Day of the Dead/All Saints Day
November 1 and 2, depending upon your calendar, and whether printed within or outside the United States, probably refers to one of these two holidays. If you are from a Christian-dominated and saturated culture, as the U.S. seems to be at this time, then of course your calendar refers to November 1 as All Saints Day, or November 2 as All Souls Day. If, however, you are from a European or Latin culture, or you attend college with a multi-cultural diversity slant, your calendar probably refers to both. We are little acquainted with Islamic or Eastern faiths, but given the topic of this page, we imagine that they, too have calendars that observe our kinship with those departed - perhaps Ramadan, in the East?
Day of the Dead is an ancient ritual observation going at least as far back as Egyptian times, and probably much further. The modern-day equivalent to this sacred recognition would be what Americans call Mardi Gras - which is, when not a tourist commercial, a multi-generational celebration of our lives between worlds, where we bless those that have Been, and those that will Be.
Mardi Gras is uniquely American - and rather positive, in an American sense - that it combines all religions, all faiths, and all possibilities, in a way that no other American - particularly Christian - celebration does. Yet, it goes without saying that Mardi Gras is for Christians an entirely pagan, ritualistic, backwoods, and "heathen" affair; not to be taken seriously, "unquestionably" a 20th-century celebration of long-forgotten pagan rites.
By many, those rites are not forgotten, and regardless of continental or cultural origin, those souls who truly "jive" with Mardi Gras are actually responding to their own ancestral heritage, whether physical or incarnation spiritual.
The primary difference between Day of the Dead, and what Americans know as Mardi Gras, is that they occur on "opposite sides" of the year. They share a resemblance with what people think of as equinox rituals; to commune with the Living (in the Spring) and to commune with the Dead (in the Fall.) Modern faiths almost believe that the sacred "holidays" (Holy Days) are primarily harvest-related.
As in, the myth that Halloween, or Samhain as some prefer, and Easter (Ostara) were "harvest rituals."
There is truth to this in the sense that there was a sense of harvest. But, unlike our agrarian (and Christian)-dominated culture of today, the harvest did not necessarily refer merely to the growth or preservation of food supply. Harvest was (and this stands true today in the American Biblical sense) that one reaps what one sows. This is not even a matter of karma, which some people believe is Spirit's way of dishing out reward and punishment. (We do not subscribe to this theory.)
What these "harvest rituals" were about were less about "grain" and plenty of "game to hunt" as they were about settling debt; the obligations of honor, vestment, and sharing, were distributed at these times of year. It was trusted, in pre-Christian times, that our spirits who were watching over us would make sure that our debt restoration was equitable. (Like having lawyers on the Other Side, making sure we get a fair deal on settlements.)
In the first two centuries of America's development, agrarians still understood and worked with these concepts, independently (or conjointly) with whatever "forms of spiritual worship" they had chosen to adopt. The American forefathers did understand concepts of distribution, fair-play, and "just plain luck", as we understand today. They also believed in paying their debts and settling scores.
What many people do not understand about our mutual imperialist history is that many of these customs had been modified, and bastardized beyond recognition. This is the nature of imperialism, and - like all battles ever fought from the beginning of the world - requires the invasive principle of "divide and conquer."
Elsewhere within the Druidry site is written a rather descriptive narrative regarding the historic perversion of Day of the Dead into what we now call Halloween.
American children have three favorite holidays; Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. Christmas and Easter, we are told, have to do with Christ's birth, death and rebirth. Halloween is hardly acknowledged, except to say that "it gives rise to Satanism."
In this fact, we would actually agree, to a degree, in the sense that it is Christianity that created Halloween, and that Christianity fears its own demons. Furthermore, Christianity tends to decree Halloween as an "acceptable" event in that it allows Christians (and heathens) to "purge their sins" through expression and expatiation. It is hoped, one gathers, by passive Christians that the heathens will "get it out of their system" by Christmas, when they can be "reborn" through Christ's love.
But, as an American custom, children celebrating these three events per year is very much a celebration of materialism. (We, too celebrate materialism. We, as Druids and spirits, celebrate the flesh, but more importantly, the joys of the third-dimension.) More importantly, we rejoice in the happiness, the wonder, the discovery of children as they carve they way into the world through the little rites of passage that have been handed down to them. The children celebrate the world we have given them. (As we celebrated the world our sires gave to us.)
Day of the Dead then, designated on November 2, is simply our opportunity to commune with the Spirits when the ethereal atmosphere is at its thinnest. We did not wear masks; we did not believe in disguise or the falsehood of illusion.
We refer to the atmosphere; nearly all "pagan" or ancient rituals were conducted or observed in conjunction with patterns of the sun, the moon, the stars, the seasons, and the ocean tides. Long before there was universal writing, there was an esoteric knowledge regarding the seasons, and of the earth. Druids were the ones who specialized in "geomancy" or earth-magic. This was not a subjugation or harnessing of the planetary powers or consciousness; this knowledge was developed through continued observation, and the passing down through generations the lore of earth science, as it is still called today.
Christmas, or Christ-mass, as it is known, was known as Yule, when the energy of a particular overshadowing planetary Soul was supposed to be able to emit, transmute, and station the energy of the Second Ray of Love and Consciousness to Humanity when the stars were at their brightest.
Easter (or Ostara) is the period when the Sixth Ray of Ideal is allowed to manifest. It is a period of rebirth (like the Spring) when all cycles do not come to an end, but continue with rebirth, regeneration, and rejuvenation.
Day of the Dead is when First Ray, that of Purpose, Power and Will, is supposed to be stationed and channeled. Halloween, by its historical conception, is actually a perversion of that primary purpose. Day of the Dead is supposed to be a summation, a "closing ceremony" if you will, regarding Michaelmas, which actually begins September 29.
Halloween, a custom that started after the exile and annihilation of the Druids more than a thousand years ago, began as a mockery, by slaying Druids and sticking broomsticks with pumpkins attached into their headless bodies and watching their dying convulsions.
Yet, we like Halloween, as observed in modern times. If ever a pagan ritual could be so appreciated, we love the idea of a candy-coated holiday to make children happy. The children, themselves - so unique to the pattern of incarnation as junior adults, often have things to teach, and solutions to offer, that the simplest child could astound the most complicated adult.
Halloween, whatever its original intent, actually gives children power for one night, to allow their fantasies to become most important, and to give voice to their dreams and nightmares - and the expatiation of those dreams and nightmares, to distill a manifest reality of a "rightness working within our world."
A terrible wrong committed in this world has been made right by the children. Let us continue to learn from them.
Day of the Dead may be remembered by those adult souls who remember their heritage as both teachers and students.