Fet Guédé 2013 (SVP).

Note: though I took pictures to share, Bawon has indicated I am not allowed to do so.

On Thursday, I watched the Wild Hunt roll through the neighborhood, on its way to wherever they go when it’s their time to be on the prowl. A novel and strange experience, but not wholly unexpected. As everyone else I’ve ever spoken with during this time of year has mentioned, the veil is thin. It’s this time of year when we can better feel the dead around us as well as interact more readily, I feel, with certain spirits. So, it wasn’t all that surprising as the fog began its lazy stroll across the road, impacting our visuals of the world around us that I began to notice the telltale signs of the Wild Hunt as well. I glanced at them surreptitiously so as not to draw attention to myself and continued with my evening.

There is something about the statement, the veil is thin, which speaks to some people on a very fundamental level. I think that there are some places in the United States where it’s almost standard for those of us more aware of other to feel this veil and to feel its thinning. I don’t remember feeling this way in Texas, though I lived on the coast and it was quite common for the fog to roll in. However, I never had a moment where I watched the fog rolling in on those early mornings, way up in the fifth story of the building I worked in, and thought to myself, ah, the veil is thin now. While I’ve only lived in two separate areas of the country, and so can’t possibly comment completely regarding different areas and the feels within, I can say with assurance that the veil and its thinness is something innate to the northeast, at least, and it’s something I’ve come to expect around this time of year.

Leading up to that thin veil, all manner of things can and do happen. I saw a 7-foot owl sitting on the side of the road last week. A little while later, I saw a black dog with pure white eyes slink out from between the cattails that line one of the more rural roads I drive down daily. He watched me drive by and then loped off into the fog that was gathering. I saw a forest spirit, similar to the spirit shown in Princess Mononoke, poke its head out of the trees lining the back lot of the parking lot at work and wink at me before walking away. I’m not shocked or surprised by any of these events, and if they happened to anyone else living in this area and feeling as an intense a connection to the other as I have, I don’t think they would be surprised either. When I mentioned, in passing, any one of these events to any of my pagan/polytheist/other aware friends, they would all just kind of nod and say, “Yep. The veil is thin.”

As that veil thins steadily, I find it far more easily to communicate with the lwa. They love this time of year, if my conversations with both Papa Legba and Bawon Samedi are any indicator on what the other lwa are thinking and feeling about this. They have both indicated that they don’t have to… try as hard to get my attention around now. While I’m more in tune with Papa Legba anyway for various reasons, Bawon has said to me, “It’s so easy now. I don’t got to wait.” What he meant, of course, was that he didn’t have to wait until I was listening carefully to him or until I was dreaming to get my attention. And I don’t have to consciously focus on him in order to make that feeling that is specifically Bawon to come to me. I can see him running around – not literally, he says running is “uncouth” – with his cylinder hat and his purple-and-black pin-striped tie, his golden skull tipped walking stick by his side.

Bawon was very much with me for most of the day on Saturday. Sometimes, it can be kind of disconcerting to feel a man in a severely cut undertaker suit sitting nearby and just offering you the glimmer of a smile when you realize he is watching. It’s even more disconcerting when that glimmer turns into a full-fledged shit-eating grin. The reason, of course, is because the promise in that grin is something you aren’t entirely aware of. What is it about this man and his smile that makes both my heart skip a few beats and pound faster? It doesn’t matter. The promise in that smile was of everything I was hoping for and things I couldn’t even name. And that was what was so disconcerting about it. I knew he was telling me secrets with those magnetic, fiery eyes and that grin, but what were the secrets? It wasn’t just the hopes and dreams I have for celebrations with him, but also all the unspoken words I have when I think of him.

Disconcerting seems like such an innocuous word for a being like him. But it fits.

While waiting around for the night to flow and the fog to roll back in, I ran some errands. I had to get peppers. For the last two years, I’ve been wanting to make a 21-pepper rum. Unfortunately, my money stores are not infinite – not like the Bawon’s eyes – and I was unable to get a full twenty-one. Besides, the decanter I was planning on putting these things in to make that rum didn’t have a very large opening, so I had to carefully size the peppers as I chose them. I was able to get seven that I felt would fit in the glass skull I had chosen. I added two more to the count so that I could leave them in offering later that night. Bawon was very much there as I chose the flowers I wanted to place at the graves of Bawon and Maman and very much there as I was choosing those peppers, but he was curiously absent when I chose the rum.

I guess the brand didn’t matter as much as the size of those peppers…?

Later, I spent a good deal of time on the phone discussing the metaphysical nature and desires of human souls. This was unexpected, but wholly appropriate for the night in question. I got a kick out of it, after I waxed philosophic to a sixteen-year-old for nearly an hour. While it’s incredibly draining to have to tap into a knowledge base that you’re not entirely sure how you managed to tap into in the first place, but it was thoroughly entertaining. Well, perhaps not to me, but definitely to a certain man in a cylinder hat and with a purple-and-black pin-stripe tie. Afterward, I felt like I had been drinking pea soup laced with rum for about two hours and had the headache and cotton mouth to prove it.

I poke fun at my mother-in-law, who voiced a deep fear of being in cemeteries at night. That was a little strange and oddly unexpected, as well. I frankly don’t understand why people are worried about entering cemeteries especially at night. I suppose this is a genetic fear in some, a sort of residual horror relating to either a childhood trauma or the belief in hairy spirits, ready to rip your throat out. All in all, it exasperates me at the least and irritates me at the worst. I told her I would bid hello to all the spirits partying on her behalf and I think she was both interested in what I was planning on doing as well as fearful on my behalf. I still don’t quite understand this fear or this interest. It is what it is, to me. It’s just something I do and something I do well. Also, aside from possibly being arrested by police, I’m probably safer in a cemetery, even at night, than I would be at work in the middle of the day, surrounded by well-intentioned guardians.

Per usual, I drove right by the cemetery. This is actually becoming a part of the ritual for Fet Guédé, so I really shouldn’t say “per usual.” What normally ends up happening is that I’m looking so hard, in the dark, for my turn off (that I take regularly since I tend this graveyard multiple times a year) that I miss that turn off. So, I ended up taking a large loop around and watched the fog roll across the road as I drove by. There’s something very calming about this drive, honestly, and something even more so when I can watch the fog crawl across the road. I don’t know why I enjoy mist and fog as much as I do – but I really fucking do. There’s something alive and magnetic about it when it’s strolling casually across the landscape, seeking with its white-gray fingers to enter every nook and cranny of that landscape. It’s both beautiful and haunting to me, but all in all, very calming and meditative.

I ended up at the cemetery later than I normally go.

I packed up my parcels and set off to spend time with Maman and Bawon. The cemetery was quiet. Many of the Guédé had spent their day, enjoying what time they could and doing what they needed to. Sometimes, they tell me what they do for the day. And sometimes, they just let me spend quality time with Bawon and Maman. Bawon dominated the area with his presence, looking and feeling larger than life, so to speak. Maman was a shadow in the background, watching over her children as she is often wont to do. She gave me a wink in greeting and a smile in response to my nod in her direction. We don’t get on much as my services are mostly dedicated to her husband, but she lets me complain to her when I think I’m feeling overwhelmed or if I feel like justice isn’t being done. She’s good like that and she says I’m good for her husband… whatever that may mean.

Upon arriving, I bowed to the two gravestones that are Maman’s and Bawon’s before sitting myself down. I felt, deep down, an ululating cry beginning to form in my throat, but I had to bite it down. In my mind, I allowed it free reign to caress the graves around me, to bounce off Maman’s tree and shatter across the night. But this cemetery has neighbors and is quite visible from the road – letting out yells didn’t seem like a good idea to a white woman, wearing white from head-to-toe and trying to best to remain as inscrutable as possible. I chattered at the tombstones and made pepper rum. I giggled as the rum already in the bottle shot all over my hand with each additional pepper and giggled as the scent of rum dissipated faster than it should have. I had nothing to wipe my hands off save my white dress – and I decided against using it as an impromptu napkin, thank you very much – and wondered if Bawon was licking it from my fingertips. Whatever the reason, the rum disappeared and the peppers found a new home.

I felt another cry deep in my breast and bit it back while I pulled out the Tarot of the Dead. Each year, I try to do a reading for myself and attempt to puzzle it out later. I haven’t puzzled out the two readings I did for myself yet, but that’s mostly because the Devil card showed up in both and I’m none too happy with that. I’ve decided to leave off on that until much later. Or maybe, never at all. All that matters is that I did the reading and found everything about it very unsatisfying and very sad. It made me feel like I’ve been living in bondage for so long and I keep getting to the point where I’m almost there and then I get sucked back into that bondage. Nothing I can do about all of that, really, except ignore the readings I did and move on with my tale.

Afterwards, I decorated the two gravestones with pretty autumn-esque flowers that I had brought with me. Maman was given the brown, yellow, and red ones. They made a happy little daisy chain across the heavily slanted stone that is hers. Bawon’s gravestone has little scrolled sides and I placed his flowers on either side of those scrolls. He received purple and red. He laughed at the choices I made. I kept a single purple flower for myself, which I placed in my hair. He said it made me more beautiful than I already am. I told him he was a liar, but left the flower there.

When I felt that my time was through – I was getting bone tired from being up so late and from that talk about souls earlier – I stood up. Bawon asked for one last dance before I left. And we slow danced to the patter of my heart.

The Fet Guédé that I celebrate is by and large definitely not canonical in any sense of the word. No possessions to speak of and definitely not enough food left behind. However, it works for me. He says it works for him, too, and there are days where I feel like it’s not quite a lie he tells me. Other days, of course, I doubt everything I feel and think and say with him. But, on that evening and even now as I recount it for whomever may be reading, I realize that those words are true. When I think on those true words, I think that he is only saying them as a suitor will say anything to the woman he courts. There is no denying that Bawon has a silvery tongue and beauty can be spewed from it right along with the nasty. But today, right here and right now, his words ring true in my heart. And I know that my intent, my devotion, is enough for him.

Besides, his wife says I’m good for him.

Akhu Veneration 101.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that there aren’t a lot of 101 or guides out there for people looking to venerate some akhu. It’s difficult to try to emulate the rich worship going on in ancient Egypt in modern times – no tombs, no pyramids, no seventy days of mourning, no natron and bitumen, no walls carved and artfully decorated in a tomb, etc. But, when it comes down to brass tacks, really, the worship part is what we need to focus on. I think people at large and some Kemetics in part get caught up in the pretty pictures in all of the books. I’ve been guilty of it, but I’ve decided that just because I am recon-slanted doesn’t necessarily mean I have to lament the things I don’t have that are like ancient Egypt and celebrate the things I do have that are unlike ancient Egypt.

What is akhu veneration?
Specifically, akhu is the special word that Kemetics use to denote their ancestors, which actually translates as “shining ones.” It can also be translated to mean “spirit,” “ghost,” or “transfiguration.” (The last because when an akh is created, then it has been transfigured – passed the weighing of its heart and allowed, in ancient Egyptian belief, the ka and ba to merge to form the akh.) Each Kemetic is more or less specific about what akhu means, but when we are getting together and the word pops up, each of us speaking of our genetic heritage, the ancestors who created us to bring us into being today.

Now, when we venerate our akhu, it can either be intimated that we worship them as one does with the gods or that we revere them. Specifically, “venerate” is defined as to revere while “worship” is defined as reverent honor or homage paid. In a very technical sense, we could go so far as to say that I’m using a pretty fancy word here, veneration, when I could just as easily use worship. However, worship is a dirty word in post polytheist circles, so I tend to refrain from using it on a regular basis. It may, in fact, be what I do with the gods, but I cannot say that I worship my akhu.

My staples for feeding them are a mix of Kemetic staples and some things I’ve picked up in my research from Vodou. Obviously, you don’t need to follow my list exactly, but it’s a good start for anyone freaking the hell out. From the Kemetic side of things, I will leave flowers, bread, water, whole fruits, incense, booze, and candle light. The candles are usually the small tea lights and I will usually light it early on so I can make sure that grass fires don’t happen, but occasionally, I will leave one of those glass enclosed seven-day candles. From the Vodou side of things, I will leave roasted corn in the form of corn nuts – the spicier the better – and tobacco.

Who would be chosen as one’s akhu to venerate?
This is one of those questions that can be problematic and/or inherently personal.

Personally, when it comes to taking care of my Blessed Dead, I associate them with people who are my genetic ancestors, people who have absolutely no bearing on my genetic heritage but are still part of my family in some way, and people who I have never met, but who forged the area where I live into the metropolitan urbane area it is today. While I’m a rarity in choosing to include the graves I tend regularly as a part of my akhu, I’m not so rare in choosing to include those who are part of my genetic heritage and those who married into my family (and did not add to my genetic heritage). To me, all akhu are my akhu in a way – I do not pick and choose people from my family and if I were to research the histories of the people whose graves I tend, I would not pick and choose them, either.

You see, quite often in Kemetic circles, there will be specific people who are part of a person’s akhu who are left out. The reasoning behind why various Kemetics will leave people out is personal. They either will or will not share their reasoning, but I can tell you that the people who they leave out tend to be “assholes.” That’s a rather broad term for some souls who should have been killed off in the Duat with the horrors they inflicted upon their families, but it’s the best. Those people could be muuet (demonic beings) or their souls could have been dispersed. In either case, it is in the living person’s best interest to not interact with them at all.

I completely agree with this. In fact, I heartily support anyone who says that they cannot or will not add X to their akhu because of Y. As I said, these decisions are very personal for each practitioner. Who chooses whom is not an easy question and it really comes up to making the decision after – pardon the pun – a lot of soul-searching. But, all in all, when it comes to determining who you are or are not going to add to the list, you really need to think about it on your own. You need to decide if these are the ones you want to interact with and if not, you should know why so that you can tell that spirit – if they are an akhu and not a muuet – why you’ve made that decision.

Can pets be considered akhu?
I absolutely and one hundred percent believe that my pets are part of my akhu. Pets are a delicate thing for a lot of people, at least in America. There are people who view them as part of the family – as I do – and people who view them as “furniture” or “decorative pieces.” Since my pets have always been a part of my family, a four-footed sister or brother, daughter or son, they are absolutely honored when I venerate my akhu. To each their own, and all of that, but they’re part of my practice. While I don’t leave offerings for them as often as I do my human akhu, they’re included when I do rituals for my akhu.

How do you venerate the akhu?
Each person’s practice is going to be different when it comes to the how. We are no longer limited, in this country, by a heritage universally shared or similar. In ancient Egypt, this was never up for debate because they were all the same: if you were rich, you’d get a place to go to when you died and if you were poor, you may be able to work some fields on behalf of those rich people after you died. How the layman, or the poor man, was honored by their family has not come down to us [like everything else], but how it was done for the upper crust is not something we can emulate. We don’t have pyramids or tomb niches cut out of rock to visit. We can go to graves, but the grandeur of the Valley of the Kings is a far cry from the gravestones we may visit.

So, how? How do you go about this if you’re recon-slanted and trying to rebuild a modern practice?

You do whatever the hell feels accurate to you.

For example, I know a Kemetic, Zenith, who has Philippine ancestry and in honoring them, she tries to emulate veneration of the akhu from a Philippine perspective. When I work with my genetic ancestors, as they are all French and English, I tend to pull items from both sides to coalesce them into a single, cohesive, veneratin’-full unit. Some people who venerate their akhu do not take the racial or genetic history into account and just go to town. But others, such as myself and the Kemetic I mentioned above, will look to the heritage for answers to questions as well as suggestions on how to go about honoring our akhu.

While utilizing the heritage that your akhu stems from is a very simple matter, what it comes down to is a simple what feels right. If you feel it’s right to honor them based on where they come from in the world, then do so. If you’re a full-fledged American who doesn’t really see themselves as anything other than American, then go your own way. In either case, the how isn’t as important as the doing.

What do you offer the akhu?
In all actuality, when it comes to the leaving of offerings, it is highly dependent on where I am and what I am doing. What I offer when I am tending graves is similar to what I may offer when doing ritual to my akhu at home, but it’s not specifically the same. When I’m tending graves of either my genetic ancestors or the graves of my beautiful cemeteries, my first and only real purpose (especially if it is a cemetery where I have not built a connection yet) is to feed their souls. One hundred and thirty percent, my main goal besides cleaning, taking pictures, and telling them all who I am and what my purpose is* then my next goal is to make sure they are fed enough to be active when I come back for a visit.

* If you are entering a cemetery with the intention of grave tending and you have never, ever, ever, ever been there before, you have no connection with that place or those people. You need to announce what you are doing or else. The last time I failed to do that, my camera went to the big Scrap Pile in the sky. So, you absolutely announce to everyone – first thing – who you are, why you are there, and how you are not going to harm anything because you’re only goal is to please them.

Now, as far as leaving offerings, I have quite a few standard staples that I leave. Most of my staples stem from my Kemetic practice, but I have one or two that I leave from the snippets I’ve learned with my vodou practice. From the Kemetic perspective, I will leave flowers, whole fruit, incense, bread, water, booze, and candle light. The candles I usually leave as an offering are tea lights and white, for purity. I will usually try to light my candle earlier in my grave-tending, well before I am ready to feed their souls fully, so that I can be sure I do not cause a grass fire. Occasionally, I will leave the glass-enclosed seven-day candles but rarely. From my vodou practices, I will leave the spiciest damn corn nuts you ever did find – as a replacement for roasted corn, which appears to be a well-loved treat of the Guédé – and some tobacco. The Bawon and many Guédé prefer cigars, but I’m not so perfect and pay attention to the ecosystem, so I’ll leave a few tobacco leaves if I have any.

Where do you venerate them?
Quite often, people will build a shrine or altar space to their akhu, which is where most of the offerings, prayers, and communication happens. It’s easiest, really, to build a general place in your house so that you aren’t forced to use gas and go to graves to venerate. It’s all right there and you don’t have to go anywhere to get what you want done. This is easiest, not just because of the economy, but also because not a lot of people will live in the same area as their akhu. Pagan Pickle has told me that he lives to far away to visit graves on a regular basis and in the case of Zenith, her family members are in the Philippines, which isn’t exactly a hop, skip, or jump away from her in the United States.

All in all, an altar in your home is the easiest and fastest way to get started.

I’m lucky, however. I can go to the graves of my akhu with very little gas money wasted in the process. Literally, my father’s grave is right down the street. My paternal grandparents and paternal step-great grandparents are in the city next door. The myriad of family members on my mother’s side all tend to reside in the largest Catholic cemetery in my city. My maternal grandmother is in the local veteran’s cemetery (which is about a half hour from me) waiting for my grandfather to join her. Not everyone is as lucky as me, though. I can jump in the car on a Saturday (my chosen day for akhu work) and visit any one of them. And if I’m really inclined, I can drive the few hours to New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts, or New Jersey to finish the larger array of ancestors I have.

However, I don’t just go to the cemeteries where my family members have been left. I also go to all of the older cemeteries in my area and tend those graves. I do this because, as I’ve said, my akhu is a bit more complicated than most in that I also honor the pioneers who cut out our swath of the country. While the things they did to the locals are horrific and unbearable in the eyes of [many] modern Americans, they are still to be honored for the sacrifices they made in creating this country, either for fighting for its independence or merely for creating a township that is still extant today. So, again, I go to the cemeteries and that’s how I get my veneration on.

What would you put on an altar for the akhu?
Altars to the akhu vary from person to person. You can go on to Fuck Yeah Altars on Tumblr and usually see an akhu shrine if you scroll back far enough. I’m uncertain but Shrine Beautiful may also have some akhu shrines thrown in there. All in all, if you look at someone else’s altar porn, then you may be able to get a few thoughts on what to add. If not, here are my recommendations.

If and when I do the altar thing for my akhu, the entire thing will be a shrine of pictures. Be careful that the picture only shows the person who you are honoring and no one living. (I can’t really remember the reason behind why we don’t add living people to our altar except that it’s “bad juju.”) If you don’t have access to pictures without other people in them – as I have found with my father – then get an item that reminds you of that person and place it on the altar as them. For my father, I would place a white-and-black plaid shirt as this was the type of shirt I associated with him. For my grandmother, I would use a replica kitchen table because she “ruled the world from the kitchen table.” (No, seriously.) Aside from that, an offering plate or bowl, a cup for libations, and some candle light should top it off.

When should you venerate the akhu?
As based on the Kemetic lunar calendar, there appears to have been miniature festivals for the akhu once a month. I haven’t integrated the lunar calendar into my Kemetic calendar, as yet, but it may happen in future. Aside from that, there are a few minor festivals of the akhu throughout the solar calendar that can also be celebrated. As my studies in regards to the Kemetic calendar have been put on hold while I get other projects done, I cannot say conclusively if there were larger festivals held in ancient Egypt that were for the akhu. I believe the Wag Festival is associated with the ancestors, but it later became conflated with a festival of Djehuti. The information I have pulled has been mostly based off of the Djehuti association.

I also celebrate Fet Guédé, which is on the second of November every year. My celebrations for this are for my ancestors, obviously, but I mostly go out to a cemetery and do a very private celebration. Not as fun-filled as the Bawon would like, but what to do when you are a solitary Vodouisant? From what I’ve read and from what I’ve seen in videos, this is a very large celebration for Haitians and my, herm, rather sedate celebration is not up to par.

Aside from those minor festivals and Fet Guédé, I actually celebrate my akhu fairly regularly. I go to the cemetery every Saturday when the weather is not snow or oppressive heat to spend time with either my genetic ancestors or the graves that I tend. They are always on my lips, always in my heart, and I spend a good deal of time each week talking to them and honoring them as I see fit. Not everyone can be as obsessive, I suppose, as I can be when it comes to my akhu, so I recommend looking to your calendar and integrating some festivals of the akhu to get into the swing of things.

Why do you venerate the akhu?
I’ve thought about this answer a lot since I began having thoughts that I needed to write this entry. I’ve discussed why we have the relationships we do with our gods, but I’ve never really thought about why we would venerate our akhu. From an outsider’s perspective, it may appear that we spend as much time thinking and discussing and celebrating our akhu because, well, that’s what the ancients did. And since a lot of us are recon-slanted or full-blown reconstructionists, then by golly, we’re going to recon the whole damn thing, ancestor veneration included. And in some circles, this may actually be the case. It may just be that someone has decided that the ancient Egyptians did it, so you know, it should be a part of their practice, whether they feel strongly about it or not.

In my practice, it really wasn’t a huge aspect for the longest time. I would go and visit and I’d think about things I wanted to do for my akhu, but my plans always fell apart or they fell short of the goal I had intended. It wasn’t until I began working with the Bawon and Papa that I began to realize that it wasn’t just about me and what I wanted, but it was about my akhu and what the fuck they wanted. And as silly and ridiculous and trite as it may sound, they just really don’t want to be forgotten. They want someone to tell others stories about them. They want someone to tell others about who they were. They want someone to tell others about what they liked. They want someone to just fucking make them live, however briefly, in stories, anecdotes, and in those people’s thoughts.

And that’s what it comes down to; that’s the why.

Fet Guede Tarot Reading.

What have we here?

A quick note about the Tarot of the Dead. They use different words for the usual Tarot suits everyone is using to seeing. I figured I should probably explain what each of them are as I didn’t change the names of the suits to make sense to outsiders. The reels are pentacles; coffins are cups; pens are wands; and pistols are swords.

So, on Friday, I ended up doing a kind of generalized Tarot reading when I was at the cemetery. I wanted to do a very generalized kind of thing, asking what I could expect in the upcoming months. I don’t think I was so specific as to how many months or within a year’s time or anything else. I think my intention was a focus on my religious work in regards to going back to work for the temp agency and all of that kind of thing. (I can’t tell you how worried I am that this job will be like my last job and kill my religious working. That worry, however, is probably a good thing because it means I’m less likely to fall into that trap… right?) Since I don’t really recall what the fuck I was thinking when I was doing the shuffling, I’m going to have to piecemeal what the hell this reading says.

To begin, before I got into this reading specifically, the Moon card jumped out at me. While usually most Tarot readers will assume that a card jumping out has some inner meaning that needs immediate attention, I normally don’t. This is because, usually, when this happens it is because I miss-shuffle or I end up fucking up in mid-shuffle. This time, however, I was in the zone that I get into when I shuffle through my deck when the card jumped out at me. So, I studied the card thoughtfully. Of course, I know the generalized meaning behind the Moon card: intuition. Obviously, there’s more than just paying attention to my intuition here. In Tarot: Plain and Simple by Anthony Louis, he has almost an entire page attributed to the Moon card in its positive aspect. The second paragraph, I feel, is particularly warranted in my current life.

The Moon card suggests you are entering a period of fluctuating moods and uncertainty during which you must confront unconscious forces in order to proceed. That which has been invisible or secret is coming to the surface. You can make good use of your creative talents in writing, art, drama, acting, psychology, and psychotherapy. Travel, especially over water, is possible. You notice how ingrained patterns from the past are affecting your current behavior. Expect the uncanny.

Part of this descriptor has already begun to make itself manifest. I have been consciously aware of past patterns affecting me in negative ways to this day. (As evidenced by how much the ex-husband and his shit has been coming out in the last two months, eh?) However, it’s not just a set of following old patterns and trying to break them, however that is part of it. It’s also seeing how many of my past decisions can be mirrored in daily events, monthly events, and so on. Another aspect here is the “invisible or secret is coming to the surface.” I feel like that, in particular, has to do with my recent astral shenans that I haven’t really been discussing in detail. (Not that I don’t want to but as far as remembering goes, my memory is at its infancy.) In going to the astral, a lot of past life stuff is coming out to be worked through and dealt with in some form or another. Talk about secrets coming to the surface…

Now, as to the reading itself…

I chose to use the spread that came with the deck. I honestly don’t know what it’s supposed to signify, or didn’t at the time I was doing the spread. It seemed like a good idea to just stick to the deck and its suggestions while freezing my ass off. A three card spread, I felt, wouldn’t give me as much information as I looking for. It’s entitled The Pyramid Spread and the cards’ placement meanings are: 1. you; 2. actions and events; 3. unconscious forces and emotions; 4. outside forces; 5. knowledge and beliefs; 6. possible course of action; 7. possible course of action; and 8. outcome.

The card that signified me was the Knight of Reels reversed. The generalized meaning behind this card, in a nutshell, is financial instability. And that really does describe myself and my family at the moment. With me just getting back to work (and for a really low rate) as well as with TH out of work again, things are shaky at best. I have been feeling like the foundations are rather shaky when it comes to our finances and I keep putting off necessary purchases (like food) until I absolutely have to. (Currently, out financials are more shaky because of silliness from the department of transitional assistance, but that will be sorted out soon enough.) When we get into more depth with this card, we see that it talks about feeling uninspired and reaching a sort of impasse. More specifics contain apathy, listlessness, depression, dull, and lifelessness. All of these aspects currently describe myself, my emotions, and what it seems like everything will always be to perfection.

The next card for “actions and events” was Page of Pens, also reversed. A very generalized overview of the card is about bad news, frazzled, dismissals, and exasperation. When we get into more depth here, we have to see that it’s not just communication and blackmail going on here (which I have been experiencing lately), but it also talks about a general downturn in events. Nothing is working out, everything looks bleak, and everything results in leaving me feeling drained and apathetic. This is true in so many current environments in my life that I don’t even know how to begin to convey how frightening it is.

The third card was Six of Coffins reversed. A generalized interpretation of this card in the reverse is that there will be rough waters ahead. While normally, we would just assume that this part and parcel to the two cards already displayed, we have to also keep in mind that this has to do with the unconscious forces and emotions as opposed to physical happenings. The descriptor in the book I mentioned above talks very seriously about taking the easy way out of a situation, not being able to put troubles behind you, and feeling stuck in an unchanging and difficult predicament. In the realm of emotions, I have to assume this is in more relation along with the emotional aspect of past mistakes and decisions that I’ve been noticing recurring are still affecting me. This goes hand-in-hand with the last card along the lines of feeling like I’m “stuck in a rut.” It’s not just the decisions and the blah of my reality, but also the emotional upheaval and re-living of those past instances that keep deterring me.

Next, I receive the Justice card in the “outside forces” area. This is a fairly obvious card in its general interpretation: fair outcomes and being judged. While this card could have to do with legal proceedings, which would make sense in its spot in the reading, I think it has more to do with having to look more equally at all possible decisive outcomes. I don’t tend to do this. I’m very much a “this is the way it is” kind of person and I stick through it. If I weigh my options too much, then I end up dithering until I can’t make a decision. If I don’t weigh my options enough, then I end up being miserable and unhappy. (FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS.) I think that a lot of rapid fire decisions (about career, mostly) will be coming up in the next few months and I have to weigh those options neatly and concisely instead of letting fate or the gods or whomever or whatever take control.

The fifth card of my spread was the Seven of Coffins reversed. (I was in a big reversed place, I guess.) This area is about knowledge and beliefs. The general for this one is persistence is rewarded as well as the fog lifts. Considering the place of this card and it’s more localized reading, I have to take this as a direct commentary on my religious practice. I’ve spoken in my Fet Gede post about being scared out of my wits about going back to work and its relation to what my religion will look like. I’ve talked repeatedly in this blog about how much my religion suffered while I was working at the hellhole that fired me for bullshit. This card, to me, is about deciding how much religion plays a part in my life and where this will take me. It also talks about needing to be decisive about it. And while I’m pretty sure I know what the decision regarding my beliefs are, I’ll not get into it right now. (That will come up in a work-related post all on its own this Friday for the PBP.) Suffice it to say, I need to be decisive and firm in regards to both my income, my future, and where my religion plays a part.

So, the next spot is one possible course of action and that card was the Five of Pistols. So one particular outcome, this one, is pretty negative. This talks about being so concerned with winning (or as I could place it in my life, money) that I end up ignoring everything and anything to make that money. In effect, the card, to me, reminds me very much of the materialistic jerk I was when I worked for that ex-company. While I do miss not being able to buy books whenever I feel like it or not needing to rely on family members to help buy food or clothes, I have something to admit. All the books I bought, I never read as I didn’t have time. All of the clothes I bought myself, I never wore because I was always in work uniform or pajamas. I never got to see the clothes I bought for my son because I never saw my son. And while I am currently subsisting on PB+J, I’m probably losing weight whereas I could eat quite a bit when I was making the money. What it comes down to is how important is having the money if you never get to use it to buy things that benefit you?

The seventh card is another possibility. This card was the Knight of Coffins. This one talks more along the lines of an actual person, but the person it talks about is a sort of dreamer. I tend to associate this card with creativity and spirituality. It’s not a matter of dreaming, per se, but a matter of being able to live in all the worlds a human feels comfortable in (creative world, mundane world, religion world, spiritual world, astral world, and so on) and being able to mold that into a cohesive unit. (As if the astral world would ever easily mold into what we desire!) However, whenever I look at this knight and his horse of sea foam, I have to sit there and think about the possibilities. To me, this card talks about following my hopes and dreams. This card talks about getting into gear and doing the things I’ve always said I would: visit Salem for the first time, write a novel and publish it, work on an intro to Kemetism book, etc. While I may not discuss them frequently, I do have a lot of dreams for myself and my future.

The final card is supposedly the outcome and this one was Star reversed. (I told you, I had a lot of reverses in this reading.) This card is pretty much a happy card in either position, however in the reversed position, it just means that the hope and that is discussed in its upright position are a little delayed… but they will happen. In this case, I tend to view it as a very generalized outcome because I get the feeling that it is possible I go with possible action from number six as opposed to possible action of number seven. It’s all a matter of weighing out all of the possibility, as Justice warns me to do, and figuring out where to go from there.

Fet Guede 2012 (SVP).

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 rearranged PL’s altar to place the meal.

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.

Not as hastily done as the last one.

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.

Prior to this spread, the moon card jumped out at me.

The giving nature of the Bawon and Maman.

Chicken, bacon, corn, flowers, water, and candle.

Grave-Tending Two Cemeteries.

So, initially, this post was going to be an action-packed picture whore of a post in which I showed you all of the great and magnificent things I did today. However, due to technical difficulties, which I will get into later on, I had to change my initial idea.

For all those people who are recent followers or who have forgotten, one of the duties I took upon myself was to go grave-tending to older and forgotten cemeteries. This pretty much means that I go to cemeteries and spend time there. I end up cleaning off head stones, taking snapshots of every head stone, take notes for names for the stones that are too faded to properly catch in picture format (though a picture is still taken). I also leave offerings for the Deadz therein as well as clean up the place. I have a couple of Photobucket albums dedicated to my grave-tending duties, actually, and one day, I’ll have a page on here dedicated to that. (But not today.) After a six month absentee to this duty, I knew I had to get started again.

Part of the reason why it’s been so long since I’ve done my last duty is because New England is not terrific for taking this duty on. Since I do this in honor of the Ghede, specifically Papa and the Bawon, I only do this on certain days of the week, namely Saturday since this is their day. And since most New England winters bury the land in snow and ice, I don’t get much done during those months. In the summer, especially if the cemeteries are of a larger nature, I dehydrate faster than I can get water into me so I tend to abstain from the practice then, too. This leaves me with Spring and Autumn to conduct these duties. Since this last year I’ve been driving three hours to Rutland and back on Fridays and then doing it all over again on Sundays, I let the thing slide. Burning myself out didn’t seem like a wise idea.

And now, I don’t have those extraneous driving duties to perform, so guess what? It is definitely time to get back into this before winter hits.

Today, I chose to work on two cemeteries in Ludlow, Massachusetts. I chose the Sikes Cemetery and the East “Ould” Cemetery to conduct my duties out. Prior to getting started, I packed up my grave-tending basket with all of the items I could load it up with at home. This pretty much includes a spade, toothpicks, a brush, jars, plastic bags, booze, water, my camera, extra batteries, incense cones and tea lights, as well as any food offerings I think are proper. After that, I will occasionally make pit stops before going to pick up more food for offerings. Today, I added a large loaf of freshly baked bread and a bundle of flowers. I also added apples and grapes from my at-home stock to bring along with me.

The Sikes Cemetery is a mostly empty field. As taken from this website, “This is the oldest cemetery in the town and is located on Munsing Street. The land here was used as a burial ground even before it was given to the town for use as a cemetery in the 1770s. The cemetery has not been used since the early 19th century according to McChesney (in Noon’s book, he states that this cemetery is still being used as of 1911) and many of the bodies buried there no longer have a gravestone. This cemetery is very small and has an old stone wall around it, built in 1865.”

While I wouldn’t class it as small myself, I can see what the author was initially trying to say. There are very few head stones still standing in that place and it took me, maybe, fifteen minutes to photograph all of them. In fact, upon entering, I had to traverse the entire length of the cemetery to reach the first head stone. Since there was no head stone at the entrance, I didn’t pay for my entrance. These people didn’t seem to mind overmuch. Most of the head stones that have remained are all Sikes relatives. There were three stones that were so badly weathered that I could not read or tell the name. These three stones were also broken in half. It’s obvious that no one put any thought, energy, or time into this cemetery aside from posting Veteran flags at the proper places. It makes me wonder how many of the souls in that cemetery are still there – without a head stone, do they really have a place there any longer? I can’t say I’m “sensitive” or anything, but I didn’t feel any Deadz in there.

Most of the head stones were heavily covered in lichen. I ended up going back through them and writing down first names, years of death, ages of death, and any relationships they bore to related head stones. I don’t do this very often and this is a very new addition to my practice. I started doing this at the behest of my mother when she started nudging me about posting my pictures in a more public fora so that people who are looking for ancestors can at least see their graves, even if they’re across the country. Since I’m doing this work for them and not for me, it seems like a valid addition. Even though I took pictures of every head stone, I still had to go back and catalog who was who and number each notation of a name I made so that I could try to place them with the photos I had taken. The weathering and the lichen were just that bad.

I did try to clean them off as best I could. This is what the water and the tooth picks are for. With the tooth picks, I’ll trace out the pattern of the word beneath the lichen and then try to brush the rest of it away. This is actually what I spend a good deal of time doing. It seems that past generations were less caring about whether or not names were maintained on their head stones. This saddens and irritates me… as does the trash I found. This cemetery, being in the boonies, wasn’t as bad as some of them, but there was still some trash around. I picked the bits up and then set about prepping a place for my offering: half a loaf of bread, a nip of whiskey, flowers, grapes, and an apple. I offered them this to feed their souls.

After an hour, all said and done, I was ready to get to East “Ould” Cemetery.

As taken from the website I linked to above, “Also known as the “Ould Burying Ground,” this cemetery is perhaps one of the least known cemeteries in town as it is not near any main roads, similar to the Sikes cemetery. This cemetery lies off of Poole Street and is half in Ludlow and half in Belchertown. The first person buried here is Hannah Olds who died in 1802 and is on the Belchertown side. This cemetery is only used today for burials in existing family plots.”

This cemetery was actually bigger than I had originally thought it was. When the Sister originally found it for me, I took a drive up to find it so that I could remember where I would go when the weather cooled. (Guess what? I still had to do a Google search for it.) It’s very odd because it just pops up on the right after driving on a small two-lane road for what seems like forever. It’s also strange because one of the entrances abuts a person’s driveway. And in the distance is their field for grazing, as evidenced by the various cows and a donkey I saw walking by.

I settled down to get work done and ended up marveling at the whole place. It was large, the grass was spongy, and it was taken care of. Obviously, the locals tend to this place better than the Sikes Cemetery I went to. I was pleased. The problem I kept running into was that feeling that someone was trying to sneak up behind me. I also heard footsteps behind me on two separate occasions and someone running really fast, as well. I made sure to pay the first head stone I came to, but someone was playing games with me. Well. I don’t know if it was playful either. It was definitely odd and it left me slightly unsettled, but I’ve been unsettled in plenty of cemeteries before… no game-playing is going to stop me from my job.

However, what will is the death of my camera.

I was about a third of the way through when I came upon a particular head stone that caught my eye. It was a white marble head stone that had fallen over at some point. It had been left there for so long that the face that was pointing to the sky was completely weathered away. Intrigued, I lifted it up to see who was on the other side, but there was no name. It had completely worn away. I couldn’t name them; I couldn’t do anything. I did however play around with some of the pieces of the head stone that was left over. It was very interesting to play with marble without it, you know, being a part of a stone. Immediately after this head stone, I came across a man who had a very odd name. (His name was Purchase, but it wasn’t spelled that way.) I took a photo of the head stone, zooming in on the name, but the name got cut off. Annoying, I pulled the zoom out on my camera and the screen went dead.

I casually shut it off, turned it on, shut it off. Nothing. I pulled the batteries out, blew inside, and placed them back in there. They were still fresh, so what the hell? No matter what I did, I could not get it to work. “Whoever is doing this, stop, please,” I called across the cemetery. “I am here to feed your souls. Tend your graves. Clean you up. And make sure you are remembered. Don’t you want to be remembered?” I’m not joking when I say that trees went insane with the amount of wind that lashed through them. I heaved a sigh and said, “I will prep your meal for you and if the camera is still down after that, I will leave.” Nothing.

I went around preparing the meal I had in mind and left a flower at the grave of the man who I had last taken a picture of… just in case he was the one angry with all of this.

I try to at least be a little artistic when I do this.

After the incense was halfway burned through, I tried my camera again but it didn’t work. I shrugged it off and threatened to come back later. “You can’t stop me from this. I will make sure you are remembered,” I snapped angrily and stormed off to my car. When I got home, I gleefully went about uploading the pictures that I had double checked were still available on my memory card. Even though the screen was going dead, preventing me from taking a picture, I could still check the pictures on the playback. (Weird!) I handed the camera off to TH to inspect and we discovered that my faithful grave-tending companion was now truly dead. With nothing left but to start at least looking for a replacement, I began the long process of downloading 260 pictures to my laptop.

And ten of them, from the Sikes Cemetery, were downloaded. I only discovered this, of course, after I deleted them from the memory card, which I do immediately after they’re placed on my laptop since it makes my life easier to do a mass delete like that. And I had watched the process as it took hours to download (my laptop is not in the best shape, either). I had seen the pictures erasing and there were images being shown instead of blank, stock images. So, as far as I can tell, 260 images were taken from my memory card and then, disappeared. I am very upset by this and I’m trying not to believe that I really am cursed with electronics or that some nasty little spirit is fucking with me. (However, I’ve had the Deadz fuck with my camera before just because they felt like it or to see what would happen before and this feels similar.)

This is not going to stop me. I am planning on going back to redo both cemeteries in the next week. (Even though I prefer to do this on Saturdays in honor of the Bawon and Papa G, I will return to cemeteries that I owe things to whenever.) And no matter what the hell happens, East “Ould” will be done and uploaded. And I will be gleeful.

The Fence Around a Cemetery is Foolish…

“…for those inside can’t get out and those outside don’t want to get in.”
– Arthur Brisbane

I have to admit that I am really getting into this whole grave-tending spiel. I can really say clearly that I feel comfortable and happy to go. I get this antsy feeling in the center of my stomach, akin to the butterflies everyone is aware of, because I just want to get there NOW and do my thing. I remember, not long ago, The Sister mentioned that she felt my grave-tending was a kind of centering and/or grounding ritual for myself. And I think that she maybe right about that. I feel connected. I feel pleasant. I feel more in tune with things. And I feel pretty damn thrilled that I did this whole thing.

Even though I figured that a grave-tending kit would get me out of the house faster, I Photobucket can definitely attest that, sadly, that didn’t end up happening this time around. I found myself dithering around the house, trying to see if there was anything I felt like I was missing or anything that I felt I should add to my kit, if anything. For the most part, the kit is finished. However, obviously, there are little tweaks and whatnot that I will end up doing as time passes. A significant positive aspect to the basket is that it is also incredibly useful to stash important items (wallet or phone) while doing my business.

When I was a kid, we used to drive past this cemetery all of the time. It’s on an Photobucket exceedingly busy thoroughfare. I can remember driving by it all the time and thinking how much I wanted to go in there. (It’s amazing how much of my current choices can be reflected in things that I wanted very badly as a child, such as visiting random cemeteries even back then.) I also remember that I have never seen anyone inside that cemetery. Obviously, I didn’t keep an eye on it at every minute of every day. It’s exceedingly possible that people stopped by and took care of things, but I remember thinking that the cemetery was lonely, sad, angry, and upset that it had been forgotten. And in reality, it has been forgotten.

Though it lives on a very busy road, it is forgotten between the mini-strip mall, the pediatrician across the way, and the fast food restaurants a ways down the road. It is Photobucket forgotten because it faces bramble at the back of the property. It is forgotten because the fence is imposing and dark. It is imposing because it leaves a pall around the area, even in the summer time in the middle of the day with the sun pouring bright down around you. It is forgotten because no one thought that a place where we store the Deadz would need to be remembered. The feeling in this cemetery says otherwise. This is what will one day be one of those busy, hot spots that kids go to in order to frighten one another. Or, perhaps, they will listen to their gut instinct and realize that if they go inside so late at night, only bad can come of it.

I really don’t want to sound so very dire about this place, but honestly, it was just… an indescribable mutation of so many emotions in there. I felt sadness and depression; bitterness; hatred; anger and malice. The overwhelming feeling, though, of the entire cemetery was a just a very negative pall that I tried very hard with my kind words, my camera flashes, and my offerings to put to rest. I don’t think it matters how often I go; I doubt I will ever be able to rid this place of its miasma of dark and foreboding feelings.

I was very upset at the lack of care I found when I first arrived. There was trash bits all over the place. I’m going to have to go back and just do a serious clear there. I know it will be next to useless since it’s so close to a Wendy’s and a McDonald’s, but I have to at least try. Something to show the Deadz that they have not been forgotten.

I think of all of the tombstones that I found, the worst was the one I have pictured in this paragraph. It was like this was the absolute and utter quintessence tombstone of Photobucket the entire graveyard. The moment I saw it lying there, I knew that this was the personification of how all of the Deadz felt in that graveyard. While people are willing to love and tend the larger graveyards and the graveyards that are found in the outlying towns, but no one will bother to take care of this place. Looking down at it and seeing how cracked and broken it was, watching as the earth slowly devoured more and more every year… It was like the Deadz there are just merely waiting for that magical moment when the tallest monument has fallen and has been swallowed up by the earth.

I gave my oranges to whom I felt were the Bawon and the Maman of the graveyard. I Photobucket know that I’m supposed to leave it for the oldest graves in the yard, but considering all of the weathering going on… it would have been impossible to find out who was dead the longest. I also, surreptitiously, poured out my rum offering on those graves. I think I may have heard the Bawon say, “SHARING?!? WHAT?!?” Just in case I wasn’t imagining things, I was quick to say, “She’s your wife. The least you can do is give her some rum.” As it was, he got most of the bottle and the larger portion of the orange. I left my bread crumbs back near the trees for the birds to pick up.

All in all, this cemetery is the first that I have tended that has felt this way. I don’t tend Photobucket to get too many feelings from graveyards. The only ones I usually get are the ones that I, myself, feel. In this graveyard, however, it was such a thick miasma that even the most spirit blind (such as myself) would be able to feel it. This cemetery, I feel, will become one of my more regular cemeteries, as in a weekly assignation as opposed to monthly. I can only hope that the good, positive feelings that I emote to the Deadz there is enough to make them see that I am there, I am there to help, and that I am there to redeem the zillions of other fucking assholes who have forgotten about that cemetery.

And once again, I’m left with the knowledge that if grave-tending is as important in my [future] practice as I think it is, I really will have to find a job that allows for an hour/hour-and-a-half long break.

Grave-Tending: Maplewood Cemetery.

I really enjoy going into cemeteries and photographing them. There’s just something about it that makes me happy. There’s just something about it that energizes the hell out of me. I come back from my forays, grinning and cheerful. While I’m there, I can dance and sing and chatter at all the dead. I don’t hear back, usually, but I know they’re there. And I know that the appreciate it. They appreciate the fact that there is someone paying attention to them after such a long silence.

It was on the way out there that it dawned on me that I would need a grave-tending kit. This is something I plan on doing regularly. I would like to achieve the goal of one cemetery per month in the winter and about one every two weeks (or more!) in summer. It would be exceedingly simple for me to be able to grab a basket, a la Red Riding Hood, instead of shuffling around the house, rushing about as I search for various things to go with. I think the objects in this kit (thus far) should be my camera, back up batteries, a tool to clear back detritus stuck in the engravings, a pair of scissors for grass trimming, a brush to clear back dirt, a jar of change to pay the piper (so to speak), and little hand-crafted items to be left for the Ghede. I think tea lights, jars for graveyard dirt, a trowel to help collect it and travel friendly rum are in order as well. Just the thought of all of this makes me a giddy: a plan!

Now, I had already started grave-tending this place back in mid-December. It ended abruptly since my Photobucket batteries decided to just, you know, up and die for no reason. So, as a gift to Papa Top Hat, I decided that I would go back and do it up right. The thing with that is, of course, I had to wait until after Christmas to complete this task. It made the whole thing that much more exciting, I think. I knew what I had to do and I knew that I had to do it properly, effectively, and righteously as a “please, I’m sorry I didn’t go back sooner” kind of a thing. But, also, this graveyard is completely ignored about 99.8% of the time. It’s surrounded on one side by a bigger, newer cemetery (the one where my father is buried, actually) and a brand-new cookie cutter neighborhood on the other. I’ve always seen it as I drove by, but never managed to have a reason to stop by and visit… until now, obviously.

This cemetery is very old. I knew that, of course, but what I didn’t realize that it was also used up until about ten or more years ago. There were a bunch of new grave Photobucket markers, as well as a lot of ones that were redone because of the myriad of storms that blew through here this year. I noticed that the weathering on quite a few of the gravestones was awful. I couldn’t make out anything on them except that, once, someone had carved the information in. Some of it looked smoothed back by time and others looked like they had been vandalized. Still others were quickly being lost to the ground: I found so many of them flat and being eaten up by the earth in some form or another. There were headstones knocked over and being swallowed, there were little foot stone markers that were little more than a peek through the grass, and there were many that were surrounded by bushes and tree roots.

As I go out and take these pictures, I’ve noticed a common theme with each new excursion. Every time I Photobucket go out and take photographs of some form or another, I find more and more gravestones for children. I should find this to be expected, but more often than not, I am overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of so many dead children all around me. It truly hurts me more than I can convey whenever I see a lovingly carved headstones for the deaths of more than one child. Or, a row of headstones for the myriad of children a single couple tried to have and none of Photobucket them lived. (One family lost about five children within age ranges of a few days to a few years.) Each one is a testament to the horrors and capriciousness of bearing children before modern medicine. Each one is a testament to the fortitude of a couple to try and try and try again, never knowing what Fate may have in store for them. Every single one of them is a testament to the love and endurance of a family. And each one breaks my damn heart.

With each new adventure, I also find myself more and more intrigued by the medals of Photobucket the graveyards. There has always been a certain amount of veteran worship on my behalf. These are men who fought in a war that I learned about in school, to some extent or another. These are men who died to help forge the Union, protect the Union, and who fought overseas. In this particular cemetery, most of the veterans stemmed from the Civil War. There was one who had a medal for a Spanish war. There were also medals for local fire fighters, free masons, and one medal that I couldn’t identify for the life of me.

Photobucket One particular gravestone kept dragging my attention. It was in a large set of gravestones set in front of a large monument for a family known as KEYES. Each gravestone was uniform in size and each one had the name of a family member upon it. There was one in the center (or thereabouts) that was a double-headed stone. Now, the first time I went to Maplewood, I had been struck by it then. On my second trip, I was even more entranced by it. I went all over the KEYES Photobucket family monument in an effort to find out who Bessie and Jessie were. I knew that they must have been children—twins, if the double-headed stone was any indicator—but their names were not anywhere on the monument. I was horrifically confused by this. I mean, wouldn’t people want to remember these two dead children? It was really, only, by chance that I happened to be passing behind the giant monument when I saw writing across the back of the double stone. It was horrifically faded, as evidenced by the picture. What it says, INFANT DAUGHTERS OF E.S. & L.J. LOVE DIED OCTOBER 5, 1874 Yet another testament to the capriciousness of Fate.

This cemetery has not been well-loved since its inception. I found a gravestone dating to Photobucket as far back as the 1830s. There were a couple from the ’40s and ’50s. Most of the older gravestones, I found, seemed to come from the later half of the nineteenth century. The newest headstone I found was from the year, 2000. It was an eclectic bunch over there, really. Untold amounts of children, families all ducked up in a row, three different family monuments that used to be carefully tended and gated off, veterans from numerous wars and local unions, as well as those forgotten about within bushes, tree roots, and hiding behind the old fence. One family’s fence had been utterly destroyed by some of the huge trees growing in the middle of the cemetery, even!

I loved it.

There was one particular promise I had to keep, in all of this. The night before last, I Photobucket promised the Bawon that I would bring him some rum on this particular adventure. I was worried that I wouldn’t quite know where to leave it and that did, indeed, happen. However there was something in particular that I ended up doing to “assist.” I ended up going in a pair of sandals, even though it was quite chilly. As I wandered the cemetery, trying to figure out where to place the Bawon’s offering (I ended up choosing a man buried in the 1840s), I took off my sandals and wandered barefoot. This was because I figured it was a good idea and would assist me in “feeling” the Bawon. I’ll tell you that I wandered one side of that graveyard to the other completely fucking barefoot. It was painfully cold and really did hurt for a bit, but it was important that I do it. And I motherfucking did!

I finish this entry with a cluster of pictures for two fathers: the first is mine. He died when I was seven and I often tend his grave. The other is for the father of the Sister. I hadn’t been aware of him at Adams Cemetery until after the fact. I went back yesterday to give him some attention.

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And finally, I leave a link to that cemetery’s photobucket album for anyone interested.

The Activities of my Full Moon PT 1: Grave-Tending.

I had a fairly productive day.

My first act was to go to a local cemetery and do some tending. Mostly, from what I gather, the tending Photobucket thing is about going to a graveyard and taking care of the needs of the dead: clearing away overgrown grass, fixing fallen over plants, and just generally making sure that all is on the up and up. It’s also an act of going to take care of the dead, the ones without family members around to care any longer. So, it’s also a sort of therapy session for the dead. Now, as to the cemetery that I chose, yesterday, this was next to unnecessary. The cemetery was still in use up until four years ago and there are still people who know and who care. (In June, we had a batch of tornadoes blow through here and destroy a lot in the town that I was in, specifically, quite a few headstones from said cemetery. A mason was out at some point and fixed as much of the gravestones as he could.) So, the cemetery that I chose wasn’t really forgotten.

The thing is that… when I go to tend graves, it’s not really just an act of cleaning and maintaining. That’s a part of it. Sometimes, I’ll stop and sit with a certain set of graves that obviously have no family. Sometimes, I’ll mourn the loss of said person like I would with a friend or family member. But, for the most part, I’m there to bring the reality of these people out and into the public eye. That’s why I bring the camera. The documentation is necessary to what I’m trying to accomplish here. And, honestly, they love it. I know that they do. And I don’t particularly blame them: I would love to be fawned all over by some semi-weird chick who traipsed about the cemetery from time to time. Plus? Hello? Taking pictures of headstones is so cool. Duh.

Photobucket My very first act was to find the guardians of the graveyard. This was actually a lot easier than it had been when I went to Fuller Cemetery in Ludlow, but I think that’s because I knew to expect to see them this time around; I knew to look for them. There were two gravestones practically right on top of the fence at the middle entrance to the place. I had brought four pennies with me so that I could pay them. I don’t remember where I read this or even what the hell the tradition is about, but I knew that I wanted to give pennies to these two particular gravestones. I gave them two each. I also explained to them that I was there to document, to help people to remember who they are and how they died. The first gravestone (the one in the picture) was quietly amused… It was like, “Oh, yeah. Sure. Another one of you. Whatever. Thanks for the copper.” The second one was more like, “ZOMG! TAKE MY PICTURE!” I don’t think too many people were paying attention to that family monument…

The cemetery itself is not that large. It’s on a very busy road and behind it is the local high school. Since the tornadoes, they had new fences built to keep people out. All across the front was a big, white, safety fence made of plastic. It was like, you really needed to want to get in there. There was no parking lot, either, so I had to park on the street. (I was more than nervous since I had to wedge my car up a hill so it wouldn’t get hit by traffic.)

When I first walked in, I was shocked to see newer headstones, but then, as my eyes adjusted to the Photobucket setting sun and the sheer number of graves, I began to see the older headstones. Yet, there were newer headstones but some of them were well taken care of older ones, some were new ones, and others were replacements for others that had been broken by vandals or other heartless people… or, Mother Nature. A little bit, it reminded me of a multi-colored version of Arlington National Cemetery. It wasn’t that there were white stones (as seen from the picture) laid out in military precision. It was the way that the eye turns things into a scope that is beyond what the mind can measure. It felt like the interments could go on and on and on for all eternity. It really boggled my mind and it made me happy that there were people out there, in that town, that cared enough to keep tending them. It made me happy to see fresh placards and lovingly placed veteran flags. It made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who remembered.

As I went combing up and down the aisles, fascinated and frightened and saddened and cheered, I Photobucket wanted to document everything. I think the first thing that pricked my heart was a large monument that was a good six-foot or taller. I had seen it in the distance and just assumed that it was a large monument for someone with money, as there were quite a few of them there. However, as I got closer, I realized that it was a multi-purpose one: It was to commemorate three deaths. The stone read, “In memory of three unfortunate children of Mr. Levi and Mrs. Martha Bliss, Viz, …Gordon, aged 28; Leonard, 22; Asenath 16 years, who were drowned in nine mile pond in this town, April 29 AD 1799.” I can’t make out what the bottom of the stone read because it was in that old script from back then, but it was definitely beautifully wrought.

My next discovery threw me for a loop. Now, I knew that the town of Wilbraham was old, as it was incorporated in 1763, though originally settled in 1730 or thereabouts. And, as evidenced by the first picture I posted, I knew when the cemetery had been founded. However, most of the graves in the central aspect of the graveyard were from the 1800s. So, I was thrown backwards when I happened up on these two lonely graves off on their own.

They were to the side and I had been seeing them from the corner of my eye, all alone and simple, for quite some time. The gravestones weren’t the originals (probably more things obliterated by the Photobucket tornadoes in June). They were fresh and pretty, which is part of the reason why they caught my eye. As I finally made it over there, I just froze and whispered to myself, “Oh, oh. When was the last time you had visitors?” The graves were from Revolutionary War veterans and it was then, that all of the veteran flags really started to snap to my attention. I was used to Civil War, as was seen with the few veterans at Fuller Cemetery, but this has been my first experience with men who had fought to create this country. I was knocked speechless and dumb. I want to go back and spend time with those two men. These two graves, one for Caesar Mirick and Joseph Cutt, were the best graves I have ever come across (thus far) on this journey of mine.

There were a few obvious children’s graves, as well. I can’t think back to their being very many children’s graves in Ludlow, so this was really the first time I’ve had to face this fact. I have a difficult time with children’s graves because it’s always a not-so-subtle reminder that they didn’t get to live Photobucket long enough. The first one, in the picture above, was for a baby who had lived for an entire day. This flat headstone was almost lost and buried amid all of the older gravestones in that corner of the cemetery. It was like they just needed a simple spot large enough for this poor child. I can’t even begin to imagine the sadness and horror and depression that must have happened because this child never reached the potential hopes and dreams his parents had for him. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like or the circumstances behind this dead. Was he born at full term? Was he too early? Why did he die? There are so many questions when you stand over a child’s grave, but of course, there really aren’t that many answers. All I know is that even after twenty-one years, I’m sure both parents still feel the loss and ache strongly. This baby’s grave… it really hurt.

And the thought of that child hurt, but it didn’t cut me nearly so much as the next one that I stumbled upon some time later. Photobucket I had been coming across quite a few families in various areas. There were family plots, of course, but this one family—the Bliss Family—was all over the graveyard and various little huddles. The grave that hurt the worse… This is the grave of Daniel Bliss. He was the son of Aaron and Elizabeth Bliss. He died when he was three years old… the same age as my son. (Can you see what I started to cry at this one?) Right next to him is his older brother, aged seven. These two graves were placed together for all eternity and in front of them, the parents lay like two vultures ready to scratch out your eyes if you so much as look at them wrong. It’s like the mother and father, Aaron and Elizabeth, are the first line of defense for these two young boys, even in death. It was at this grave that things started to work in my brain. You know, I knew that having children back then was risky, but that realization was never more prominent than it was standing in front of Aaron and Daniel’s graves yesterday.

There were a lot of family monuments throughout the left-most section of the graveyard. They were Photobucket obvious family plots that were either used, forgotten, or sold off. I’ve never seen a family plot before this week when TH and I went to his stepfather’s mother’s funeral. (They have a family plot.) I think that’s mostly because my really real experience of graveyards had to do with the one that my father is built at. That graveyard is fairly new and has only flat headstones, so even if there was a ‘family section’ it wouldn’t be particularly obviously unless you happened up on it… literally underfoot. The family plot in the picture was cordoned off by metal railings on other side of the headstones and then down around where the foot stones would have been. There was only the simple three headstones on one giant monument. There was clear space to either side, but evidently, the rest of the Jones family didn’t partake in the whole shebang. It was a little sad that they had space for at least three to four more graves, but no one in their family wanted to be buried with them.

I think my favorite family monument was the Bruuer family monument. (The original form of ‘Brewer’ would Photobucket be my guess.) It was huge and in-your-face. If the person had been alive today and put that up, there would have been chatter about how the family was obviously making up for such a “small status.” I mean, the thing was at least twice my height. There were four cornerstones in a large rectangle all around the family plot. Each cornerstone was hand-carved with a capital B on the top. I made sure to not pass those B’s since it was obviously a very important plot. And besides, I really find it disconcerting to end up standing on the dead. Each headstones along the right hand side had the initials of the dead family member across the top. That was it, though, so unless you knew who was buried where… you could only guess at whose graves they were.


You know, I did this because it was in honor of Papa Ghede. I did this because I wanted to honor him as he deserves it for choosing me. However, it’s only as I was leaving the cemetery and realizing how fun, invigorating, sad, and joyful my time there was… It was only then that I realized, or hoped really, that if even if Monsieur Ghede had not chosen me, then perhaps, maybe, I would still be doing this. My mom says that even though she was doing her graveyard hunting for genealogy projects she had started, she always enjoyed going to graveyards because they were quiet and no one was going to bother you. And to be perfectly frank, realizing how long this person has left the earth or how long that person has been gone… It’s really awe-inspiring. It makes you realize just how mortal everyone and everything is.

I can only hope that the snow is put off for some time longer so that I can document more of the older cemeteries in my area.

(For anyone interested in seeing the whole album., instead of just my highlights.)