Happy Day of the Dead
Happy All Saints Day — Happy Samhain
Is there a connection between Dia de los Muertos, All Saints Day, Samhain and the Grateful Dead?
Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos, began in central and southern Mexico thousands of years ago.
Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st. It’s a celebration of dead relatives; a way to respect them and keep their memories alive. It’s believed that at midnight on October 31, the souls of deceased relatives come down from heaven and reunite with their families.
While that may or may not be a comforting thought to you, I believe that our relatives live on through us. Their life is certainly passed on to us through our genes. These days it may also live on through our memories, pictures and perhaps even words or video.
I don’t know about you but, I’m fascinated by the prospect of contacting my dead relatives and think it would be amazing to actually communicate with them from the “beyond.”
All Saints Day can be traced to the 8th century when Pope Gregory III reigned (731–741). He built an altar in a special chapel in Rome dedicated to the memory of all the Saints on November 1.
Subsequently, Pope Gregory IV and Emperor Louis the Pious extended the November 1 feast of All Saints to the Holy Roman Empire in the 9th century. From there, it spread throughout Europe.
The celebration of All Saints Day comes from a belief that there is a spiritual connection between those in Heaven and on Earth. In Catholic tradition, the holiday honors all those who have passed on to the Kingdom of Heaven, especially the greatest of those who are saints. It’s about giving God gratitude for the lives and deaths of his saints, and remembering them.
In this modern world, it’s difficult for me to imagine a personal connection with saints, angels or God. I’ve experienced the presence of Jesus a couple of fleeting times and even a healing I attribute to Mary, mother of Jesus.
The possibility of me aspiring to sainthood though, seems like a monumental undertaking. And, really, who wants to be that good All The Time?
Samhain can also be traced back to the 9th century to Celtic pagans.
Samhain is now considered a Wiccan holiday and is one of their eight major holidays, or Sabbats. It’s observed from sunset on October 31st to sunset on November 1st and is also the celebration that’s given credit as the origin of Halloween.
Traditionally, Samhain marked the Celtic New Year, the end of summer, and the end of the harvest season. It also was the beginning of the winter season, which was associated with death. On this day, the Celts believed, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was especially thin thereby allowing the spirits of the dead to visit the living.
It seems like all three of these traditions associated this day with darkness and our opportunity to be connected more closely to the still-living spirits of human beings who have left this world for another realm.
The Grateful Dead was formed in 1965 as the Warlocks but, in December of that year they discovered there was another band with that name. As the band was discussing a new name, Jerry Garcia grabbed a dictionary, opened it up and the phrase “Grateful Dead” jumped out at him. Jerry said, “How about Grateful Dead?” and it stuck. Later it was discovered that the phrase was part of a prayer from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
"We now return our souls to the creator,
as we stand on the edge of eternal darkness.
Let our chant fill the void
in order that others may know.
In the land of the night
the ship of the sun
is drawn by the grateful dead."
~Egyptian Book of the Dead
I love that phrase, “the ship of the sun is drawn by the grateful dead.” I feel like it hints at the connection we the living have with the souls of the dead.
Interestingly, today is the 50th anniversary of the release of the Grateful Dead’s seminal album, American Beauty. That album was my introduction to the Grateful Dead and is still my all time favorite Dead album. I know almost every word of every song on that album… Sugar Magnolia, Box of Rain, Friend of the Devil, Truckin’….
That album is still in my collection of 200 or so vinyl disks. My house was broken into around 1999 and my stereo system along with my turntable was stolen. I never got a new one but had American Beauty and others on cassette. Although I was a big fan of The Dead, I only ever attended one Grateful Dead concert. It was July of 1984 in Detroit.
The Grateful Dead’s music and concerts had almost a cult following and their concerts were like religious events for a lot of people. Deadheads went to “hear the message” but, the message was just the music.
I always felt like The Grateful Dead were anti-message. The only Truth is whatever you’re experiencing in this moment. That’s all there is.
What if we’re all saints?
What if the term “All Saints” is an allusion to that truth? What if, because we’re created in the perfection of God, we were all born saints but lost sight of our innate sainthood? That’s the thought I had today as I was contemplating All Saints Day in the era of Covid-19.
I was thinking about the innocence and beauty that radiates from small children and then comparing that to what I’ve felt like lately in the era of Covid. Are we born saintly, born saints, only to be programed by society to be something else?
The Veil Between the Worlds
I’ve never been one to look back in my life. I’m always looking forward. I want to know “What comes next?”
We exist here on earth in both spirit and material form. Saints and our dead ancestors exist purely as spirit. I have no clue what value I could get from spirits of the dead be they saints or my ancestors assuming I could communicate with them.
I recently decided to assume miracles happen all the time and we miss them simply because we’re not looking for them. It’s like the American Indians who couldn’t see the ships anchored off their coast because they had no reference of ever seeing them before. Believe me, I see miracles almost every day.
So too will I now assume that we’re all saints in disguise searching to find our way home. It certainly can’t hurt to make that assumption. Don’t be surprised if I treat you like a saint.
Once in a While You Get Shown the Light in the Strangest of Places if You Look at it Right
I like a good celebration as much as the next guy and probably more than most. I celebrate even the most mundane things. Today it’s been wind, light snow, falling leaves and pondering the mystery of life.
I celebrate things I experience in the material world and that gives me a spiritual experience.
For all I know, I’m dead right now; a spirit dreaming this life…
For now, I’m going to find the Grateful Dead American Beauty album on YouTube, listen to the whole thing through and make some chocolate zucchini bread.
The happiest people don’t have the best of everything they simply make the best of everything.
Just Keep Truckin’ On my friend…
~ The Happy Wayfarer