Dear Friends & Family,
I greet you with best wishes as we move into fall, a time blessed with festivities which represent both transition and reflection. While it still feels like summer here in Southern Cal, the smells and signs of the autumn harvest have arrived: pumpkins, squash and gourds are displayed everywhere! Halloween décor and costumes have dominated the shelves of stores and online ads since August. With the days getting shorter during this period, I feel a sense of “time running out.” Truthfully, it somewhat depresses me. However, I find solace in what are to me, the three most inspirational festivities of this season: Navaratri, Yom Kippur, and El Día de Los Muertos.
Navaratri – Nine Nights – is the ancient Hindu celebration of the Divine Feminine as represented by the Goddess Durga, the great warrior deity and slayer of all demons, darkness and danger. I pray and chant to her all year long to remove all negativity from myself to myself, from myself toward others, and from others toward me. This age-old nine-day tradition is actually celebrated four times a year, with the main celebrations happening each fall and spring. The dates vary, with this fall’s celebration beginning September 26 and ending October 5; 2023’s spring-time Navaratri begins March 22 and ends March 31.
The festivities include a featured daily goddess – Durga has many iterations – as well as specific chants, rituals, and a restricted menu which serves as a cleansing diet. I’ve enjoyed engaging in many of these practices for the past several years. Albeit, I don’t follow the menu to the “t.” True to my form, I tweak it for my body’s current needs. This year, it’s an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, brown rice, and carrot juice cocktails – non-alcoholic 😉, along with a limit on my protein intake, no dairy, starch carbs or sugar, all in tandem with intermittent fasting. I find this a great way to boost my immune system, in preparation for colder weather and our perennial “cold and flu” season, which is upon us.
Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement – is the most sacred day of the Hebrew calendar. It completes the ten-days of penitence, which begins with the celebration of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. Being brought up Catholic with the weekly ritual of confession, I’m amenable to the concept of pausing to reflect and owning up to one’s mistakes and misdeeds. To "sin" literally means to miss the mark or lose one’s way. It’s a matter of getting back on track. In other words, I believe it’s good to clear one’s mind and psyche, moving forward with a clean slate and a vow to do better. Acknowledge. Forgive. Let go!
El Día de los Muertos – The Day of the Dead – is the day to honor all loved ones who’ve passed. Largely celebrated in Mexico and by those of Mexican heritage throughout the world, this holiday’s roots go back some 3,000 years. It’s a blend of Mesoamerican ritual, European religion and Spanish culture. It’s celebrated from midnight on October 31 through November 2 and coincides with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which fall on November 1 and 2, respectively. According to tradition, the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of children can rejoin their families for 24 hours; the spirits of adults can do the same on November 2. It’s customary to leave food and other offerings, such as photos, memorabilia, flowers and candles, on the graves of loved ones as well as on makeshift altars, called ofrendas, at home. Most prominent of the symbols representing this holiday are the skeletons, or calacas, and the skulls, or calaveras. The food and drinks most associated with this holiday are pan de muerto, a sweet bread, along with a spicy dark chocolate drink and the corn-based beverage called atole.
I hope you find enjoyment this fall season with whatever traditions inspire and support you. Additionally, I’d like to thank the many of you who take the time to respond to my newsletters. I can’t express enough how much this is appreciated.
“We not only nurture our sacred relationships through ritual, but we are nurtured by them as well. In ritual, we move, and we are moved.” — Alison Leigh Lilly