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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    All Souls Procession sparks new life

    Michaela Kane
    Michaela Kane / The Daily Wildcat Tamina Muhammad, a painter with Face Flip facepainting, paints a childs face before the start of the Dia de los Muertos parade on Sunday, Nov. 3, in downtown Tucson.

    Celebrate life and commemorate those who have passed at the 25th annual All Souls Procession on Sunday.

    The procession, organized and operated by Many Mouths One Stomach, seeks to provide a means for individuals to release their grievances and lingering pain for loved ones who have passed away, while celebrating the memory of their lives and the lives of the living.

    Members of the procession write prayers and notes to those they wish to commemorate and place them in a ceremonial urn, which is burned during the ceremonial Grand Finale performance.

    “The urn is a container for whatever people want to let go of,” said Nadia Hagen, one of the festival’s chief organizers and co-founder of Many Mouths One Stomach. “It’s a community container where people can place their wishes and their prayers.”

    The urn is 8 feet in diameter and is cut from steel by Joe O’Connell’s Creative Machines, a local design and fabrication firm. Designed by Thomas Valentine and Many Mouths One Stomach board member Paul Weir, the urn signifies the epicenter of the festival.

    Hagen said the procession has a different culturally-themed presentation every year. This year, the burning of the urn will be performed by members of Odaiko Sonora, a local Tucson organization of taiko drummers, on top of a 50-foot-tall ziggurat made out of cargo containers.

    Karen Falkenstrom, co-founder of Odaiko Sonora, explained the group’s involvement with the All Souls Procession over email.

    “In 2006, when we first started bringing the drum to the All Souls Procession, our idea was just to refer to Japanese festivals in general, which often have a drum cart that is pulled through the city streets,” Falkenstrom said.

    The group then learned about obon, Japan’s traditional Buddhist ancestry festival.

    “A central feature of the — usually — three-day festival is the bon odori or bon dance,” Falkenstrom said. “During the bon odori, people dance hours or even all night, and taiko are usually part of the music they dance to.”

    Falkenstrom detailed that bon odori celebrates the release of spirits from the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which are said to torment the spirits until their release. Since finding this information, Odaiko Sonora has sought to include the bon odori traditional dance into their performance style.

    This year, Odaiko Sonora is bringing yet another facet of Japanese culture to the All Souls Procession: toro nagashi, a ritual in which lanterns are placed on a body of water, representing the spirits of ancestors and loved ones crossing over to another world, Falkenstrom said.

    Falkenstrom explained that people will carry lanterns to the stage area where they will then remove the paper covers and place them in the Urn. Decorated messages will be written over the individual paper covers.

    During Odaiko Sonora’s ceremonial performance, combining the bon odori and toro nagashi rituals of commemoration, the group will be leading a chant written by distinguished Japanese contemporary-classical pianist Aki Takahashi.

    “The chant was commissioned from [Takahashi] specifically for this 25th anniversary All Souls Procession,” Falkenstrom said.

    Copies of Takahashi’s chant are available online at Odaiko Sonora’s website for those who would like to practice the chant before Sunday’s procession.


    Follow Ian Martella on Twitter.

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