Our dear mother Gladys told us that she had been admitted for delivery in the eve of the Christian celebration of the Day of the Dead, which remembers all those that departed from this Valley of Tears into the Otherworld. The celebration of All Saints (All Hallows) was introduced by the Catholic Church in 609 and was originally celebrated on May 13th . In 835 Louis le Pieux, son of Charlemagne and King of France, moved the holy date to November 1st and in the 11th century November 2nd was also designated as All Souls.
The converted Carolingian nobility was trying to “sanitize” an ancient pagan tradition that celebrated the beginning of wintertime on November 1st, one of the four main festivals of the Gaelic calendar. The Celtic tribes had divided the year in two halves: the first one was called Samonios and the second one was dubbed as Gamonios. Samonios marked the end of the harvest season and the preparations for the harsh winter conditions in the plains of Europe, which were undertaken by the whole family in a communal effort.
The cattle herds were brought back from the mountains where they had been grazing for six months. In the Piemonte region—where our grandfather Morizio was born—that custom is called alpage and had been methodically carried out by all the peasant families since Ancient Times. That region of Northern Italy was part of the Gallia Celtica, one of the largest clusters of Celts in Europe, which, after the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, became the roman province of Transalpina. Yolanda—our grandmother—told us that as a child Morizio and his brother Vittorio occasionally stopped to guide the cows uphill to briefly lean over and look at a small stone that had caught their attention. When Beppe—his father and our great-grandfather—noticed that there were laggard cows breaking the pace, he would come over to kick the brothers in their butts, saying: “andiamo.”
In Celtic times, the cattle was safely guarded in barns with winter forage and a few animals were slaughtered to prepare meat for the long wintertime; vegetables and fruits were kept in preserves. In order to celebrate they lit big bonfires to cook meals, provide warmth and offer protection. The Celts believed that during that period the boundary between the living and the dead loosened. The spirits of the departed returned to visit their old homes and interact with their families and friends. In order to placate the aos si—spirits or fairies—they offered food and libations in their homes.
Our dear mother Gladys affectionately told us that she had stayed purposefully extremely still and quiet in her hospital bed because she did not want her first son to arrive in the Day of the Dead. When she told us, we embraced her warmly and kissed her. However, being a very intuitive individual (also called an empath) she warned us: “beware, you were born in the restless souls-period.” In the early hours of a Friday on November 5th 1954, we were born in the Asociación Fraternidad, a mutual association located in a grandiose Italianate building with three stories in the very center of Montevideo and the starting point of its topographical nomenclature-kilómetro O.
Our grandmother Yolanda stayed with our mother during the delivery process to greet her first grandchild and once it was over, she walked to the nearby Plaza Libertad to catch a taxicab to return to her home in Colón. She had to take care of her ailing husband Morizio who had been recently diagnosed with a terminal illness. A few days later Gladys brought us to his room and he proudly cuddled us against his chest. Watching us he said: “My beautiful grandchild…. Must be asking who is this silly man holding him.”
During our adolescence, we went many times for outpatient consultations in that same building for common ailments and not once, we could convince our mother to come along. She always avoided talking about the subject until one day we told her that we had the impression of hearing strange voices whispering in a strange tongue there.
-“Don’t worry, they won’t hurt you,” she said. “Just want to connect with you.”
-“Why do they want to do it?” we asked her.
-“Because you share a psychological trait with them, dear,” she replied.
-“You have a restless spirit…And they are the restless souls on a constant search.”
As one of my novel‘s character said: “You can lose your tongue but not your blood.” Those roaming Celtic spirits were perhaps trying to connect with a Samhain boy.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.