Another year has come and gone, and yet again I participated in the All Souls Procession. For those who don’t know what the All Souls Procession is, it is a community driven event that occurs down in Tucson every year. The procession is tied to Dia de los Muertos, and is aimed at helping people find peace with death and honoring those who have gone before us. In many ways, the procession is about coming to terms with death, but is also an act of defiance against death and often features a lot of fire, dancing, and loud music.
This year’s theme dealt with liminality, which is close to my heart. I didn’t see a prayer form on the website this year, so I ended up making my own, and like last year, I gave people the option to submit petitions to be written onto the prayer form and thrown into the urn.
After I finished writing the petitions out, I placed them in front of the shrine to be blessed. This year I didn’t write a single thing on the prayer form for myself. I’m not sure why this is, but I suspect that the reason is two-fold. First, is that I don’t have any active shadow work open that needs to be finished. So I didn’t have any shadow work to place onto the prayer form. Second, Osiris has fully decided to take over this event as a sort of festival or holiday related to himself, and so I was acting more in the capacity as a officiant for others, as opposed to participating for myself.
I’m not sure if either of these is accurate, but either way, I didn’t feel compelled to write anything on the prayer form for myself.
The prayer form was submitted to Osiris with offerings of fancy soda and baked goods. I also made sure to include fire and incense. I kept everything dark and rich in color, as they both remind me of the dark silt of the Nile, and the dark ground that Osiris is tied to. I felt that evoking this dark soil would help to sew seeds for fertility and growth later on because from death comes new life.
Like always, we walked with Odaiko Sonora, a local taiko group, and we performed the Tucson Ondo, which is styled after Japanese Obon dances. Odaiko Sonora got the honor of participating in the finale this year, so everyone was dressed up in special costumes for the finale.
Because of the finale, there was the addition of a chant to our procession this year. I didn’t think much of it, but it turns out that chanting while walking actually makes for a very different experience. I found that using my voice was more difficult than I anticipated, and I often found that I was running out of breath while chanting. Turns out that little additions can actually make a big difference.
Although many aspects were the same, this year’s procession had some notable differences for me, though the differences are kinda difficult for me to pin down and describe. Like the previous two years of walking in the procession, I have to admit that I was not profoundly changed by the experience or anything like that. There was another person walking in our group for the first time that expressed sincere awe over the whole setup and event, but I must admit that I didn’t really feel anything overly special or spiritual about the experience. However, despite that, there were some things that did actually change.
First I noticed some parallels between the procession and traditional celebrations of the Mysteries. The Mysteries were often marked by a procession from Abydos to Osiris’ “tomb” up the hill nearby, and while I’m not necessarily walking to a tomb, I am walking from a starting point to a finishing point where a ritual (the burning of the urn) takes place. I also noticed that while I don’t travel for Set’s yearly execration, I do travel for Osiris’ procession – similarly to those who would have a pilgrimage to Abydos.
Before the procession starts, we often stand around at the starting point while we wait for everyone to show up. We do this because our group gets to walk right behind the urn, and if we aren’t there early to hold our spot behind the urn, we’d never be able to carve a space out for ourselves once everyone arrives. Unfortunately, waiting can be an hours long process, and sometimes it can get trialing dealing with everyone milling around to catch a glimpse at the urn.
I was getting frustrated by this, but then my mind turned to all of my work with Osiris, and one of the most common themes in his work is stillness. Before you can set forth in rebirthing or transforming, you must be still for a while. The process after death starts with stillness, and only after you have been still can you move forward with your transformation. And it was at this point that I realized I was beginning to create links between this procession and my Mysteries work.
Another thing that I noticed was that the first thing we do during the procession is walk through a small tunnel. Our MC that plays music at the starting point always talks about this tunnel, and reminds people not to rush in getting through the tunnel- that it can take time, like grains of sand passing through an hour glass, and that we must all be patient while going through the tunnel. For myself, the tunnel reminds me of going through a gateway- a common starting point for those traveling through the Duat, or through the various gates inside of Nut. And suddenly the tunnel became a sort of threshold that must be crossed before truly beginning this procession.
All of these things swirled around in my mind as I stood and waited for the procession to begin. I realized that a year ago these connections would not have been made in my mind, and I remembered an old conversation I had with someone about what actually makes a mystery a Mystery. They noted that Mysteries are everywhere, but that the biggest difference is that the people who have been initiated into the Mystery actually see the symbolism and hidden messages that occur within festivals or rites at hand. Last year, Osiris had told me that I had finally been ‘initiated’ into whatever on earth I’m doing, and I’m wondering if the parallels I’m pulling this year are a reflection of that.
Or maybe it’s just a reflection of all of the reading I’ve done on him over the past year.
Either way, these parallels are very new to me, and have caused me to have a different relationship with the procession this year than I have in years past. While I still am walking away from the procession going “why do I want to drive two hours out of the way to stand around for several (literally) hours only to drive two hours home and wake up and be tired for work the next morning”, I am starting to find more and more meaning behind it, or at least meaning that ties it to my work for Osiris.
This year I did stick around to watch the finale and watch the urn burn. I really wanted to support my friends in Odaiko Sonora and see their performance at the end of the night.
While I am still a bit “meh” about my involvement with the procession (and have been every year prior), Osiris has more or less dictated that this event marks the beginning of his ‘season’, and so I imagine that I will be participating yearly from here on out. I will be interested to see how my attitude towards this event changes and grows over the years, and what other parallels I will discover as I return each year.
Relevant Posts and Links:
- All Souls 2011
- All Souls 2013
- All Souls Procession website
- All Souls Procession FB page (There are lots of images on this one)