This is one of the two holidays in the United States that worships the dead (Halloween being the other). I think about my culture with disdain regarding these holidays because most of the population wouldn’t agree with the notion that Americans worship the dead. I live in a society that considers ancestor worship a barbaric and pagan rite, yet is obsessed with genealogy. I live in a society that preaches against making offerings to the dead, yet lays flowers on the graves of their loved ones. I live in a society that condemns the worship of the dead, yet holds elaborate and costly funerals and burials. I am ashamed of the duality of my culture. I believe that Memorial Day is an honorable and beautiful holiday and ancestor worship is an honorable and beautiful duty.
Memorial Day is a fairly recent occurrence (it started after the Civil War to commemorate the fallen heros), but ancestor worship is a practice that has been around since the dawn of man. Many consider it the first religion. So when you place the mums and lilies on the graves of your departed, feel a connection not only to them, but to the ages of humans who have experienced your loss as deeply as you do, from eons past.
Introduction and quote compilation by Laura S. Moncur, Staff Writer.
- “Hail to you gods, on that day of the great reckoning. Behold me, I have come to you, without sin, without guilt, without evil, without a witness against me, without one whom I have wronged. I am one pure of mouth, pure of hands.”
- The Book of the Dead, The Address to the Gods, 1700-1000 B.C.
- Memorial Day Hardcover by Lynda Sorensen – A brief history of the holiday. Ironically, the only books that discuss this celebration in detail are classified as juvenile literature.
- The Book of Days : A Compendium of Celebrations, Common and Arcane Paperback by Guen Sublette – A collection of the holidays from many cultures (including Memorial Day). Includes information about the celebrations as well as the history to special (and not so special) days throughout our year.
- Israel’s Beneficent Dead : Ancestor Cult and Necromancy in Ancient Israelite Religion and Tradition Paperback by Brian B. Schmidt – The history of death worship in the Israelite religion of ancient times.
- The Cult of the Dead in a Chinese Village Hardcover by Emily Martin, Emily M Ahern – Ancestor worship in China and its history.
- Bob Niemeier’s Ancestor Worship Page – This site has tons of links to various genealogy sources. Includes searchable databases, cemetery and gravesites, and professional genealogists.