¬Ņ¬Ņ Spooky holiday, or Precious Observance ??

Photo by Toby Ord, Wikimedai Commons


My photo, 2012, Santiago Plaza, Merida


History, especially religious history, morphs over time.  The results can be dark, confusing.  I recently wrote to our Mayan gardener, Victor, who has a college degree and a teaching certificate, asking about his understanding of the local holiday, Hanal Pixan:

YUCATECO MAYA :  HANAL PIXAN  (meal of souls)

SPANISH :¬† D√ćA DE LOS MUERTOS¬† (day of the dead)


My query to Don Victor :

I‚Äôm wondering about the name of this holiday, as I have doubts (or discomfort) about the English rendering: ‚Äúday of the dead‚ÄĚ.¬† I would prefer to call it day of the ancestors, or day of remembrance (memorial day is too vague, [and /or already dedicated to fallen warriors].¬† Any thoughts?

He wrote back in Spanish, so I will summarize his points:

En la cultura maya se celebra el “Hanal Pixan”, que literalmente significa comida de las almas. Tiene un sentido estrictamente espiritual, recordando a los fallecidos, de quienes se cree que a√ļn est√°n presentes entre nosotros de manera espiritual, y por eso se hace un altar para compartir con ellos: flores, alimentos y bebidas que fueron sus favoritos, para que tomen el esp√≠ritu o esencia de lo ofrecido.

“El D√≠a de Muertos” es de la cultura celta, y se sincroniz√≥ con otras culturas que poco a poco perdieron su originalidad, tambi√©n influenciadas por la Iglesia Cat√≥lica. El del camino de las almas y la pintura del rostro como se hace ahora en M√©rida es un teatro sencillo para atraer m√°s turismo, est√° lejos de la tradici√≥n maya de los antepasados.

In their culture, it is a spiritual holiday celebrating and sharing a meal of remembrance with departed souls, mainly family ancestors.  (It seems to me, from my reading of his words, to be less about the saints of the church, which may have been more prominent in earlier Euro versions.) Surviving family members today believe the offerings and the altar invite the essential visitation of the departed, and the meal of souls is thus shared solemnly, and apparently with gratitude.

He continues, that it seems the original sense of the holiday has been largely lost in the Euro (Celtic/Catholic) version, with the current influence becoming largely to invite tourism. [I’ve heard that Mexico City didn’t even celebrate this holiday until recent times, when the attraction of tourists was noticed, as a potential.]

My sense is that it originally was never about goblins, monsters, death, or the occult.  I see it rather as about thanksgiving, and appreciation of those who have enabled our survival.  So, if you want to scare yourself, just say


¬° BU !


or better yet, say


Language Lesson:

Fantasma > Ghost // Hallowe’en
Hallowe‚Äôen ‚Äúhallowed [sagrado] evening” = se llama la noche antes del D√≠a de Todos los Santos / All Saints Day
Hanal Pix√°n (en Yucat√°n): ‚Äúcomida con las almas/ o las animas, de los antepasados‚ÄĚ // ‚Äúmeal with the ancestors‚ÄĚ day of the dead (ej: high plains of Mexico/en altiplano)

Apparition > aparici√≥n ‚Äúimagen, sin cuerpo‚ÄĚ (yo soy, pero no estoy mi coche, ni mis zapatos, ni aunque mi cuerpo; soy mi alma.)
Nube > cloud
Niebla > fog
Neblinoso > foggy, cloudy, misty, hazy

Ghost > geist/geest (German/Dutch) : mind-spirit / fantasma
Holy Ghost > Espíritu Santo (ej: como Juan 14:26, el Consolador / the Comforter)

Soul > alma/espíritu/anima
Visitation > visitaci√≥n (ej: como Mar√≠a, Lucas 1:28): Y entrando el √°ngel en donde ella estaba, dijo: ¬°Salve, muy favorecida! El Se√Īor es contigo; bendita t√ļ entre las mujeres.

Wind/breath/spirit // pneuma/ruach (English // Greek/Hebrew)
Bible translators need to examine the context of wind, breath, spirit (viento, respiración, anima) as in both Hebrew and Greek, the words could all mean the same, yet are different concepts.






Miami International Airport terminal, looking out upon world flags.

It’s been well-over two years since we’ve flown anywhere.¬† I had personal business in US so we booked a two-hour flight on AA to Miami, which makes direct transits in both directions each afternoon, arriving in Miami at 6:30pm and in Merida about 3:30pm.¬† International travel is still taxing, but at least we didn’t have to arise at 4am!

MetroMover cars service the downtown, free. (No mask. No ride.)

Miami’s rail system is impressive.¬† Their transit system, MetroRail, got us from the airport to within a short walk of our hotel.¬† Very affordable!¬† Monday thru Friday for $22.50 per person for the work-week, using prepaid cards bought all at once from a vending machine ‚ÄĒ¬† a significant savings over buying one ride at a time.¬† (There are plenty of transit workers ready to explain how to transact.)¬† The MetroMover, seen in the photo above, shuttled us around downtown for free, no cards needed.¬† MetroRail requires prepaid cards at the gate. Masks are required of all passengers on all transit systems in Miami.

We stayed at a dignified older hotel which has been smartly restored: the EuroStar Langford Miami.¬† Well located, on SE 1st Street. Well managed.¬† Comfortable.¬† Dining nearby ranges from Whole Foods salad bar, to Boulud Sur.¬† We enjoyed our first poke bowl (think Asian-version of Chipotle Mexican Grill, at OG Poke, on SE 1st.)¬† We also enjoyed a tiny Cuban breakfast spot, with sidewalk tables but no name, two blocks east of the hotel (next to Kone Sushi).¬† But note: wherever we went in Miami we froze.¬† Yeah, it’s “north” of Yucat√°n, but the air conditioning on trains, in eateries, and in malls was excessive.¬† Take a sweater!¬† I saw office workers wearing quilted vests and robes! We’re cooling ourselves into oblivion.

My other complaint was signage. Their street signs are not at human scale, and they display only one half of each intersection, high above pedestrians, assuming that everyone knows what street their walking on.  Clearly the signage is for drivers not walkers.  This was troubling, as we got lost walking to our hotel, upon first arriving downtown. 

This city is on the go.  Construction is everywhere.  The mayor knows the city is at risk of sea-level inundation.  But BigMoney seems to expect taxpayers to come to the rescue. Venice FL !

A fancy high-rise near our hotel.

SPINOZA’s RADICAL THEOLOGY¬† : : ¬† A mini book review

Spinoza’s Radical Theology : the Metaphysics of the Infinite

FIVE STARS.¬† I’ve long been asking fellow students of philosophy who their favorite philosopher might be.¬† Well, Professor Charlie Huenemann’s book has me convinced:¬† next to Socrates/Plato, in the modern era, mine is Bennie Spinoza.¬† This excerpt is from the first page of his concluding chapter, titled Spinoza vs Nietzsche:

Spinoza may have been the first philosopher to propose a metaphysical vision that so thoroughly integrates the deep reverence in ancient religion with the remorseless necessity of modern physics.¬† He saw that nature is closed ‚ÄĒ no loopholes, no exceptions, and no magic ‚ÄĒ and indifferent to our plight.¬† But he also experienced something divine in nature that had been discerned as well in revealed religion, although not in full clarity.¬† He proposed not a compromise, but an integration: yes, nature is as cold and indifferent as a mechanistic physics implies, and, yes, the light of scripture is an expression of the reverence due to nature.¬† He asked that metaphysics and religion take a step forwards and together into a synthesis that preserved the essence of each.¬† (p.131, paperback edition, Acumen Publishing.)

CLICK the red title above to browse inside.