"Happy Halloween" we say in the US. But what's the source of the happiness here? Perhaps it means "enjoy scaring or being scared." Jack-o-lanterns, lit mostly by electric diodes now, glare from the porches. Gruesome plastic monsters, zombies, nasty spiders and skeletons fill up more and more front yards.
They are all available at your nearest, nationwide chain of "Party Stores." Or even Lowes and Home Depot. Kids come 'round to feed the national obesity crisis with sugar. Before all that plastic ends up in a landfill.
True, the pumpkins are reminders of a harvest. But reaping happens many times a year now, off in giant, iPhone-managed, agribusiness farms. Who really thinks of gathering in foodstuffs from the land? Groceries come from supermarkets, obviously.
Death for us is thus largely supposed to be scary, threatening--fought off at all costs in giant mainstream hospitals. We just have our little, spider-web-draped thrill with it in late October.
"Dia de los Muertos"--a Different Holiday
Let's now contrast this grim, increasingly competitive horror contest with the "Day of the Dead" festivals in Latin America and Spain. There, the day and night are not laced with fear, but graced with remembrances of bygone relatives and close friends. Compare these images from the two cultures.
The Latin version is a time of joy, designed to keep death part of the natural cycle of life, to remember and aid beloved souls further on some spiritual journey. Maybe even help ourselves. The dead can be beautiful, voluptuous even, as opposed to macabre corpses in advanced stages of decay.
But do the Dead
Live Somehow on in Us?
Recently, however, we in this country have begun to be aware of how profoundly connected we are to the strengths and weaknesses of recent ancestors. Serious enough traumas they did not or could not process come to life again in our lives, even though it is not our fate to suffer the original damage. Still we inherit the aftereffects. They land in us via epigenetic, behavioral, and likely also psychic channels.
These are the real ghosts--these traumas re-enacting in our lives. So long as we try to ignore or repress them, we remain haunted. But ancestors also support us with inherited resilience. As Mark Wolynn's excellent book title says, all of it: "didn't start with you."
So what do these different attitudes towards the Autumn holiday have to do with family constellation work? How are they related to getting and staying well in North America? Interestingly enough, the Disney-Pixar movie "Coco" has something possibly substantial to say about this.
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