Shamrock spend nine days before and after a person is buried to help guide a spirit to heaven. I had the pleasure of experiencing their ritual and took the account of a local man to help explain their practices that are dissimilar to the burial practices of regular Catholic traditions. I attended a allays, or rosary recital, of a friends uncle who had recently died. The allays is the practice Of reciting the rosary twice a day in honor of the dead. This ritual is usually held at the home of the deceased or at the church parish where the deceased practiced faith.
The sissy is a religious event open to family and friends, so there is kind of an inherent need for a place that can hold a large gathering. As arrived at the residence of the deceased, I immediately noticed the house surrounded by 5-6 tents and about 300 or so chairs that were set out for guests. As people arrived and took their seats, there was an air of silence that everyone maintained. People sat and waited for the rosary to begin, but were sure to be as silent as possible. It seems as if it is a sign of disrespect to make noise or do any action that disrupts the grievance process.
If there are any neighbors surrounding the residence, they are either in attendance at the prayer or are aware of the need to pay the same respect of silence as if they were in attendance. It is almost as if I were attending a funeral before I attended a funeral. As prayer began, you could hear the prayer leader on a loud intercom that can probably be heard a quarter mile down the road. The prayer leader is called a teach, who is someone that is very fluent in prayer and has the ability to lead the rituals in a manner that guides the crowd on when to respond.
Most teaches are senior women, but the role is held by a small number of men. During the allays, the teach recites part of a prayer and the guests reply with the rest of the prayer. Knew as much that the rosary comes from a Catholic practice, which is a series of prayers recited with beads on a garland to follow along. Most of the prayers in a rosary are repetitive, but there are milestones during the process that focus on different events in the life of Jesus Christ. Each night of the rosary is intended to celebrate a different event so to speak.
At the allays, these prayers were spoken in the dative Camphor language so it was impossible for me to follow along. After a series of prayers and hymns, about 35 minutes later, the teach calls an end to the prayer. It is at this point that the silence of the guests breaks. People begin to chat it up a bit and you start to see different process take place. The immediate family of the deceased exited the home and began to stop by each auntie and uncle to show their respect. They performed an act called fanning, where they took the right hand of the elder and bowed down almost as if they were going to kiss it without actually doing so.
After any kind of elisions event, it is customary for a Camphor to walk up to any visible elder relative and pay their respects through fanning. When the rosary ended, not only did the family of the deceased go around to pay their respects, but also kids and just about anyone who had an elder did the same. This process lasted about 10-15 minutes. After all respects were paid, the relatives of the deceased began to serve out food to all the guests. At the end of each night of the allays, it is customary that the family serves light food and refreshments as a way of saying thank you to everyone that joined in prayer.
This is done for the first eight days. On the ninth day, it is traditional to prepare a much bigger dinner for their guests. The ninth day is called the finance or end usually because the funeral occurs the next day. This event can almost be confused With a celebration as there are many attendants and such an abundance of food. Specially prepared foods are served during the finance, which includes many or all of the local delicacies. After enjoying the refreshments, I had some time to ask a local man some questions to more familiarize myself with the traditions.
Ken Can you describe a typical series of vents that OCCUrs when a loved one passes Tan There are three very important things that happen when someone passes. First of all, the family of the deceased notifies the closest relatives of the bad news. This has like a domino effect, because everyone in the village and, before you know it, all the family and friends on the island will hear what happened. The second important thing that happens is someone in the family will make arrangements with the funeral home and the church. Its important to get these things scheduled so that you don’t conflict with other funerals.
Most people on Guam are Catholic so the church keeps busy with funerals. The third most important thing is preparing for the allays. This is the nine days and nine nights of rosary that we say for the deceased. Usually relatives and good friends start volunteering to make this happen because it is such heavy process. Ken What is the importance of having nine days of rosary Tan The rosaries are important because when someone dies they might need help going to heaven. As Catholics, we believe in a heaven, hell, and purgatory. In our culture, we believe that when family and friends get together and pray, e can help our deceased go to God.
If the deceased gets stuck in purgatory, then our prayers Will help them go to heaven. That is the hope anyway. There are nine days of rosary before the funeral for the deceased and there are also nine days of rosary after the funeral, but that is more for the family. They say prayers move mountains, so I guess that’s something we believe in. Ken Are these Camphor rituals in line with the Catholic traditions Tan Yes. This tradition has been around for many years. The prayers that we say are all Catholic prayers. The church is very much involved in these practices and hey understand why we do it.
We are fortunate that the Archbishop on Guam is Camphor. He has a very good understanding of our practices and Hess able to relate that to the higher ups in the church. Think by now if anything was out of line then we would know. Ken What kind of a burden does this practice put on the family of the deceased Tan That’s a very’ good question. It is something that is overlooked by many from the outside looking in. Guess when someone dies, all the work is done by the family and closest friends. There is a lot of money that is involved in setting up a funeral.
The grave, the casket, the hearse, the funeral attire, and the church booklets add up to a lot. As much as those things cost, the allays itself also costs a lot. You have to prepare food everyday for the guests. You might have to set up canopies and chairs for people to sit. You will also have to put up extra lights and use extra power and gas for cooking. These things are expensive. In our culture, we are blessed that family means a lot. Our friends and relatives donate as much as they can like food, money, chairs, benches, tabulates name it. These things make it easier on the family, but it doesn’t make it easy.
Our people break our backs and wallets when someone dies. Some of the less fortunate families canto afford to even have the whole funeral. What helps the family in the end is all the chenille that is given. Depending on the deceased, the amount of the chenille that is donated can help pay for most if not all of the expenses. This means that you should be good to all people while you’re alive (laughs). Ken Is there anything that happens after a funeral Tan There are a couple of things that happen. There are nine days of rosary after a funeral.
This is usually just for the immediate family to pray little more and to pray for those that helped out and to pray for themselves too. There sins anything fancy about the second set of nine days. The other thing that happens is the family will mourn and prepare for the one year anniversary Of the death. Of course a family mourns for the rest Of their life, but, in our culture, the first anniversary of the death is almost as important as the death itself. All the events will happen again, except the funeral. Well have the nightly rosaries and the finance. The finance is always on the day the person died.