Grave minding and grave decorating traditions run hand in hand with
the season of Samhain, and perhaps nowhere is this as apparent as in
Central and South America during Dias de los Muertos. However, elements of this practice are easily incorporated into modern Pagan traditions and offer a subtle yet powerful method of honoring the dead. It
is a practice that I have been personally undertaking for the past twelve
years, and it has become a valued addition to my Samhain rituals.
Grave minding is an immersive ceremony where the graves of the dead are tended to and cleaned. Food, flowers, and lights are given as offerings, and a small meal is taken as a form of communion in memory of the dead. While incorporating a Pagan element, I have often taken non-Pagan friends and relatives on my grave minding tour of the region. It is a practice that can easily be adopted by anyone regardless of spirituality or religion.
A primary function of this practice is that it feels almost like a pilgrimage and a vigil combined. I rarely visit the graves of my loved ones at any other time of year, so as a consequence my "grave minding" tour is something I anticipate with some delight. I relish spending a whole day visiting my ancestors and swimming in their memory.
For this ceremony you will need:
- floral tributes of your choosing
- cakes or cookies
- a seven-day or grave candle
- old cloths, a water mister/sprayer, and gentle detergent
As you approach the cemetery or memorial park, bring the dead to mind. Recall whatever memories you have of them. Spend time cleaning and generally tidying the grave, and leave your offerings of food and floral tributes. Light the candle and imagine that the flickering flame represents the connection you have to the deceased; their memory burns in you, for you are intimately connected by blood and heritage.
Remain here for some time in meditation and quiet reflection. Partake of food and drink, and if you are in company, share stories of the deceased. If permitted by the cemetery authorities, leave the lit candle in place. Say these words:
As the veils of Samhain fall,
Sense this light, hear my call.
Blessed dead in earthly tomb,
Your memory in me abloom.
Excerpted from The Journey into Spirit, by Kristoffer Hughes.