There are days where I realize how much I enjoy festivals that have no relation on my gods. Don’t get me wrong; I like celebrating for my gods and on behalf of my gods. I kind of, though I will deny this later, enjoy where things are headed and the deep fulfillment I get when I create a service to the gods and know, deep inside, that I have done them proud. But it’s also that fulfillment that can leave me feeling tired and shaky afterward; I always feel as though I am on display.
Considering my relationship with my akhu and how deeply I’ve connected with them on so many levels, I have to admit that I don’t feel as though I will be judged wrongly for making a mistake or for being so simple with what it is I intend to do. I hate the fact that, quite often, I’m debating on how ornate my celebrations should be for my gods. But when I saw the notification that the Festival of Wag was this past weekend, I knew that I wouldn’t have to pull something both ornate and shiny out of my butt. I could just do what I do best – grave tend – and everything would be okay.
The thing is that grave-tending was something I started because of my relationship with Bawon. Since the lwa have disappeared, I’ve worried a bit about how to proceed with things regarding my ancestors and the veneration I’ve taken under Bawon’s direction. I knew, of course, that things would change when I realized the lwa had disappeared. I just didn’t know what aspects of that service to Bawon that I would be able or need to continue.
I’ve mentioned before that Anup has been less than pleased with me because my relationship with my akhu began not at his behest but at someone else’s. And in so making his displeasure known, he’s made it incredibly difficult for me to come to terms with what parts of the services I rendered are okay to keep and what parts are not.
But I have to admit: I really enjoy grave-tending. Graveyards are quiet and relaxing to me. I am, again, not on display and all that matters is who or what I am doing in that moment, who I speak with, what I leave, and whether or not I can leave that graveyard knowing that I have done a job well. Besides, I haven’t visited my family’s graves in months and months. I haven’t been maintaining the grave-tending since the lwa left after Lent this year and the idea of going to graves with so few spoons in the last few months has been, well, it hasn’t been a good idea.
I figured if I could pass off the on-call cell phone (because, you know, of course I was on-call this week), then I would go grave-tending.
…I passed off the on-call cell phone Friday night and knew that I had to go tending.
Since the Feast of Wag is a two-day festival, I had enough time to get the things done that I wanted to get done without feeling pressed for time. I have a lot of family members who are buried locally and while I had hoped that I would be able to hit some of the graveyards that have been left untended and forgotten, I knew that my direct ancestors were the main focus here. So, with my son in tow, I went to three cemeteries and was able to connect with the most recently deceased.
We went to the veteran’s cemetery first since there are three people there: my maternal grandmother and my significant other’s two grandfathers. I took pictures of my son with the headstones and beside the wall plaque for his father’s paternal grandfather. I also made sure to let them know that I would be having a little celebration the next night and they were all welcome to join, if they so desired. I couldn’t tell you if they took my invitation to heart; I was off and running to the next cemetery before I had really managed to process my invite.
I’ve mentioned before that I find it harder to connect with the more recently deceased. This is still an issue for me and I still heartily believe it’s a matter of religious disconnect. Whatever the case may be, I had no hope that my grandmother would show up, but I somehow thought that my significant other’s maternal grandfather may show up; he kind of enjoyed parties.
The next cemetery had four graves to visit. I found my [step] grandparents on my father’s side; my [step] great-grandparents, my great uncle and his wife, as well as my [step] great-great grandparents. They all seemed a little overgrown, though, so my son and I spent time playing in the dirt, clearing back as much of the overgrown grass as we could. I also stopped at some maternal relatives’ gravesides who I happened upon accidentally (I know they’re related to me since the last name is rare and I recalled their names on my mother’s genealogical project). Everyone was given an invitation to the feast I was thinking up on their behalf.
I find it easier to connect with this side of the family even though my father has made it clear he is displeased with all of this “hullabaloo.” I think part of the reason why I felt a better reception at my invitation for these relatives is because, outside of myself and one aunt, no one really pays them any heed. It was by accident that I found my great-uncle and his wife and by accident that I found my long-dead great-great grandparents. (Interesting side note: I discovered that my great-grandfather and my great-uncle died the same year, which is really very intriguing especially since no one knew or seems to know anything about either of them.)
The last grave I visited was my father’s. My son and I spent some time there and we cleared back the grass since it was beginning to overtake his grave again. Honestly, if I don’t go to my father’s grave on a regular basis, just like with his family members in the Catholic cemetery, it starts to seriously get out of hand. I find this hilarious since my mom swears up and down that it was years before any grass would willingly grow on his grave. Again, I extended the invitation; received absolutely no positive or negative feelings regarding it; and took my son home.
The first day was pretty damn relaxing, in all honesty. I didn’t feel pushed and prodded to get it done. I didn’t feel like I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t feel like I was going to fuck anything up. I was doing something that I did regularly though so maybe that’s why. Whatever the case may be, I felt like I was really living a dead religion.
The next day, I decided that I had absolutely no need to go over the top with foods. I have a very limited income, anyway, and while I had wanted to make something special for them – I was thinking about the French meat pie recipe – I knew that, financially, I couldn’t. Besides, French meat pie is all well and good but because I don’t make my own pie dough, I would have had to buy that as well as buying ground lamb, which can be pretty pricey in and of itself. So, I decided to just do something really easy and simple.I gave to them a large bunch of grapes, bread, and cool water. I created a small space on my blue cabinet, which I decorated with the lamp and a small statue of Anup. I added two more candles and lit incense for everyone. They probably didn’t show and it probably wasn’t enough by the standards they were used to when they were alive…
…but I often have to remind myself that it is the intent behind what I am doing, not what it is that I am doing.
Hopefully, they felt my intent to honor them and their memories.