This month I am delighted to paired with Lilith Dorsey of the Pagan Channel here on Patheos. Each Monday through October will be will reflecting on how we think of and honor our ancestors. We do this from our own embeddedness, each seeking to share in freedom the beauty of our traditions. Then later that week we will reflect on one’s another’s musing. This past Monday we both posted on the way our tradition understood art in relation to our ‘ancestors.’
Lilith shared the importance, value and function of voodoo flags that are made in honor the those who have moved on from this life.
And I confess that I came away feeling empty.
Not because I somehow disagreed or was offended by Lilith’s post.
On the contrary, I was deeply saddened that I could not think of ways we Christians honor our dead artistically.
Two weeks ago I was walking around an old cemetery in Yorkshire and noticed that some graves, especially those of stillbirths, babies and little children were elaborately cared for and decorated. I gazed at one in particular and thought a lot about Harry, who he was, who he might become, his parents who so tenderly had turned his little tombstone area into a work of art. I considered that the memory what could have been, this child of love and so beloved still dwelt with them. I sensed there that bitterness was turning to bitter-sweetness, the way the tomb was decorated suggested that to me at any rate.
I thought, “How do Christians artistically remember their ancestors?” Not just famous saints, or celebrities. I mean the moms and pops and brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, in-laws, friends, beloved all. How do we artistically remember them? The poverty of my tradition at this point was clear. Or at least such is my understanding and experiencing of that tradition.
Maybe others among my friends reading this can think of some and will add them in the comments.
I am tempted to ask about the question of aesthetics and death from a Christian perspective. I think the question is s worth pursuing. Or is this bleak aesthetic of ours another form of what Ernst Becker might call our ‘denial of death?’ I wonder if Lilith’s voodoo tradition can’t teach us something important here about honoring our beloved dead in art. After all art is the way express our deepest selves.
On Mondays we will publish our blogs, on Wednesdays or Thursdays we will respond to one another’s blogs.
Topics for the week of:
Oct 6 Artistic
Oct 13 Memory and Remembrance
Oct 20 Spirit World
Oct 27 Future Ancestors