"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.
of the Remembered Dead
This is an interesting and thoughtful film. As I guess so many things must be these days, it is however excessively "cute." It's stuffed with constant, surrealistically hyped-up eye-candy. Exposed constantly to such richly exaggerated visual treats, kids cannot help but yawn at a mere, actual tree. It doesn't even dance. Every conceivable kind of animated, perfectly lit, cartoonish hijinks shows up. Miguel (the hero child) and his long-tongued dog stretch and stumble into them in a dizzying train of slapstick antics.
There are oh so heartrending expressions of facial emotion.
Intricate, eye-staggering vistas sweep into view from high above or somewhere far below.
All this is made so astonishingly alive and solid by Pixar's supercomputer-enhanced graphics.
But the ghostly, the ancestors, can only remain in this gorgeous Disneyland of the dead so long as their picture is placed on family altars during the dia de los muertos festival. They have to be remembered by descendants. If not, they die the second death, they evaporate into--well, no one knows what sort of oblivion. And it's that remembering that interests me here the most.
A Second Death After the Physical One?
Daan van Kampenhout is a Dutch shaman and constellation facilitator. His book, Images of the Soul, helped me create an understanding of what goes on in family constellations. Why do they work so often, so well? Are bygone ancestors actually somehow aided along with their descendants?
Daan builds on the Eastern and occult notion that there are four "bodies" in a human. The physical one is tightly coupled with and held in shape by the "etheric." Underlying these then are the "astral" and the "mental" (connected in the same way). Each of these is made of progressively more rarified, subtle energies. On dying, the physical and etheric dissipate very quickly. But the astral and mental can persist for various reasons for much longer times.
Does the Astral Body Hold the Trauma?
What's important to note here is that the astral body is the home of emotions and symbols. It's existence after loss of the physical and etheric is dreamlike. Traumas experienced during the recently ended life float around, so to speak, but cannot be coalesced, processed, and resolved in this state. Called into and connected to a representative in a constellation, however, resonating with the physical and etheric bodies of that representative--ancestors can resolve some traumas. Conscious, loving attention from complete bodies can help them to accept their own fate.
Two things happen when they do this. First, the ancestors have a much better chance of not having to relive that trauma to learn its lessons in another life. And second, the descendant is freed from having to carry that damage for the family system. So maybe the dia de los meurtos approach to the end of October makes some sense? Maybe it's worth remembering your recent ancestors, along with their strengths and weaknesses, at this time of year?
Ancestral Discovery Special Offer
It's around this time that I often have a "special" running. In about 75 minutes I can guide you through the most important facets of what your recent ancestors have left you in the way of both resilience and possible traumas not your own. Most people are surprised at the depth and relevance of what I can bring to light during this session. The price is right and the details are also right HERE.
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