We are approaching the Days of the Dead, the festival that inaugurates the period during which Indigenous people in the Americas perceive the veils between the worlds of matter and spirit to be at their thinnest. Between Halloween and the mid-January there are numerous festivals and ceremonies honor the Ancient Ones.
At many of these events corn will be served, acknowledging the profound bond between the Corn Mother and the People. It is said the Ancestral spirits love the taste, fragrance, and texture of corn, of maize. They also adore sugar. Any doubts one might have about the latter should be dispelled by the vast array of sweets prepared for the Days of the Dead, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas Holidays, all festivals associated with the presence of the Ancestors. Marzipan and chocolate are the traditional sweets, but any sugary confection will do.
No autumn/early winter celebration would be complete without a delectable prepared from corn. Perhaps no dish is more ubiquitous at this season than the tamale. Tamales come in a great variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. (One of my favorites is chocolate with hot chilies.) Further north corn or Indian pudding, corn cakes, cornbread and polenta replace tamales on the festival table.
The presence of dishes made from maize reminds us that our Ancestors sacrificed themselves so we might live. Throughout the Americas Indigenous people tell the story of the Corn Mother or Corn Maiden who sacrificed herself so the People might have food. Here is a link to a Penobscot version of the story.
Indigenous people in the Americas believe we must acknowledge the debt we owe our ancestors, and our obligations to those, of all species, who will come after us. We are taught to consider the consequences of our actions for those who will be born seven generations hence, keeping in mind that all actions have unintended consequences. We look at our histories and see that we have made mistakes that harmed others and must not be repeated.
In the weeks to come I will write more about this sacred, feast filled time of year.