Last night 14 lovely folks gathered at my home to share in a ceremony I call a banquete de los muertos; an ancestral potluck to honor those who have crossed over in the past solar cycle. Inspired by the Mexican dia de los muertos tradition that is observed by many of my neighbors in the Mission District, it is offered with reverence to people in my circle of friends who have experienced a sorrowful loss since the previous dia de los muertos. It was a beautiful evening of stories and delicious food from many traditions— Hawaiian poke and Lebanese mujadara and
rye bread made from a very old sourdough starter given to us by a friend who we were honoring*, and
Swedish meatballs followed by sweet Turkish kunefe.
We opened the banquete by reading the names of the most recent members of our Beloved Dead, lighting a candle for each one, and ringing a bell, welcoming them to join us for this feast. We had more than 40 candles on the table,
representing family, friends, community members, cats, dogs, and a horse. Most of the people gathered had never before met any of the others (there was even someone I had not met before!), and it was delightful to witness strangers becoming friends, laughing and crying together, embracing each other as we said goodnight. Our shared pain became shared joy, and this is the greatest gift of the Ancestors.
* Our friend, John, asked that he be not remembered by a funeral or a memorial. We have done our best to carry on without marking this loss in any particular way. My heart yearns for recognition of the beauty, passion, and formidable knowledge he carried in the world. Though it was usually his wife, Molly, writing the poems, he began to explore other forms of creativity when he could no longer wield a hammer at his smithy. Here is his poem:
my birthday is samhain- november 1st-
the stroke of mid-night on halloween,
i am daily living in samhain~
but still on the edge of the light.
& that narrow passage is enormous.
i feel like a star being pulled into a black hole
~soon atomized into biological oblivion~
not created or destroyed, just scattered and composted
within the everything.
can data once created be destroyed? can thoughts be
UN-thought or do deeds once done exist forever?
i've left a daily trail of dna since i was born, my hair,
piss, blood, every exhalation... where is all that matter
some think it is a rest like 'a long sleep', others a
gateway to another human lifetime, still others a utopian
paradise~an eden garden in the desert.
i don't know~perhaps it is more like samhain, a beginning
and the end of a circle of seasons.
a high energy natural state like the force of tree roots
growing down into the winter earth.
given enough time... plate tectonics and the eventual
death of our planetary star,
you'll literally be finding my atoms among the rocks and
gas explosions of galactic debris expanding ever outward
in the universe,
but never to be a chimp again.
one thing is certain, it'll not be the me
i have been, soon.