 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. (I have yet to enjoy the other two films). Gbowee’s story is so riveting, so personal and so global in its relevance I was stunned. She has walked in the path of Ghandi and Dr. King before her and spoken a woman’s simple truth to power.
“I wish for a better life. I wish for food for my children. I wish that sexual abuse and exploitation in schools would stop. This is the dream of the African girl.”
Isn’t It Obvious?
It is incomprehensible to me that a leader could ever lose sight of their responsibility to protect people from violence and mayhem. The overwhelming reaction I felt watching Leymah’s story was “Duh!”
Why isn’t it obvious that we need to feed and shelter our people and protect them from violence? Why does the ancient territorial violence override nurturing and creativity?
One simple answer is that women’s voices are not strong enough in public life.
The biggest critique I can level against Muslim culture and religion is the deletion of women’s voices from public life. Not that they are the only ones to blame for this. Orthodox Judaism and large swaths of Christianity limit women’s full participation.
In the ‘civilized’ West, we are still new to the idea of women as fully functioning members of society, being only one hundred years out from jailing and force-feeding Alice Paul for speaking up outside the White House. But we do have women in the public sphere, prime ministers, presidential candidates, and increasingly heads of business.
When all you hear are the views and desires of one half of your citizens, you are missing dimension of humanity necessary to survive. Compare it to monocular vision, or hearing from one ear: the amount of perspective and data missing is exponential.
We need the voices of our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, aunts, daughters and girls to be valued and heard in our culture. And that is my measure for a ‘Good’ religion. Or company, culture, neighborhood, committee, discussion group, governing body and more.
I don’t agree with Sam Harris – it does no good to brand an entire culture as ‘bad,’ but I do know that it’s Leymah who has the answer to creating the world that I want to live in.