Rituals at the Time of Death: The Novena & Rosary, Filipino Style

All peoples have their way of expressing grief and of ritualizing the death of their loved ones.  Archeologists have found evidence of death rituals extending back hundreds of thousands of years and not only among homo sapiens but among Neanderthals and other cousins of ours as well.

Tim Dziak narrates an exploration of funeral and burial traditions of the Philippines.

I am currently undergoing a certain expression of ritual and grief being led by women from an extended Filipino family as one of their members with whom I have been living for the past five years died in my home last Saturday at the age of 83.  

The Roman Catholic Filipino tradition proposes a novena or nine days of special prayers and the turnout for this event, by zoom, is impressive and traverses two continents. 

Rafael had seven children and two of them still live in the Philippines while five live in the Bay Area along with several children, grandchildren,  two great-grandchildren, and numerous sisters, aunts, cousins, etc. 

Our Lady of Solitude of Porta Vaga, Philippines. Wikimedia Commons.

The ritual practice consists essentially of reciting the “glorious mysteries” of the rosary, some short litanies and another practice new to me called the chaplet.  

St. Dominic is credited with having initiated the rosary in the early 13th century.  Since he was from Spain, it is very likely that he borrowed it from the Muslim tradition which in turn may have borrowed it from Indian traditions of the East.

In Dominic’s version it centers on the prayer to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  It is a good and refreshing thing to celebrate the Holy Mother thereby recognizing the divine feminine at the center of the Christian prayer tradition.  (Otto Rank emphasizes how early Christianity was a goddess religion.) 

Perdita Finn, co-author of The Way of the Rose, describes how a devotion to care of the dead led her to the rosary and the Blessed Mother. The Way of the Rose

The reformers of the 16th century more or less expelled the goddess. That century, by any one’s estimation, initiated a hyper-masculine era which we now call the “modern” age.  

Patriarchy is not at home with the goddess.

To its credit, the Catholic Church and the pre-modern era made room for the divine feminine of which the gothic revolution in architecture of the 12th century is an essential and explicit reminder.*  

To be continued.

*See Henry Adams’ classic book, Mont Saint Michel and Chartres and R.P. Blackmur, in “The Revival” in Blackmur, Henry Adams (NY: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1980), pp. 176-242.

See Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. xviif, 280f, 223f, 246f, 221, 278.

And Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance, pp. 11-34.

Banner Image: Flowers with a rosary and prayerbook. Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.

Queries for Contemplation

How important are prayers to the Divine Mother to you in your spiritual practice and in your prophetic action in the world?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

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4 thoughts on “Rituals at the Time of Death: The Novena & Rosary, Filipino Style”

  1. Avatar

    A Rosary Prayer

    Hail Divine Spirit of the Sacred Feminine
    fullness of love, compassion and mercy graciously given
    Blessed are You, our Holy Mother
    Blessed are all, whom are wrapped in Your mantle
    and blessed are the fruits of our One shared womb
    baring forth and birthing Your mysteries from within.

    Mothering essence and presence of God
    pray with us, for us, from within us
    that Your living Spirit may release
    its fragrance from within our souls,
    unfolding, evolving, emerging and converging
    with all that we encounter in Iife and death.


  2. Avatar

    There is the salpuri, which is a Korean shaman dance, originally a dance of the sword. Salpuri literally translates to untangling or cleaning sorrow/pain/resentment… But the sword was replaced with the white cloth a long time ago.


    Everyone enters the dance of the goddess at some point.

  3. Avatar

    In the Perdita Finn video, what struck me was how God/the Spirit reached out to her in a communion, a dance with her, and invited her into a more fulfilling, profound, and deeply resonating relationship.

    That relationship was not merely an intellectualized, “believe this doctrine” obedience in conformity, but a vitally ALIVE spirituality. Also important was that it was a Path of :
    Love and sacred responsibility,
    Ongoing learning and transformation/growth,
    Affirmation of animals/earth,
    Inner healing of both herself and all people,
    A Path of the Sacred Female aspect of God (and implying the non-dualistic gender-flow/neutrality).

    I believe this shows that God/Spirit offers (and wants) spirituality deeply attuned to the needs of individual souls, for those interested in pursuing that part of their lives. This is a VITALLY important point. I believe that God wants us to be deeply involved in the most loving, healing, intimate Path of relationship with Her/Him, and that people are NOT identical in their Spiritual needs OR styles (inner soul-languages). People yearn to find a Spirit-led Path that allows/nurtures their own soul’s sacred intimacy with God. For me, mysticism has been the Path that Spirit gifted to me and invited me to join. For other people, it may not fit their needs.

    May Spirit gift you with the Path that brings you closest to God.

  4. Avatar

    oh, Food for my Soul…i’ve been thinking of creating an altar to the ancestors….
    the timing of watching this is clearly an angelic arrangement for me….
    thank you and all gratitude to you, Mathew for these morning, daily nudges towards my Soul.
    Towards the One!

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