Thursday, November 02, 2006

Creeping syncretic Southwestern Paganism

Day of the Dead altar of the English ClubThe instructions from the Student Activities Board were explicit:

On the top level of the altar, four candles need to be placed--signifying the four cardinal points. The light of the candle will illuminate the way for the dead upon their return. . . .

All bad spirits must be whisked away and leave a clear path for the dead soul by burning in a bracero, a small burner used to cook outside. Or you can use a sahumerio to burn copal or incense. A small cross of ash is made so that the ghost will expel all its guilt when it is stepped on.

Yes, it was time for the annual campus-wide Day of the Dead altar-building competition. Illustrated: the altar of the English Club, with Victorian writers.

I stopped by the Student Center lounge where the Spanish Department professor who mastermind the competition (and who always features Frida Kahlo) was putting up some final trimmings.

"Looks like taxpayer-supported Paganism to me," I said with a wink.

"Oh no-o," replied la profesora, "it's culture."

"That's what they always say," I responded.

She is right--but art and culture can often trump dogma. Where are the campus Christian conservatives in this one? I think that they are scared of the Multiculturalism Monster.




Blogger Interfaith Today said...

*laugh* That is an excellent altar. We had a bit of creeping syncretism ourselves with papel picado flags hanging over the Ancestor altar at the NROOGD Samhain. Thanks for sharing this. Rowan

11:29 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

It cracks me up, Rowan. There is all this specific religio-magickal language (I quoted only part), but no complains about church/state violations because "it's culture."

9:50 PM  

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