Cherie Griffin, Executive Director at the Women’s Resource Center in Racine, hosts a Candlelight Vigil in the aftermath of every domestic violence homicide in the Racine community. She offers up the following traditions honored in their community.
“In Racine, when there is a domestic violence related homicide (an individual has been arrested or identified as being domestically related to the victim), the Women’s Resource Center plans a vigil as soon as possible. If the victim belonged to a faith community, we reach out to that community to co-host it. Otherwise, the Racine Interfaith Council (mostly led by our local Unitarian church) hosts with us.
The vigil always happens at evening.
The vigil includes candles and a silhouette with the victim’s name and positive information on it (sometimes a poem) and includes teddy bears at the foot if there were children connected.
The pastor of the Unitarian church brings his guitar and sings songs. At the last vigil for a teenager, we had a contemporary Christian artist to lead the songs.
Following native American tradition, we pour water on the ground from a specific pitcher and do a water ceremony (with permission from our tribal sisters to do so).
I always read the following poem:
“House made of dawn.
House made of evening light.
House made of the dark cloud.
House made of male rain.
House made of dark mist.
House made of female rain.
House made of pollen.
House made of grasshoppers.
Dark cloud is at the door.
The trail out of it is dark cloud.
The zigzag lightning stands high upon it.
An offering I make.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
Restore my voice for me.
This very day take out your spell for me.
Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily I go forth.
My interior feeling cool, may I walk.
No longer sore, may I walk.
Impervious to pain, may I walk.
With lively feelings may I walk.
As it used to be long ago, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.
In beauty it is finished.”
‘Sa’ah naaghéi, Bik’eh hózhó
We try to connect the vigil to the people who were close to the victim, so our use of songs, poems, “brief comments” and the like are usually tailored fit to the situation.
I contact the staff and Board to let them know that it is happening.
I send a press release to announce the vigil.
Sometimes I need to plan for time to meet with the press before the vigil.
The staff works together to contact family, friends, work places, and social groups so that all feel welcome. The family decides what they do or do not want to happen within the vigil itself.
We have found that vigils are very powerful steps in the healing process for the entire community.”