Sunday, October 14, 2007

Words: Light a Candle

A group of slightly groggy wayward souls met at Gallery Gachet for brunch and the screening of a documentary of the Night for All Souls at Mountain View Cemetery. Paula Jardine (artist in residence with the Mountain View Cemetery) and her colleague Marina Szijarto have create an annual community ritual in which everyone (yes, that means you!) is invited to participate to honor our dead friends and relatives.

The video (created by gvtv) captures some of the atmosphere of the magical event interspersed with interviews of Jardine and Szijarto. During the event the graveyard is transformed by ponds of flickering candles, unique hand-made shrines, and prayer flags. Pens and message boards are provided for the audience to write notes to their loved ones. Choir sing in sublime harmony around the light and warmth of burning barrels. Venders sell steaming chai, sweet burfi to warm the participants as well as flowers and candles to place on altars and graves.

Jardine and Szijarto are drawing from years of experience researching and working with the funeral traditions from around the world. The result is a new Canadian tradition that draws from the diaspora of rituals we all bring from our ancestors to this city and well as those of the first nations whose land this city is built on.

Attending the event two years ago opened up a space to me I had never entered. I was entranced by the images and sounds of people honoring their ancestors and friends. The day after the event I brought my son to the cemetery where we ate take-out perogies and I told him stories about my grandmother Weidenhammer. She was a strong, frugal woman who had lived through the dirty thirties on the prairies. When I visit Mountain View I get a strong sense of her presence, even though she's buried in Saskatchewan. I think she likes dropping in and gossiping with all the other grannies, nonas, babas, and elders. I see them clucking their tongues, shaking their heads at the price of potstickers and perogies these days.

Fingers crossed, the event may still happen this year as the outside workers strike has ended. Keep watching this space for more info:

From the invite:

Night for All Souls at Mountain View Cemetery

Opening Prayer at Sundown
Light a Candle, Write a Message, Place a Flower
Speak the Names of the Dead

Saturday October 27, 6-10 pm

(Fingers crossed.)

Lori Weidenhammer

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