Samhain Transitions into Day of the Dead in the Pueblo Nations

Written by Sherrie Locke on 7 Kawoq, October, 2014.

The thinning of the veils is upon us. The time of the year the dead can communicate with the living. You can look all that up on the Internet.

All Souls Day Pilgramige

I was inspired today to tell you how this works at the REZ (reservation, which we call the Pueblo) in the Pueblo (Tewa) Nation. First off, I have never spent these days at my own family’s home pueblo, which is Santa Clara. Many years ago, I was “adopted” into the Tortalita (little tortoise) Clan at Santo Domingo Pueblo, so it is the place I had the honor to participate in these rituals.

The day of Samhain (All Hallows Eve) is a very quiet day at the Pueblo. No trick or treating, not even going out after dark. By the time the sun is setting, everyone is in the house. There are NO festivities on this night. The families sit indoors.

This is a night that is known to be dangerous, one that is best spent inside with the family and elders. The spirits are afoot, both kinds of spirits, the good ones and the disruptive or even dangerous ones. Meditation and prayer is the set. Many times we get to listen to stories from an elder if we are lucky enough to have one in the house.

The next day is completely different and unusual in its own way.

On the Day of the Ancestors, by the door of every home (to the left) is a special clay-fired vessel that holds water with a gourd dipper. When you enter the home (by invitation only, of course) you are offered a drink from the “special” water, and after that, invited to sit with the family. The food is simple, usually some traditional bread and a soup made from blue corn meal with high mountain wildflowers (which are yellow). Now it gets interesting.

You can hear a lot of traffic coming into the pueblo, pickup trucks full of families with tons of food and staples piled in with the kids and the elders too. They are not laughing or talking, they are praying.

Soon there is a knock at the door. I was wondering why nobody made an effort to get up and answer it. Outside the door you can hear the Lord’s Prayer and prayers asking for forgiveness. More knocking at the door, several times before anything happens. Then, the elder (man) of the family finally goes to the door, usually still carrying on the conversation he was in the middle of when the knocking started.

When he swings open the door, there is an entire family standing there, praying and asking for forgiveness, with handfuls of baskets of food. Without ever looking at any of them, Grandfather then takes the food and offerings and shuts the door in their faces. No eye contact, no thank you, nothing — just take the food and shut the door and return to the conversation. All this starts to pile up on one wall of the house, which is now stacked to the ceiling with food, melons, bread (traditional) and what we might call staples. Never is it even looked at nor does anyone care what is there. This goes on ALL DAY long until the house is full of food.

After this had been happening for a while, I asked “Why is this happening?”. Grandfather told me, “It’s the Spaniards from all over the state, coming to the pueblo to ask for forgiveness for what their ancestors did to us.” I don’t know what is done with all that food, I think it is given to the poorest families there. We never touched one piece of it.

Moral to the story… You are still paying the debts of your ancestors. You are also sharing in their blessings and the legacy that was left behind.

Aho! Mitakuye Oyasin!
~SL, 2014.

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