Dead honoured by Calgarians at Equinox Vigil

Calgarians gathered together at Union Cemetery to remember their ancestors and honour their dead at the Equinox Vigil on Sept. 20.

People of all ages and beliefs attended the vigil, which is held every year during the autumn equinox, to experience a night of music, crafts, and food, put together by the arts community.

Sharon Stevens, the founder of the event, described it as a “wonderful, beautiful, and creative evening.”

“It’s a non-religious event, but it’s very spiritual,” said Stevens during the opening ceremonies.

Activities at the event included a digital shrine where people could write messages to their deceased loved ones, a tea garden where Calgarians could sit down and talk with other members of their community, and a candlelight procession led by the Calgary Union Choir, in which participants slowly walked down a winding hill while holding lanterns.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who attended the event, said there were “so many things about it [the vigil] that are special.”

“Like the fact that it is on the equinox, a time when we think about change, seasons, and who we are,” Nenshi told the crowd. “I always feel like this is the proper time for the new year, to think about where we are going as individuals, as families, as communities.”

Various interactive art projects related to remembering the dead were set-up throughout the Union Cemetery.

One of these projects was called the Simplicity of Ritual, a half-labyrinth made of yarn, created by Linda Cunningham.

Participants, holding tealight candles, started at the centre of the labyrinth and slowly walked to the exit while thinking of their departed loved-ones.

Cunningham said she first put the proposal together four years ago, and it was meant to be a performance art piece at the EPCOR Centre for the Performing arts.

“I did not know when I wrote the proposal and got it accepted that my husband was going to die in the interim,” Cunningham said in an interview.

“And so, after I scattered his ashes, I literally came back to Calgary the next day and we started laying this out. Two days later I started knitting it.”

She said that knitting the project was more stressful than it should have been, but it has also been therapeutic for her.

“I am really gobsmacked by the number of people who have come and who have really embraced wanting to do it.”

Julia Dudas, a Calgarian who attended the event, said that the vigil is a “really nice thing to do in fall.”

“I think it fits the setting perfectly,” she said in an interview.

“All the exhibitions and the artwork are really beautiful.”

Kansas Brandon attended the event for the first time this year and said she had a “very memorable time.”

“They had all these creative and meaningful ways to pay your respects to the deceased,” she said.

“All the activities they had made you feel more emotionally involved in the memory of your loved ones you have lost.”

Lost in thought: Kansas Brandon, a first-time vigil participant, writes a message on a lantern for her loved one at the Equinox Vigil in Union Cemetery on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Participants later walked the lanterns down a candlelit path during a slow, choir-led procession. (Photo by Angela Brown/The Press)
About Angela Brown 6 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Angela Brown is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2014-2015 academic year.