Mozelle: and the pondering of the nearly extinct practice of ancestral veneration

16 08 2012

Today I opened an email that my Mother sent me, with pictures of my Grandmother attached. I’m still not sure exactly how old she was in the picture (that I now have as my wallpaper on my laptop), it appears she’s around eight.

Image

Mozelle Saxon, circa approximately 1932

I realized looking at these pictures, how little of the story of my Grandmother’s life I actually know.  I was very close to my grandparents on both sides, though all in all I felt a closer bond to my maternal grandparents.  I speculate this is the result of being the youngest grandchild for some time on my mother’s side, while on my father’s side competition for the attention of the tribe’s elders  among the cousins was much greater. I listened to many stories of my grandparents’ childhood, and can recall a great number of them.

I know that my Grandmother Mozelle (pictured above) was born in 1924 to sharecroppers Mattie and John Calvin Saxon in Goodwater, Alabama. She was 16 when she was picking crowder peas in a field while my grandfather passed her on the road, he saw her and fell instantly in love (he was then 25) and claimed that he had just seen the woman he was going to marry. They were eloped a few months later, and my Aunt Brenda was born that following year. There are many meandering stories from that point in my grandparents’ history, some recalled perfectly, some not. This brought me to a realization:  I don’t know as much about my family history as I would like, or even that I should, considering that I have four growing children who need to hear the stories of their ancestors.

Ancestral veneration has its roots back to the very beginnings of human history. Our ancestors taught us, throughout time, the stories that became like a game of divine telephone and morphed into the myths and legends of the hero. The stories passed down to us from our tribe’s elders have been done so to aid in the trials and tribulations of life as it unfolds. We all must embark on the hero/fool’s journey, with or without rite of passage. These were our grandparents’ gifts; handing down to us their play books as well as the torch to keep the fire burning.

I look around my life and I see how little my children know of their ancestors, how few stories they hear about life in the past and I wonder, is this important to human consciousness to be continuing? On a cultural level, I see the spinning of tales around the family fire tradition slowly smoldering. Perhaps the fact that I was born into an older family on my mother’s side than some of my generation, I experienced some of the last of the era of storytelling, perhaps it’s egocentric for me to even consider that? I know that in my life, sitting around the dining room and kitchen table listening to the stories of once upon a time was a cherished past time for family gatherings.

Families are not living as close together as they once were, and time spent with the extended family is dwindling. I know all too well, I too am guilty of participation in this social phenomenon. How do we embrace the huge advancements made in technology while still carrying our traditions and roots with us into the unknown? Is there merit in letting go of the traditions that deified the past? There can, of course, only be speculation. But nonetheless, these are my thoughts on this beautiful Florida blue sky sort of day, and I now have a drive to uncover more of who, how and why I came to be. The story that is older perhaps, than time. Well, older than the conceptualization of time, at any rate.

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One response

17 08 2012
Mark Petruska

And so it goes. I know a little bit about my grandparents, very little about anybody that came before then…but I’d love to learn.

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