Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Off to AAR

I post this from the Wireworks cafe in Pueblo, partway through our journey to the train station.

I hope that I have everything I need for a successful conference session:
  • two printouts of my paper, plus copies of the photos that go with it, on both CD and flash drive
  • registration materials
  • photos of dead people
Doing a paper on the Day of the Dead at two Southwestern universities, plus attending a Samhain ritual. Too much?

I'll try to post more as the meeting continues.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Gallimaufry with Pumpkins

Since there won't be any on-time Hallows blogging from me this year, here is an early sampler:

¶ Rod Dreher finally sees autumn arrive in northern Texas.

¶ A Halloween column: "Hitchhiking in the Land of the Dead."

¶ A pastor's rant against Halloween, via The Gods Are Bored.

¶ Since I won't be able to take any photos this year, here are some of last year's Day of the Dead altars built by students at Colorado State University-Pueblo. For some reason, the Vlad the Impaler altar has been drawing a lot of Google hits for the past two weeks ...

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Death No Longer Entrances Me

I did not have time to cruise the whole INATS-West show three weeks ago, but I did walk through the big Llewellyn booth, since it was close by my friends' booth.

I scooped up some of the free stuff, including a flier for "a Gothic Book of the Dead."

It's one of life's little ironies that I missed the whole Goth movement by just a few years. I would have been perfect for it.

I had the look: Tall, slim, dark hair, green eyes, and pale skin -- if I stayed out of the Colorado sun, which I did not do. (Being pale in Portland, Oregon, was pretty easy, however.)

I tended to wear vests and silk scarves, and at age 17 had a seamstress friend sew me a cape -- grey with black lining, which fell somewhere between Elvish and Army of Northern Virginia.

In my late teens and early twenties, I liked to take long walks at night, even through cemeteries. (Living near Portland's Mount Scott cemetery complex was a bonus during my junior year at Reed.) I wrote poetry and thought that the Arnold Bocklin type font was the coolest. You get the picture.

Moving (unknown to me) towards Paganism, which I formally adopted the summer that I turned 21, I might have been attracted to suggestions on how to benefit from a book that discussed, "Meditating on gravestone sculptures, creating a necromantic medicine bag, keeping a personal book of the dead, and other exercises will help you explore the vital, transformative forces of death."

Now, though, I am more likely to say, "You go right ahead -- I'll pass."

This is not to say that the Dead cannot be influential sometimes. But I don't get all gushy about walking in cemeteries anymore. Too many people close to me have died in the last five years, and I have developed a nice sideline in estate and family trust management, not that I ever wanted to do it. You want a "personal book of the dead"? How about the file boxes full of documents in the garage, the resting places of the ka-soul?

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Altars at the Student Center

As promised, three of today's altars at the state university erected for the Day of the Dead (Día de los muertos).

An altar to Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, from the history and art clubs. Club members admitted that it was a bit short on Roumanian content. One girl speculated about an impaled head that she had seen somewhere; all agreed that a big spike would have helped.

After all, he was just a hard-working prince holding off the Islamic menace. For more Vlad-ophilia, read The Historian.

An altar to firefighters.

The Catholic student association altar. Off the the left, out of the frame, was a bottled pre-mixed mojito cocktail, which the builders agreed could not be left there overnight. (Apparently La Virgen likes mojitos.) The place is swarming with students after all.

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State-sponsored Paganism

Students are hard at work putting up Pagan altars in the student center. At least that is what it looks like to me, although I am sure that la profesora would differ.

I did not hear about a parade this year, however.

Photos to come.


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.



Saturday, October 29, 2005

Parade of the Dead

File this under "Things We Miss Out On by not Living Closer to Town": Pueblo's Day of the Dead parade. (Registration required: Bug Me Not is your friend.)

The fact that it happened on a Friday, three days early, merely shows how acculturated el día de los muertos is becoming; it's about as truly Mexican anymore around here as St. Patrick's Day is truly Irish. And of course the latter never was such a big deal in Ireland itself until it bounced back from North America.

You will know that the Day of the Dead is truly Americanized when retail merchants advertise special deals: "Open late on Nov. 2! Everything 20 percent off!" And the traditionalists will moan, "It's supposed to be about family! It's religious!"