The Burning Chair (Día de los Muertos, Part 2)

There is another old Halloween tradition, dating back to All Hallows Eve and to the ancient rites and rituals which came before that even – the Halloween Bonfire.  Burning flames in the middle of a dark cold night. A circle of faces around the fire.

Drums. Chants. Dancing. And calls and prayers for Blessings…

Blessings for the Harvest.

Blessings for the Tribe.

Blessings for the heart….for love.

Blessings for health.

And blessings for and from the spirits. The spirits of those who have gone. The spirits of the wind, of the moon, the spirits that dwell in the trees.

And, yes, the spirits in the very wood that is burned.

Sometimes it is more than a fire.  Sometimes a ritual object is made, created, decorated, blessed…and then burned.

Like the Chair

With a large heart at the center.

Branches, flowers, wood striplings, lashed and tied together with vines and plants.

And then a message.

Write a note on a paper heart. Put it in the basket. We will burn them in the altar…

In the chair. The chair is the altar. Not just for sitting…but for holding. Containing. Centering…

Moving in closer…and closer still

and finally close enough to see the messages – prayers – invocations – and blessings – that have been written down on bits of paper, some scraps, some in the shape of hearts, but each containing something special, something private, something….secret.

The Chair almost seeming alive, sitting like a sleeping Goddess from a bygone era. And like every living being, it has its own heart….a heart within a heart

And then finally it is time. The Chair carried by four bearers….I myself one of them. We move out into the darkness outside….to the fire pit where goals glow and flames dance. Where the tribe, very young, very old, female and male, quiet, singing and drumming, nocturnal ancient rhythms moving our feet as we parade the chair around the fire ring and then…finally….

Place it inside. The flames catch immediately. The bottom of the Chair first

Then rising higher to engulf the back and top as well

Then dried aromatic herbs catch fire and flame UP

Dancing higher and HIGHER

Burning each silent hidden prayer, wish, dream, hope.  Bathing the faces in firelight. The drums pounding the rhythm.

Hands quickly writing more blessings and hopes on scraps of paper and tossing them in. Everyone together in the circle, bound by the fire, by the warmth, by our common human Tribe

And exactly what did my blessing prayer wish say?

I’m not going to tell you.

Any more than you will tell me what was on that small fragment of paper that you covered with tiny words, even though, at first, you thought the whole thing was too stupid for words but then, somehow, at some point, something changed…

(inside you)

…and  you wrote them down.

(Just like me.)

And then we wait.

For tomorrow. For the daylight again. To see –

what each word, each phrase, each sentence consecrated to the flames

will bring.

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