This post is not about the morbid fad referred to as ‘dark tourism’, but explicitly to do with the natural human tendency to, at some point while living, find ourselves attuned in confusion to the concept of death. Represented in forms of living dead tourism which celebrate and acknowledge the people no longer on this earthly journey with us.
This may involve the grappling to understand something typically acknowledged as being one of only a few definite realities that are impossible to change in life. An inquisition brought on sometimes when loved ones leave, or due the occurrence of physical sicknesses. Or an effort to look for deeper meaning into the most mysterious phenomena of all. Proven, since death’s existence spawned almost all world religions. Often also in a human attempt to deal with something that seems so much bigger than us if we can’t control it. And for some, even an effort to connect with the emotion of these depths which they perceive as equal to the intensity in energy of birth, as being the most profound points in a life cycle – which could also work as a total junction along this circle, depending on beliefs. Pursuits of meaning can be expressed also in activities provoking ecstatic states, dangerous adventure activity, and extreme weather… Among so many of the ways to dwell in this level of intensity. Or even, for some individuals seeking this imagined higher plane, just to simply escape from life as it has been seen at some time ranging from overly mundane, to some sort of entrapment in a living hell.
An appreciation of history and heritage is another reason to chase the dream of death in some form. Tourism has definitely always had all this covered. Fascination with the death matter to the point of worship dates back to of course, ancient Egypt. Visitors are attracted to the pyramids which stand so assured in the sand, erected with great importance for the benefit of the deceased pharaohs whose mummified bodies inhabited them. From these pyramids and underground tombs, it was hoped the soul would be transitioned through the transcripts on the walls, into a super after-life. Although not without some work to get there as outlined in a printed version of these transcripts known as ‘The Papryus of Ani’ which refers to the techniques of effective soul migration told in art and heiroglyphs on painted papyri, the worlds first paper. Also often translated as ‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead’.
Amidst an array of magical incantations to help guide the soul into the after-life, some being how to repel crocodiles and snakes, how to prevent dying again after death, and how to transform into a lotus – Spell 125 is the most significant of all. In this text a process is described of the weighing up of the heart against a white feather on the opposing end of a set of scales. The heart needs to be deemed lighter than the feather to pass through to the next level. Being found heavier would result in the soul’s utter destruction. Attention to detail in many other aspects was as important as the light-heartedness to get a pass, the soul had to dress correcly in white, adorned in black eyeliner, and annointed in essence of myrrh flower. Dressed for success, the appropriate dialogue is then expected to be recited, and the soul is offered treats including incense, beer and herbs… The beginning of a new journey.
… the never resting stars sing hymns of praise unto thee, and the stars which rest, and the stars which never fail glorify thee as thou sinkest to rest in the horizon of Manu…
From A Hymn to The Setting Sun – in praise of Ra.
Maybe even more famously the Mexicans really know how to honour and celebrate death with the bucket list frequent headliner – the Day of the Dead festival. Also known as Dia de los Muertos throughout Latin Americas.
You can hear the stories from the evershifting sands on an adventure with local guides through the most esteemed tour providers, who take small groups on journeys through the upper Middle East. More on all this coming up!
This time we have the souls who’ve previously been sent off, coming back for an annual reunion with those who they meant something to. Cemetary Visitors share the same joys of their everyday lives with their missed family and friends. Allowing them to catch up on all the gossip and stories, with food and beverages, then partying all night, dancing with the dead in the colourfully decked out streets, paper flags blowing to the moods of the winds they represent as the element of air. Offerings or ofrenda have elemental connections to bridge the worlds. Water takes the form of pitchers to drink from, and earth is in the food laid upon the beloved one’s graves, traditionally home baked bread treats. Fire is brought as the dancing candlelight illuminating the decorated graveyards. Then the layers of colour in flowers, dominating are vibrant golden marigolds, with the lavishly decorated sugar skulls representing the entities being visited. Dressing up in the most striking visual otherworldly adornments are essential for impressing living or dead carnival attendees, and for the cameras everywhere.
Do tourists really just go to watch mourners and take colourful photos?… As Dia de los Muertos is expanding in popularity around the world, being celebrated on November 2, fashioned in the same shared outlook of remembering and celebrating with missed deceased ones, it probably is a more interactive experience.
Why not take graveyard hopping even further on the road? From the Cemetiere du Pere Lachaise in Paris, where you can be illuminated in the realms of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, alongside many other famous artistes, musical, literary legends… To Hollywood Forever to pay respect to stars who also touched people in their time on Earth – Judy Garland just some names from early Hollywood inscribed in time here. An outdoor cinema pops up in the Hollywood Forever cemetary lawns in the warmer months, complete with fun features like dressups, movie themed photo booths, slumber parties. These cemetaries are well trodden cultural and inspirational tourist hotspots.
Being September 11 today, let’s finally talk about a more recent popular death trip – Ground Zero. a next gen mass grave tourism monument, which like the increasing interest in visiting the Chernobyl Factory, is reminiscent of the post WW2 flourish of Holocaust Memorial Museums found globally. It marks the location of where the World Trade Centre stood in history. A landmark that jumps abruptly into your face to remind that some humans can be killers. Capable of sabotaging other’s lives through ideas of war, terror, horror, in the form of weapons of mass destruction, all which bow to the concept of conflict, avoided otherwise through living their own lives.
All people will commonly, inevitably face death in any of it’s many forms. Through the spiritual filter of living dead tourism, searchers are enabled to be brought back to the true living world, or perhaps guide others back, while they are still guaranteed to getting their own paramount experience of existence. If like the ancient Egyptians believed, they are worthy?