Feeding the spirits pizza and love

Hoy es el Dia de los Muertos

Today is the Day of the Dead.

In Mexico, so they say, families picnic in cemeteries, honoring their buried grandmas and grandpas, their tios and tias (uncles and aunts, for you gringos) and beloved departed friends.

They honor that the circle of life never really ends.  It just goes ’round and ’round. 

Our loved ones die, yet we can consciously choose to remember them, to honor them, to call back their precious spirits and bless them.

Every year on November 1st or 2nd, during a two-day celebration down south in Mexico to honor the dead, I choose to remember the spirits of loved ones and friends who are now bone or ash, returned to earth or sprinkled upon moving waters. 

In the old days (pre-twenty first century) I often opted for the way our indigenous Anishinabe honor the spirits.  During sacred feasts or ceremonies, before anyone eats, someone creates a “Spirit Plate”.  The ancestors are lovingly fed a bit of venison, some wild rice, a bit of fry bread, some decadent slice of blueberry pie with Cool Whip.  The filler of the Spirit Plate then goes outside and ritually feeds grandma and Uncle Ben and hundreds of unnamed ancestors who once walked the earth.  You do this slowly, reverentially, with full intention that you are feeding the invisible relatives who perhaps hover in the ethers, aware of our remembrance.

We feed them with our love, our respect, our honor.  We feed them so as not to forget them.  We feed them to keep them beautiful and alive within our hearts, our families, our communities.

When our kids were growing up, we sometimes spread a blanket in the living room on the Day of the Dead.  We made a Spirit Plate.  Our feast was usually–I almost hate to say it–pizza.  We hoped Grandma and Grandpa wouldn’t mind a few bites of pizza.  At least they might smile or roll their eyes at the “craziness of this new generation”. 

We talked with the kids about their dead great-grandmas and grandpas, and perhaps a neighbor down the road.  We tried to keep alive an invisible world which pulsated with mystery and the unknown. 

Some say that the ancestors don’t really eat the pizza.  They say the ancestors enjoy only a “whiff” of our pepperoni or tomato sauce, and that’s enough.  I’m not sure.  The food was usually gone by morning, so you decide.  Ancestors or raccoons?  I’m leaving it open to possibility.

These days I sit quietly on the couch and call to mind the dearly departed.  Grandma Orton.  I wait to feel her essence, her spirit, her Grandma Orton-ness.  Sometimes you can feel it so strong that you know you’ve connected with their particular being.  At other times, you have to settle with a mental blessing.  Grandpa Orton.  Grandma Sheldon.  Grandpa Sheldon.  Grandma Elsholz, Grandpa…and then you add other names, calling them in your heart, feeling them in your heart. 

Bless you and you and you.  We loved you well.  May our love follow your spirit, wherever you next travel.

Thank you for what you gave to us.  Thank you for sharing your gifts and teachings.  Thank you for that bright shining star of spirit that you uniquely blazed for all the world to see.  Thank you. 

We won’t forget you.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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30 Responses to Feeding the spirits pizza and love

  1. jeffstroud says:

    Wonderfully honored! Beautifully captured photographs!

  2. Brenda Hardie says:

    I love this idea. Have never set out a plate of food but certainly have taken the time to remember the ones who have gone before us. I try to share memories with my sons so that they will have a connection as well. You present good ideas here and I think it’s time to begin a new tradition. ♥

    • Kathy says:

      I didn’t set out a Spirit Plate yesterday or today, but did take time to remember my loved ones. The Natives are always pointing to moving beyond a thought or feeling and actually making ceremony into something physical. Glad you are pondering this new tradition. It’s a good one, I think.

  3. swbyrne says:

    It’s so important to remember those who have gone. So often we are urged to not “live in the past” … I say pfffffttt to that. I like to periodically stroll through the past and visit my grandparents and great-aunts and others who were a big part of my childhood and helped shaped who I am (and my sisters too).

    • Kathy says:

      I like bringing the past into the present, Sean. Then who can say pffffft to that? **smile** I am glad you haven’t forgotten those who have passed on.

  4. suzen says:

    LOVE this post – and the tradition as well – so easy to incorporate that into today, thank you, thank you! Best of all thank you to all the tribes – what a beautiful legacy of traditions. We have much to learn and respect!

    So cute about the pizza. I doubt spirits care what is on the menu – it’s what on/in the heart and intention 🙂 Again, thank you for sharing this!
    hugs,
    SuZen

    • Kathy says:

      Hello SuZen! I am glad you liked this. (I don’t think the spirits care about the menu either. They will like anything that’s cooked with love, don’t you think?)

  5. Sybil says:

    What a lovely tradition. I wish I could sit quietly and feel that close to my dead mom and dad.

    I hope against hope, that I will see them again, some when.

    • Kathy says:

      Sybil, I am so sorry that you’ve lost your mom and dad already. I think you will see them again someday. And I think they can see you today…

  6. holessence says:

    Yes – bless all those who have gone before. And bless all of us who are walking where they trod.

  7. bearyweather says:

    There is nothing wrong with pizza. The way you honor your loved ones, is unique and it should be. Shame on us who do not take the time to do anything

    • Kathy says:

      I wonder, bearyweather, if the reason people don’t take time to honor their dead loved ones is that they’ve never really thought how? Or perhaps they don’t think the dead ones are still present and available. I was just doing yoga a few minutes ago and felt my grandma’s presence. Perhaps she was happy that I am still thinking about her.

  8. Claire says:

    This is such a lovely post I so enjoyed reading it. I feel that pizza is perfectly good.I got to thinking about my dead grandparents and all the love we had shared. I felt happy rather than sad.Thank you.

    • Kathy says:

      Claire, I feel happy every time I connect with my grandparents and departed friends. There is a joy that arises, just in the remembering and being with them in my heart for another moment. Glad you feel the same way.

  9. Susan Derozier says:

    So lovely. In my next life I want to come back as your child! Ritual is so important and you and Barry truly invite it into your daily living in such beautiful ways. Loved the pictures and also the reminder to respect those who have passed on. We lost a dear friend yesterday and your timing, as always, is perfect.

    • Kathy says:

      My child? Ohmygoodness, no one has EVER said that before! You are such a sweetheart. I am sorry to hear that you lost a dear friend yesterday. So sorry. Hugs and comfort…

      • Susan Derozier says:

        Of course this is said from one much older than you so that may take some fixing. Thank you for the hugs. I strongly connect with my departed loved ones as well, though not so much through ritual as through daily mental conversations. Perhaps one day on the other side, I shall hear voices calling out to me as well. Your children were truly blessed to have your guidance into the world.

  10. To remember, is always to honor. I do not take a day or a time to do so. Often I see queues in life which bring back memories of those that have passed on. Recently, I visited a waterfall and in front of the waterfall was a fisherman. Casting away his cares in the hope of catching a fish or two. His presence immediately reminded me of my maternal grandfather who too me fishing a few times. He was so happy and proud when I caught my first Rainbow Trout. Ah, memories of honor.

    • Kathy says:

      I’ll bet your grandfather’s spirit was with you as you thought of him fishing while you were by the waterfall. Some of the natives say that the spirit of water (and especially waterfalls) is a good transmitter to other realms. Maybe? Smiling, thinking of you and your first rainbow trout.

  11. Such a beautiful tradition.

  12. Elisa's Spot says:

    Thank you, I didn’t know anyone else did the ‘spirit plate’ concept.

    • Kathy says:

      Really? Do you put out a “spirit plate” too, Elisa?

      • Elisa's Spot says:

        Well, I haven’t of late late and later. But yes I have. I tend to do it nearer to the solstice and for a period of days at a time. Seems to get more ‘busy’ here then. There are so many different types of ‘giving away’. I think that I know them, and then, I am slapped with not noticing such a gift. Usually this happens to me after a giving and expectant waiting….sigh Puts mud on face…again…

  13. Marianne says:

    This is beautiful, Kathy. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Oh Kathy, this was so beautifully written, and the pictures were perfect for the occasion. Joining you in blessing, honoring, remembering and thanking our beloved ancestors. (I have no Mexican ancestry, but have had many picnics and long conversions in cemeteries with departed loved ones…)

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, I know your deep love for your ancestors. Your connection with your ancestors shines out of you all the time. I am glad this resonated with you. I have no Mexican or hispanic ancestry, either, but I have always loved the Spanish language. There is something deeply spiritual about their lyrical way of expression that feeds me.

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