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per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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all souls' eve
St. Vincent DePaul Cemetery #2 lies between Desire and Piety Streets; it and #1 (on the other side of Piety) are surrounded by whitewashed concrete walls, with only the forest of tomb-top crosses to be seen above. This night, the gates are unlocked, and we stream in, dressed in white, purple, black; we bear a black barque laden with offerings, a trellis of bones, a staff with a lit zozo phallic candle on the end. It is nearly midnight, and the stars of the Winter Circle are rising above us through the haze.

The Gedes are still with us, even though the drumming has ended and we have left the temple. They perch like carrion birds on the step tombs; one begins a scurrilous version of the Lord's prayer and another makes strange comments in Kreyol and English while smoking two cigarettes. The mambo passes out white candles and we light them from the one on the staff. The glow picks out the names on the tombs that bulk around us, the flowers and offerings made by families earlier in the day. We stand in the warm pool of glow as attendees offer prayers for the dead in many traditions.

Then we kneel and place our candles in a ragged circle on the flagstones, speaking or singing or whispering our private prayers, the names of our loved ones and ancestors and heroes. Tears sparkle, caught by candlelight. Some place their candles in front of tombs, and the alley to the center of the graveyard is picked out in points of flame. The food offerings from the barque are unloaded into the center of the candle-light; people add money, Mardi Gras throws, feathers, pretty stones. One of the hounsis begins a Kreyol song for the dead and those who know it join in as others pour rum and perfume on the offerings. One of the Gedes goes around the circle, solemnly passing out potato chips, one by one.

The hour turns past midnight. It is All Souls Day, and we are here, between Piety and Desire. We are here in the land of the Dead, the land of Samedi and Brigitte, the land of the Gede and the morts. Cemeteries are often places of fear, but there is no fear here tonight. There is peace, there is love; and although monsteralice and I are hundreds of miles from home, and we never met the others here before tonight, we do not feel out of place. No one is alone here, neither the living nor the dead.