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A contemporary witch celebrates the cycle of life and dying on the confluence of cultures

(RNS) — As Individuals of all faiths put together for Halloween with costumes and sweet or the Day of the Useless with meals and flowers, the pagan neighborhood can be making ready for its vacation celebrating dying and rebirth.

Samhain is the third and ultimate harvest pageant of the pagan Wheel of the Yr, as the vacation calendar is thought in lots of Earth-based religions.

“(Fashionable) Pagans have integrated the seasonal concern with the lifeless in a holy day that celebrates the cyclicity of life, dying, and rebirth,” writes folklorist and pagan scholar Sabina Magliocco in her guide “Witching Tradition.” 

Not in contrast to the Day of the Useless and Halloween, Samhain (a Gaelic phrase pronounced “Sow-en”) consists of feasting and honoring one’s ancestors, although these celebrating Samhain are probably so as to add some divination. Primarily based largely on Irish folks faith, it’s a time when the divide between the bodily and religious worlds are believed to be skinny.


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The Rev. Laura González, who’s a training witch and a pagan educator and podcaster in Chicago, celebrates all three. “(My observe) is a hodgepodge,” she laughs.

The Rev. Laura Gonzalez celebrating Tlaxochimaco 2022 in Little Village, Chicago. Courtesy picture

González merges fashionable paganism with Mexican traditions, together with practices indigenous to central Mexico, the place she is from. “At their core, fashionable paganism and these indigenous practices each honor the Earth,” she stated. Nature reverence is crucial, she stated, to her religious path.

“Let me describe to you what occurs in my life,” González stated in a telephone interview. On Oct. 1, the decorations go up for Halloween, a purely secular vacation for her. Then, round Oct. 27, she units up a Day of the Useless altar to honor deceased kinfolk, as most Mexicans do about this time, she stated. “My mom died on Oct. 27, 2011. I imagine it was her final wink to me,” stated González.

Since then, González has been honoring her mom with bread and low however has additionally made it her mission to show others in regards to the Day of the Useless and its origins. She teaches these traditions in addition to fashionable paganism each domestically and over the web on the pagan distance-learning Fraternidad de la Diosa in Chihuahua, Mexico.

On Samhain, González at all times hosts a small ritual for her Pagan college students and participates in Samhain celebrations, both as an attendee or organizer. Some years she travels to Wisconsin to be with fellow members of the Wiccan church Circle Sanctuary.

Samhain is historically honored on Oct. 31, however some pagans have a good time it Nov. 6 or 7, an astrologically calculated date. Regardless, group celebrations should typically yield to fashionable schedules, and González stated she is going to have a good time an early Samhain this yr.

“My (Samhain) celebration is for the ancestors and for the Earth going into slumber — the Goddess goes to sleep,” González stated. She likes to focus her ritual on fashionable pagan trailblazers, also known as “the mighty lifeless,” relatively than on her kinfolk, which she honors on the Day of the Useless.

González’s central Mexican indigenous observe and her fashionable pagan observe, rooted in  northern Mexico and the USA, “are very comparable,” she added, each honoring the Earth and “us as people as a part of nature,” one thing she believes has been misplaced in fashionable Day of the Useless traditions. Nonetheless, she shortly added, “Indigenous practices should not pagan.”

Rising up in Mexico Metropolis, González was surrounded by mainstream Mexican tradition, with Day of the Useless festivals and altars. As she was uncovered to the Indigenous traditions which can be nonetheless woven by means of Mexican tradition, she defined, she started to review folks magic and traditions, in addition to “Native philosophies.”

The Day of the Useless, she stated, “is the final word syncretic vacation,” a merger of the European-based Catholic traditions with Indigenous beliefs and celebrations. “The practices dropped at Mexico by the Catholic colonizers had been stuffed with pagan DNA,” she stated. All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day comprise remnants of conventional Samhain and different older beliefs, she famous.

“These colonizers got here to a land stuffed — stuffed — with skulls and its imagery,” she stated, which will need to have been horrifying and considerably of a tradition shock, she added.

An altar during Tlaxochimaco 2022 commemorations in Little Village, Chicago. Courtesy photo

An altar throughout Tlaxochimaco 2022 commemorations in Chicago. Courtesy picture

González is now actively taking part within the revival of the Indigenous traditions as a trainer and celebrant. The Indigenous vacation, she stated, is a 40-day celebration. The primary 20 days is known as Tlaxochimaco, or the beginning of flowers, and the second is Xoco Huetzi, or the autumn of the fruit.

“All of us are flowers,” she defined. We develop, flower, bloom after which change into fruit. Ultimately falling and changing into seed, and the cycle continues. The Aztecs “used this mythology to explain life and life cycles,” she stated.

“However there are individuals who don’t make it to fruit. They die younger,” González defined. These persons are honored throughout Tlaxochimaco.

Throughout Xoco Huetzi, celebrations are held to honor those that have made it to outdated age earlier than passing. Each festivals historically contain dancing, she stated, which is taken into account an providing to the lifeless. 

The 40-day celebration was ultimately condensed into two days aligning with the colonizers’ Catholic traditions, she stated, changing into the trendy Day of the Useless celebration, a vacation that’s shortly changing into as in style north of the Mexican border as Halloween is.

Whereas González isn’t offended by purely secular Halloween celebrations, even with its basic depiction of witches, she struggles with the rising commercialization of the Day of the Useless. “I do know what I’m, and I do know what I have a good time,” she stated, talking of Halloween. “I discover it humorous that the smart girl has been made into one thing scary.”

What does offend her is individuals dressed as sugar skulls. “It’s a double-edged sword,” González stated. “It’s a supply of delight figuring out the world loves our tradition,” she stated. Nonetheless, she added, “You’re keen on our tradition, you’re keen on our music, you’re keen on our meals, you’re keen on our traditions, you’re keen on our aesthetics, you’re keen on our events and holidays, you’re keen on all of that, however you don’t love us.”


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That is the definition of cultural appropriation, she added.

“The world is stuffed with racism, discrimination, colorism, classism,” she continued. “There’s a disconnection between the factor and the individuals who made the factor.” She likened this to a second wave of colonization.

Her suggestion: “In case you like Day of the Useless stuff,” she stated, “shake a tree and a Mexican artisan will fall from it. Purchase Mexican. You’ll profit the very individuals who have created the aesthetic,” she stated. “The large field shops don’t want your cash,” she stated, however Mexican and Mexican American households do.

Many pagans, particularly within the rising Latino pagan neighborhood, do honor a number of traditions like González, significantly across the time when the vacations align.

“I feel it’s essential to acknowledge the place we come from and the way we survive no matter challenges our ancestors had,” stated González. Samhain, Day of the Useless and the Aztec traditions “are, in any case, a celebration of life and their lives.”

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