The day of the Dead: its original meaning and the importance it still has

In a few days it will be the Day of the Dead and I would like to focus on why ancient cultures gave importance to honoring the dead.

In Exodus 20, 5 it is said that God punishes “children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation”.

This sentence is today seen as controversial, and priests face troubles in explaining why God would punish children for the sins of their fathers.

But this intuition is profound and reflects the idea that, for the ancients, sin was not a personal fact.

Honoring the dead had the meaning of getting forgiveness for ancestors’ sins and by doing so setting the living free from ancestors’ destiny.

By honoring lives, mistakes and pain of the dead, they would set free the living.

And we arrive to the 10 commandments.

The fourth says: “Honor your father and your mother”. 

We can read in that the same longing for freedom.

In fact the complete commandment says: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you”.

It’s not that God will kill you if you don’t honor your parents. It’s that you will be burdened with your parents’ sins and we already explored the fact that sin, for the ancient jews, meant trauma (and that is why it was not personal). So you will carry the same traumas and therefore the same destiny.

With the words of the Bible, God will punish you for your parents’ sins, and also your sons, up to the third and fourth generation, until the traumas will be released from the family field.

The good news is that we can heal the field, and we can do it for everyone through love.

Interested? I wrote about “metanoia” in another article.

What we said so far, is clear if we focus on the verb “to honor”

The original verb used in the Bible is “kabbed” and its original etymology means “to weigh”.

So, the original meaning of the commandment is: weigh your father and your mother, in the sense of carefully considering them and their “weight”.

Concluding, it’s important that we honor, we weigh, the dead’s destinies so that we can be free from them, and by setting us free we also set the others free.

In the end, human history is a collective healing process taking place through generations.

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