Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras, Vodou style

The Baron keeps knocking on my head, reminding me that this is the week he strode through my family and scooped up the people I love.  It's also Mardi Gras, and I am off by a week or so. I used to be much more up on these things -- I'd order King Cake, set out my beads and sing When the Saints come Marching. But today I have workmen in the house, the dogs are all fussy (because there are workmen in the house), and it slipped my mind, until I got a Happy Mardi Gras note from a friend in New Orleans.

The month of February is a very interesting time of year for me personally. It's a mix of Love magic, birth charts, celebrations of life, and death memorials.  It all begins with Mardi Gras, surely the reason we all know New Orleans. Mardi Gras is mirrored with the Mummers here in Philadelphia. Only we do the parades, drinking and festivities in line with the turning of the New Year. The Mummers were always a treat for me as a child growing up in Connecticut. I loved seeing the parade on TV (when it was broadcast), and ogling the sequined costumes. All that color and flash was made me woozy with delight. I still watch the Mummers every year now that I live in Philadelphia.

Mardi Gras and Mummers are followed by the Lenten season, heralded by Ash Wednesday. My paternal grandmother died on Ash Wednesday. Such an odd thing to have stuck in one's head -- especially since I was all of 10 when she passed. But somehow the date stuck. And the week that follows was to become a personal journey of enlightenment, sorrow and joy for me.

I married a February baby. His birth date is the 19th. He asked me to marry him on Valentine's Day. So the 14th through the 19th is our personal Love Holiday. But then, there's the 18th in there. I try to offset the oddity of the memory by pointing out to myself, that it was Ash Wednesday and not just the 18th of February. Some years it works - others it doesn't.

Ten years ago, when my dad died, he passed on the 18th of February as well, although it wasn't Ash Wednesday. I remember being in such pain over his death. My husband cancelled an important business trip to be with me. There was no Valentine's Day or birthday celebrations for us that year. However, I did make the mental note of two ascensions on the 18th.

So each year, I am torn at this time. Do I celebrate Mardi Gras? Make a big deal out of my Love's birthday? Or honor the death of my paternal lineage. Hmmm... perhaps its time to do all of it together.

It all comes to roost for me in New Orleans. The Crescent City, river bound, Plutonian ruled, ringed with cemeteries, death and decay. No wonder I am so attracted to that place.

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day to feast up, eat up and pig out in general (if you're Catholic). I have decided to make a King Cake for my Parents and Grandparents. I will toast them with Anisette and Coffee (called Coffee Royal in our Italian household). And I will make a big deal out of my love's birthday. He missed one ten years ago for me. I will be sure he doesn't ever have to do that again.

The Baron is nodding. It'll be His time soon enough. Mardi Gras ends to night at midnight and we descend into darkness for 40 days. Time to scrub the temple, wash the altars and tend to the dead. Light candles, leave offerings and be still. I can do this.

But for now, les bon temp roule gang - the Saints will be marching soon enough.

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