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All Souls procession. - AZ Daily Star | HighBeam Research

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November 5, 2006 | Copyright McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights or concerns about this content should be directed to Customer Service.
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Byline: Erin White

Nov. 5--Tonight the streets of Downtown Tucson will take on an air of mystery as thousands don masks, paint their faces and gather in the annual All Souls Procession to grieve for loved ones lost.

As the parade winds from Fourth Avenue through Downtown, spectators will jump in.

Some will carry signs to honor the dead. Others will write short prayers on bits of paper and slip them into the large steel-and-papier-mache urn that leads the throng.

The event, which organizers say 7,500 attended last year, is one of the highlights of the fall season. It began as a sort of memorial service more than 15 years ago, as local artist Susan Kay Johnson searched for a way to process her father's death.

Johnson had a troubled relationship with her dad, a World War II veteran. The artist looks like him -- she has his hands, she says -- but she felt cheated because of the emotional roller coaster she rode as a result of his tempestuous nature.

After he died in 1990, she discovered a collection of hidden journals detailing how emotionally broken he was after his stint at Pearl Harbor, where many he served with died.

"Art is a vehicle for people to express all kinds of emotions," she says. "That's really where this parade came from."

Johnson, who has a degree in art therapy, put together a three-night performance that took place on Halloween, All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day, recruiting performers from Downtown coffee shops.

She studied the influence of ritual in the healing process, and borrowed bits from different cultures, including the Hispanic Dia de los Muertos and pagan harvest celebrations.

"I always think that nature never wastes anything and that the spirit just transforms into something else," Johnson says. …

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