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.

With a Little Help from the Ancestors

Written by Sherrie Locke on 9 Ajpu, March 2014

Sometimes projects or “things” come up and drive you to pursue them, based on a direction preset by your ancestors. They knew a time would come when one of their lineage would be prepared to receive and when the timing would be right, where all junctures would come together for an activation or a mass healing. Something on so vast a level it could not be explained as to the working or even the desired outcome.

The ancestors and elders provide guidance on your path through life.

A Tibetan shaman communicates with the ancestors for guidance.

In the case of working and maintaining a proper ancestor altar, you are actually not only strengthening the connection, but also strengthening the ancestor or group of ancestors so they can be more effective in your life and possibly even the lives of the extended family.

As the elders say, the ancestors cannot connect with us ( I have found exceptions to this rule through strong familial bonds), so you must first seek connection with them. You must open the door, you must maintain the connection,  or it will fade over time. Yes, it can be regained through ancestor veneration rituals, but isn’t it easier to maintain the connections all along? I say yes.

Ancestor veneration priests and shamans are very specialized in most traditions. In Yoruba traditions from West Africa they are an entire sect that is ruled by Oya and the ancestors themselves. They are usually trained from birth.  Traditional indigenous Tibetan sects have very elaborate death rites to assist the soul of the departed in a “conscious” evolutionary process.  These rituals are performed to help the soul make a good choice of incarnation that actually has effect on the larger consciousness construct rather than entering another life of working out right/wrong, black/white and more polarity consciousness.

I have noted before, as with other sacred things, that some have been bastardized by religion and religious organizations for its/their own purposes. So other than in traditional indigenous cultures that elevate and venerate their beloved ancestors, the said religion has plans for you even after you are dead.

So do your own thing and make it good.

Remember, sometimes these promptings come from a well much deeper than your current life. “The changes we effect here go backward and forward on the time track.”
~SL 2014

Ho! Mitakuye Oyasin!