Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Call to the Ancestors


“What is wrong in this world can only be wholly healed by those in the other world.
  What is wrong in the other world can only be wholly healed by those in this world.”
                                                            - Irish saying

I write this in the music room that has been my sacred temple for 38 marvelous years. So many miracles have happened in this place and yet again this morning, as 100 children charged the air with the powerful sounds, gestures and motions of our Intery Mintery Halloween ritual. By the end of this homespun ritual/ performance, the 3rd graders are locked in heart-stirring grooves on the xylophones, the 2nd graders are accenting downbeats with shaking bamboo rattles and resonant singing bells, the first graders are adding percussive effects, the 5th graders are playing the chant-like open-5th melodies on the whole family of recorders, the 4th graders, dressed in costume, are circling the space with explosive scary shapes and then moving in ancient grapevine steps while I play the Bulgarian bagpipe, unbelievably barely heard amidst the the 80-piece orchestra.

Music has long been a shamanic healing force, each instrument type and melodic mode and rhythmic groove bringing its specific form of healing, either energizing or calming or both, finding the calm at the eye of the storm or the dynamic dance at the center of silence. Here they join together, the struck skins and strings, the blown wind instruments, the rung and shaken and scraped percussion, the singing voice and dance for 15 minutes of “you just had to be there” soulful ceremony. Made all the more extraordinary by the fact that these are children from 6 to 11 years old and every single one included and contributing and participating just because their teachers believe in their deep-down musicality and the school still values it all.

Playing the bagpipe in the center, I didn’t want to stop. I wonder what might have happened if I followed my impulse and continued for another 10 or 15 minutes or 2 or 3 hours. Perhaps the parents would have to board a space shuttle to pick up their kids at carpool, as we were slowly lifted off this earth and landed, all 100 of us, in some other land or dimension. Maybe I’ll try it next year.

Meanwhile, it’s Halloween. The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain renewed and revived and kept going—except in those fearful places where it’s banned for its Satanic influence on our children. The origins speak of the belief that a veil separates this world, the land of the living, from the other world, the land of the dead. At Halloween, the veil grows thin, the curtains part and the dead return for one night to visit (or haunt) the living. As in every culture from time immemorial, we the living need to propitiate those spirits, both to let them know we remember them and to protect us from any lingering resentment on their part. The reasons for many of the current customs are mostly lost to us modern folks, but we enact them anyway and mostly have a great time doing it.

Last night, I went to see political comedian Will Durst, who was excellent as always. But he drew me into the spooky, horrific world far beyond any goblin or ghoul, the unbelievable and simply unacceptable possibility that the American people might be duped yet again and consider a candidate who will move us back toward the Dark Ages. I woke up in the grip of fear, disheartened that this contest is even a question and terrified that I would relive the constant sorrow of the Bush years.

And so I call to the ancestors at this time of communication between the worlds. We have the voices and bodies to speak and act for you and are honor-bound to heal the hurts that you suffered and move us toward love and compassion. You work in the realm of spirit and have the power to enter people’s hearts. In the political arena, things come and things go and we confused mortals keep shouting across imaginary lines and forget the spirit that unites us. But still, these decisions have real impacts and are not to be ignored or shrugged off just because they’re temporal and the spirit lives on.

Attention ye ancestors! Today we played beautiful music for you, we’re working here to give the children what they deserve and training them to think and critique and analyze as well as feel and celebrate and express themselves in beauty. We’re making phone calls to Ohio and encouraging people to get out and vote. From your side, we’re hoping you’ll gather the invisible forces to at least keep the door of possibility open to necessary change and intelligent discourse. We know that Obama carries both hope and disappointment, but the difference between the little he offers and the alternative is huge and worth of a petition to you all. It’s time for trick or treat— you know which one we prefer! Thanks for the help. 

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