I have a confession to make. Fet Gede is rapidly becoming one of my favorite holidays. Now, one could assume, if you don’t know me and you haven’t been reading this blog long, that it’s the generalized excitement behind the celebrations. There is food and drink, revelry and possessions, dancing and thrills. The thing is that I enjoy my Fet Gede because they’re full of peace and solitude. I don’t belong to any societies and I’m incredibly solitary, wallflower-like in my general practices. (I’m sure being a part of a group is great, but I’m just not the social creature in real life that this blog makes me out to be.) What I really love and appreciate is my personal freedom as a solitary and what I really enjoy about Fet Gede is that it’s just like my grave-tending only about 1,000 times more concentrated.
Leading up to Fet Gede this year, I decided to do some ancestral dinners. I was going to do the dinners from October 30th through to November 2nd. However, I also started a new job this week. That made it difficult to see through everything I had been plotting out. What I had initially intended was that my dinners, or Dumb Supper, would get progressively more ornate until November 2nd when everything I could think of would be unleashed. As I said somewhere, starting a new job while also trying to hold rituals and festivals is time-consuming and incredibly draining. Since I’m still trying to get the swing of this new job, I decided to tone down my initial ideas for this year’s celebrations. I ended up going with smaller and simpler. And in the end, I feel like things really worked out to my advantage.
On October 31st, prior to taking my four-year-old trick-or-treating, I had a mini-Dumb Supper. I had actually bought a black table cloth for the occasion and initially, I was going to have a kind of buffet style dinner each night across my entire kitchen table. Due to time constraints, money constraints, and the fact that my energy levels were flagging after a long day of taking claims from the survivors of Hurricane Sandy (yeah, it’s just a job but incredibly exhausting, hearing so many awful stories all day long), I decided that my buffet style was a great idea. However, this year, it just wasn’t in the cards for me.I came barreling into the house to hurry up and prepare the meal. I had a lot of things to see done and felt like I didn’t have enough time to do it in. I preferred to be asleep by nine-thirty before I go to work because I want to be as rested as possible to [not] help the people calling in. So, I hastily prepped and created a meal fit for the ancestors. I took pork chops and let them sit in milk before placing them in bread crumbs. Aside from that, I chose easy prep extras for the meal since I didn’t have the time or energy to be more ornate about things. The ancestors received the first scoops and pieces of the meal (a kind of play on “the guests get first dibs” I suppose) before I ate my own plate. I placed the dinner plate on Papa Legba’s altar, although I can’t honestly say why I decided to do that. And it was a bad decision as my bigger and fatter Dachshund managed to snatch the pork chop off the plate… but not until after I got back from trick-or-treating. I assumed it was a sign the ancestors were finished.
The next night, I knew better than to place things on Papa Legba’s altar. However, I also had more planned for it, so it wasn’t like I would have been able to use his small table for it anyway.I finally pulled out the table cloth I had bought specific to the purpose. I smoothed it across my kitchen table before getting dinner going. While TH ended up making the stuffing wrapped within baked chicken breasts with bacon on top, I did the rest of the thing. (So, not as much prep for me this time around. Heh.) I pulled out some of the leftover sweet corn and soaked them in a butter sauce. I spent a good portion of my afternoon, after working, baking larger than usual snickerdoodles, which is why TH ended up making dinner. (Due to oven malfunctions, not all of them came out looking as lovely and delicious as the two shown.) After I had pulled the first scoops and pieces and snickerdoodles for the ancestors, the rest of us ate so that I had enough room to set things up for the ancestors later.
The full complement of offerings were vast and varied. I was pretty much just going off of gut reaction as to what I wanted. I chose a mug of ginger tea, a glass of red wine, some rum, and some tequila for the beverages. The candles were either things I had bought previously and had on hand or items that I had purchased specifically for the ancestors (namely, the large white candle at center). I lit a cone of sandalwood incense this time around instead of frankincense and myrrh – sometimes, you just have to switch things up. I also added the agate pyramid I have, my dish of shells (which has an image of a trilobite on it), as well as the graveyard dirt I had dug up on the anniversary of my father’s death. Feeling like I had made a pretty picture (you tell me) as well as feeling like I had done some good, I left the candles to burn all night. (TH blew them out after I fell asleep, apparently.)
To round off my three days of celebration, I went to one of my local cemeteries to leave offerings and, if Maman and Bawon were pleased, get some dirt in return. I went to the very first cemetery I ever did grave-tending in. It’s one of my favorites, actually, which is probably because it was my first grave-tending gig. There is just something very peaceful and happy about the cemetery that leaves me feeling more content than usual after a grave-tending. While I couldn’t go around and clear up as much as I would have preferred (because of how cold it was and how dark it was), I felt like I left the Gede in that cemetery with some seriously good vibes.
To start off my evening with Fet Gede, I went about getting ritually purified. I don’t usually do this for some of my smaller rites, but when it comes to my larger aspects, then I actually pay attention to the whole shebang. While I was initially going to be wearing a white dress along with a white scarf in my hair, I decided that it was much too cold to pull that off. Honestly, I go back and forth on whether or not I should dress appropriately. However, one of the very few things that I honestly believe is that the gods and spirits aren’t too picky when it comes to clothing and attire. (So, I ended up going in warm pants, a comfy T-shirt, and sneakers.) Now, when it comes to ritual purity, I do this because it makes me feel good. I really can’t comment on the impact it may or may not have for the ancestors themselves or the gods. I should mention here that ritual purity to me is showering, meditating, and shaving off all excess hair on my body that is not on my head. It also requires braiding my hair.
I brought the leftovers from the night before to leave for food to feed them. I also left some water, of course, to feed their souls as well. I managed to buy one of the last fall flower bouquets from one of my local gas stations. I really enjoyed the bouquet, actually, and was almost sad that I was going to break it up. There was a pumpkin in the center of the bouquet that I was planning on keeping, but the Gede snagged it from me instead. I brought along the white, glass-enclosed candle that I had used the night before to be left behind. I also brought my standard grave-tending kit since I wanted to do a Tarot reading at the grave of the Maman and Bawon of the cemetery.
I just pulled out the cards for the reading, but I haven’t actually gotten around to deciphering the reading itself yet. I’m going to post a picture of my reading here, of course, but a more in-depth commentary on the spread will show up some time this week.
Before I went about setting up the offerings for the Gede, I did ask permission to harvest dirt from the Maman and Bawon of the cemetery. I figured if my spade could make it through the dirt without hitting anything, then I was being given a yes answer. The spade went through the grass and topsoil like butter on both graves. Thanking them profusely for the gift they were giving me, I filled up two small jars with my dirt. I honestly don’t know what I’m planning to use them for (anymore than I know what my father’s grave dirt will be for) but I’m pleased that I have them. They were very giving, too; much more than my father was. I was able to fill up both jars to nearly overflowing.
To finish up my evening, I did give my thanks to the Gede, both the big lwa I was standing in front of as well as all the ones in the graveyard. I did end up saying something like, “On this exciting Fet Gede eve feast upon the offerings I leave.” I’ll admit it: I’m a rhyming dork when it comes to these kinds of things. And no, I don’t know why.