On Halloween, it is said that the division between the living and the dead fades. Next Halloween weekend, Forest Hills Cemetery will host two events that revolve around the dissolution of metaphysical boundaries.
The first is a walking tour on Sat., Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. with social historian Dee Morris, which explores the Victorian Spiritualism movement in 19th century. Spiritualism is based on the belief that people can communicate with spirits. Out of this came psychic mediums, who supposedly possessed the power and knowledge to achieve this goal. Controversy followed, as some of these mediums were accused of fraud. Many believers and nonbelievers in these psychic abilities are buried at Forest Hills, and Morris tells their stories on a walk through the lovely cemetery.
Then, on Sun., Nov. 2 from 4 to 6:30 pm, Forest Hills has its annual Day of the Dead ceremony, co-sponsored by La Piñata. This ritual of remembrance is a Mexican tradition that traces back to Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Many of the aspects of contemporary Day of the Dead ceremonies maintain the same traditions of these ancient cultures. People bring offerings––photos, flowers, mementos––to place on a candle-lit altar for those who have died, and songs inviting the spirits to come out are performed. A Mayan elder, who travels from Guatemala, assists at the altar, leading a prayer to the beyond to help them find their path.
Forest Hills Cemetery was designed as a place to celebrate and mourn those who have passed, as well as a beautiful green space to enjoy life. It is a place where notions of life and death are intertwined. It is appropriate, then, for these events to take place there. Forest Hills, as it were, is in keeping with the spirit of Halloween weekend.
The writer is on the staff of Forest Hills Educational Trust.