Throwing Flowers Against Evil

In an interview with Derrick Jenson (Listening to the Land: Conversations about Nature, Culture, and Eros, 1995) Terry Tempest Williams describes how for several weeks during Easter season, Yaqui people reenact the passion play by throwing flowers against evil. Her description of the Easter ceremony is worth quoting in full:

"Imagine this: a slow, inexorable build-up of evil against the forces of good. The fariseos, of pharisees, are dressed in black cloaks. They are masked and they march to a slow, steady dirge, to the haunting flute music that is accompanying them. They are carrying the weight of evil that is leaning against the village. In their long black capes they forcefully make their way through the crowd of onlookers. Their goal is to literally penetrate the church. They have stolen the body of Christ, they have violated every sense of decency within the community, they have marred and destroyed the sacred.
The fariseos charge the church in full run. As they do this, they are showered with flower petals thrown against evil by the children, by the women on both sides of the human gauntlet. The young girls--five, six, seven years old--are adorned in crisp white dresses. They are the final barrier to the community's holy altar that the fariseos must penetrate. The fariseos charge again. The girls raise boughs of cottonwood and mesquite and wave them over the fariseos. The fariseos are repelled.
They retreat, take off their black capes and return to the santuario in confession. A deer- the Deer Dancer--the most peaceful of animals, covered with flower petals, dances in the middle of the fariseos. The fariseos have been 'changed to good' and are 'forgiven.' The universe is restored, health and peace have been returned to the village."

After reading TTW's description of the Yaqui Easter Ceremony, I plucked the petals off of my Valentine's Day bouquet and stored them in the fridge, waiting for the perfect occassion to perform my own tiny version of "throwing flowers against evil." I decided to wait for a Sunday because, as I understand it, Sundays in Lent stand outside of Lent (as a time of exile) as days of epiphany, celebrating the manifestation of God in our lives...

So, yesterday, the second Sunday of Lent, I tossed my Valentine's Day flowers onto a pile of waste stacked outside of my husband's place of work (a barrel of compressor oil, and fan motor for an old heating and air conditioning system). Obviously, my gesture here is symbolic, but I think the symbols we carry with us from generation to generation and the stories we tell have power to change, and to heal.


and after
A gentle wind picked up after I distrubuted the flowers, circling them round the old engine in dance, as if to consecrate my simple gesture...

On the way back to our apartment, my husband and I passed a truck, its bed filled with flowers, mourning, honouring and remembering a marine lost to the war in Iraq. Attached to the truck was a trailer filled with crosses, flowers, photographs, names of soldiers, and the American flag. The words "faith" and "hope" framed the bumper:



Flowers against evil.....truly with the flatbed of flowers and memorials to a young marine's life - I believe I will look at memorial flowers in a different way than I ever have after reading your post. Solemn, but lovely.

e.o.w. said...

(smiles of gratitude)

L.L. Barkat said...


This is the perfect picture and post to pair with our HIgh Calling Blogs book club post (going live on Monday, on the book Make the Impossible Possible). Perfect!

Thanks again for sharing your wonderful work.