The Autumn Hunger

October 29, 2010 By: Chiron Armand Category: Living with Intention, Mind Body Spirit

I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween. Mid-to-late autumn was a peculiar time for my family. As the wind chill factor rose, so did concerns about this “holiday” that seemed to glorify the ghastly and the diabolical. I also didn’t go to the type of church that offered a sugary alternative to its evangelical tots. I got a healthy dose of isolation instead. My family still doesn’t celebrate. Neither do I.

I’d always loved the concept of genealogy as a kid. I was fascinated that my skin color was merely a minor reflection of all the bloodlines that converged upon my life. At a family reunion, upon meeting a Caucasian relative of mine, I was stunned. German-Jewish lineage was added to my already bursting-at-the-seams sense of heritage. West African, Cherokee, Winnebago, British – the list goes on; identifiers that identified me as more than just a color. I was proud of all of it.

It was right before college that I learned the true story behind Samhain, the precursor to modern-day Halloween – Celts trick-or-treating door-to-door to pray for your dead while wearing costumes and burning fires to ward off evil spirits. It was Pagan, yes, but so was I at this point. Though I could embrace the crisp dark with open Witchy arms, Elvira and her clan still held no intrigue over me. It seemed to there was something more to this time than just black cats and magick. Something whispered on the wind: Remember.

Lots of cultures hold space for reverence of ancestors, and with good reason. They are, quite simply, the reason we’re here. Their migration patterns, dietary habits, the customs they chose to keep and leave behind shaped who we are today. Yes their mistakes may have foiled or postponed a plan or two of ours, but that great talent that you have was probably first cultivated by a great-great aunt. Those eyes that speak your sincerity without your having to utter a word? Those can be traced back, too. Like a city built upon the cities before it, our lives have been built on our ancestors’ backs. It is through their toil and lived experience that we have what we have today. And many believe that they continue to watch out and provide for us more eagerly than other entities – they remember what incarnation is like.

The pain and attachments from life don’t disappear at death, however. Healing the wounds in your lineage – the grudges, the less-than-positive traits, etc. – can ripple the healing down to you and your descendants, clearing the path for you to embed more blessings like jewels along your bloodline.

As my heart turns towards my own ancestry this season, I find much of it fraught with trauma and bondage. The path I walk honors the ancestors of men-who-love-men as well, and the recent barrage of highly publicized suicides are just a reminder of the work I’m meant to carry out for all of the tribes that I belong to. In the face of atrocities both ancient and recent, I’m forced to ask myself: What part of my own sense of self is struggling with this trauma? What systems are keeping me bound and tied? Which perceptions are?

I take my questions to them. They have a keener eye than I and been around the block once or twice. I re-commit myself to a search for inner peace and good health practices as well as the social justice initiatives I’ve taken to with the goal of ending oppression in all its forms.

Cornbread and grits with a pat of butter. Great-grandma’s biscuit recipe and those violet candies her purse always smelled like. Whiskey and rum (they call them spirits for a reason). I maintain and pray at my photo-strewn boveda (ancestor altar) all throughout the year, but like any holiday, this time of preparation is special. As we head into the deeper dark, the veil between the worlds might very well be much thinner than usual. Cultures react the way they do for good reason. I cook and clean and welcome them with a big cup of strong coffee, reminding them that there’s always room for them at my table. They have more wisdom to share and stories to tell. Healing is indeed a two-way street.

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