· Where do we come from? · Why does life end? · Is there "life" after death? · If so, what kind of "life"? · Can we do something while alive so we can enjoy "life" after death?
alabanza - a Catholic hymn of praise los angelitos - Young children who have died too soon to have sinned and go straight to heaven calaca - the Grim Reaper, a skeletal figure representing death calavera - the skull or skeleton, which symbolically represents the dead playfully mimicking the living on the Day of the Dead. Sugar skulls are sold in great numbers during the celebration, often personalized with a name. It is believed that the dead like sweets. calaverada - madcap escapade, tomfoolery; wild behavior cempazuchitl or cempazúchil - Nabuafi language name for yellow marigold, symbolizing death Chichihuacuahco - destination of the souls of children, the "wet-Nurse tree". Día de Muertos Chiquitos - The Day of the Little Dead, occurring on November 1, All Souls Day El Día de Difuntos - also means Dia de los Muertos hojaldra - a sweet bread made for los Días de los Muertos. Hueymiccailhuitl - The 10thAztec month (20 days) in which deceased adults were honored following Miccailhuitontli Iztcuintle - a small dog to serve as a guide and companion of the dead Miccailhuitontli - The 9th Aztec month (20-days) in which rituals were performed honoring the deceased children, around July-August Mictecacihuatl - The Aztec goddess of the dead Mictlan - destination of the soul after death, the region of silence and repose, also known as the place of the fleshless la Noche de Duelo - The Night of Mourning. Begins El Día de los Muertos with a candlelight procession to the cemetery ofrenda - an alter in the home with offerings of food, etc. set out for the returning souls. The dead partake of these gifts and the living consume them afterwards. pan de muerto - the bread of the dead, a sweet bread baked expressly for the Days of the Dead holiday; decorations on top of the bread resemble the bones of the dead. Quecholli - The 14th Aztec month during which deceased warriors were honored rosquete - a sweet bread made for los Días de los Muertos. Tlalocan - destination of the souls of those who died due to earthquake or drowning, paradise of Tlaloc, the water keeper. Tonatiuh ilhuicatl - destination of the souls of warriors, the dwelling place of the sun
More 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is nowMexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mockdeath.It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. Aritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate.A ritual known today as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.The ritual is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States,including the Valley.Celebrations are held each year in Mesa, Chandler, Guadalupe and at ArizonaState University. Although the ritual has since been merged with Catholictheology, it still maintains the basic principles of the Aztec ritual, such as theuse of skulls.Today, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor oftheir deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars that arededicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead personon the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend, according to Mary J. Adrade,who has written three books on the ritual.The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies anddisplayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death andrebirth.
The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the monthlongritual.Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewedit as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. Tothem, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake."The pre-Hispanic people honored duality as being dynamic," said ChristinaGonzalez, senior lecturer on Hispanic issues at Arizona State University. "Theydidnt separate death from pain, wealth from poverty like they did in Westerncultures.“However, the Spaniards considered the ritual to be sacrilegious. Theyperceived the indigenous people to be barbaric and pagan.In their attempts to convert them to Catholicism, the Spaniards tried to kill theritual.But like the old Aztec spirits, the ritual refused to die.To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards moved it so it coincided withAll Saints Day and All Souls Day (Nov. 1 and 2), which is when it iscelebrated today.
Previously it fell on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximatelythe beginning of August, and was celebrated for the entire month. Festivities werepresided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The goddess, known as "Lady of theDead," was believed to have died at birth, Andrade said.Today, Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and in certain parts of the UnitedStates and Central America."Its celebrated different depending on where you go," Gonzalez said.In rural Mexico, people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. Theydecorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for deadchildren and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next togravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones.In Guadalupe, the ritual is celebrated much like it is in rural Mexico."Here the people spend the day in the cemetery," said Esther Cota, the parishsecretary at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. "The graves are decorated realpretty by the people."In Mesa, the ritual has evolved to include other cultures, said Zarco Guerrero, aMesa artist."Last year, we had Native Americans and African-Americans doing their owndances," he said. "They all want the opportunity to honor their dead."
"Last year, we had Native Americans and African-Americans doing their owndances," he said. "They all want the opportunity to honor their dead."In the United States and in Mexicos larger cities, families build altars in theirhomes, dedicating them to the dead. They surround these altars with flowers,food and pictures of the deceased. They light candles and place them next tothe altar."We honor them by transforming the room into an altar," Guerrero said. "Weoffer incense, flowers. We play their favorite music, make their favorite food."At Guerreros house, the altar is not only dedicated to friends and familymembers who have died, but to others as well."We pay homage to the Mexicans killed in auto accidents while beingsmuggled across the border," he said. "And more recently, weve beenhonoring the memories of those killed in Columbine."
Day of the Dead in Mexico represents a mixture of Christian devotion and Pre-Hispanic traditions and beliefs. As a result of this mixture, the celebration comes to life as an unique Mexican tradition including an altar and offerings dedicated to the deceased.The altar includes four main elements of nature — earth, wind, water, and fire.Earth is represented by crop: The Mexicans believe the souls are fed by the aroma of food.Wind is represented by a moving object: Tissue paper is commonly used to represent wind.Water is placed in a container for the soul to quench its thirst after the long journey to the altar.Fire is represented by a wax candle: Each lit candle represents a soul, and an extra one is placed for the forgotten soul.
Every year, an altar contest brings delegations from all over the state to the Plaza Grande in Merida. It is a cultural spectacle based on the religious concept of Hanal Pixan and organized by the Cultural Institute of the Yucatan Government. Winners of local contests are invited to travel to the the capital city to participate in the statewide competition.The Plaza Grande is converted into a stage where the altars are set up for display. Many religious images adorned with photographs of the dead are present. Favorite prayers are placed at the foot of the altar as well as mucbil chicken, a traditional dish prepared only for this celebration.
During the pre-Hispanic era, death did not exist. Death was seen, instead, as simply a transition, a voyage through time and space towards true life. This is quite a different concept than what is believed today, where people believe death symbolizes the end of the road. Among the people of the Huasteca Potosina Region, however, the pre-Hispanic tradition lives on through the practice of a celebration they call Xantolo.The Xantolo celebration is considered to be sacred, a time for people to keep an important tradition alive. It represents a communion between humans and nature, and between humans and God. It is the link that joins people to their ancestors and projects people as the link between the present and future generations.
Bakery windows are decorated with skeletons and verses dedicated to the deceased. People select the bread they want to offer their ancestors, a food that is later enjoyed by the family. The people of Mexico City remember those who have crossed the river that separates life from death. This two-fold experience enlightens the beginning and the end of a cycle.
The offerings, a main aspect of the celebration, echo the profound love that the Oaxacan people feel towards life. There are subtle variations in the presentation of the offerings, among the neighboring towns. In Teotitlan del Valle, for example, a predominant place is chosen in the main room of the house to erect the altar. They use the cempasuchitl and other wild flowers that grow in that region to adorn it. In the valleys of Oaxaca, a tiny little flower called Flower of the Dead growns and blossoms in the months of October and November. When it blooms, this flower covers the countryside with a bright yellow color. People of Ocotlan differ from those in Teotitlan del Valle in that they place the altar in the most convenient place in the home and use the cempasuchitl and a red, velvet- textured flower called rooster’s crest.
Distinctive to San Angel Zurumucapio is the tradition of making small rose-decorated horses and dedicating them to those who died during the year. Several members of the community dedicate themselves to this work. The day before the celebration of the dead, men put the bodies of the horses together with rods; that night, during the vigil and next to the altar, they decorate them with roses. Sometimes carnations are used instead of roses.According to a local woman, Rita Caballero Ochoa, making the little horses is a tradition that people in the village keep alive, a tradition brought down from generation to generation.Depending on the number of dead in the village, the men establish a route to go from house to house and build the frames with laurel rods that are then tied together with hemp. Eighteen to twenty men design one frame: the head, the body, and the tail and then assemble the parts. Next, they decorate the frames with flowers, starting with the last house and finishing with the first house. Placement of the flowers is done at night, so they stay fresh for the next day when the horses are taken to the cemetery.After decorating the horse, it is placed on a table, and both the altar and the horse become the center of attention. Relatives keep vigil over the deceased with lit candles: They pray, invoking the soul of the deceased. The next morning people start very early and organize firewood, cook vegetables, and make tortillas; they offer food to those who helped with the altar, decorated the horses, or stayed with them during the night. This ritual, like all of the ones related to Day of the Dead or Jimbankua, is part of a celebration dedicated to the dead.In San Angel Zurumucapio, the wooden horse is a key symbol in the celebration. It is as important as the altar. Similar to other villages, the night of October 31st is dedicated to the memory of the children, with a visit to the burial site on the morning of November first. The night of November first is dedicated to the adults with a celebration in the cemetery on November second.
The Santa Muerte also known as Santisima Muerte is the beloved goddess of death whos origins date to the Pre Hispanic period of Mexico. The Mexica knew her by another name MICTECACIHUATL "Lady of the Land of the Dead" another spelling may be MICTLANTECIHUATL, she was believed to be a protector of souls residing in the dark underworld. Mistress to MICTLANTECAHTLI Lord of Mictlan Land of the dead Lord of Darkness. The Mexica depicted Mictecacihuatl as a woman in traditional Mexica female garb adorned or decorated with flags which were put upon corpses prepared for cremation, she wears a skull mask with a beak portruding from the nasal cavity of the skull mask, or perhaps it is a knife or blade thereof. I will try to focus on the Lady of the Land of the Dead, and in another essay I will cover more in depth the symbolism and special aspects of LORD MICTLANTECAHTLI with the exception of noting some of his icons and how they relate to Mictecacihuatl and her current form the Santa Muerte. Mictecacihuatl is the goddess that is connected to the sacred Day of the Dead in Mexico Dia de los Muertos, originally the holiday fell at the end of the month of July and the beginning of August, dedicated to the children and the dead.
The holiday was moved in post-conquest times by the Spanish Priests to coincide with All Hallows Eve, a vain attempt by the priests to convert this sacred day to a Christian holiday. Never the less the Day of the dead retains its ancient roots honoring the Lady of the Land of the Dead. It is said that the old Gods are not dead but sleeping and can awaken through faith and prayer. Both Mictecacihuatl and her lord Mictlantecahtli were given blood offerings by the Mexica asking in exchange for a favorable or peaceful death when the time came to die. Tradition states that for one to receieve a favorable fate when making an offering the one would have their right hand covered in blood to insure the favor of Lord Mictlantecahtli. Because blood offerings were considered of utmost importance the color red became intimately associated with the Lord of the Land of the Dead and as an extension the color is attributed to his mistress because of her connection with her Lord. Of importance is the fact that both Mictlantecahtli and his mistress Mictecacihuatl were believed to live in total darkness. Although there exists no specific reason as to why the goddess of death gained so much popularity my theory is that she survived the post conquest times due to both her role as a protector and her very important role the dia de los muertos celebration.
A holiday dear to the heart and soul of every Mexican that has a love for our ancestors and a reverence for our ancient forefathers and the deities they once revered.It is said that the old gods are not dead just forgotten but waiting to be awakened by the fire of the faithful, I believe this is true with Mictecacihuatl. The Lady of the Dead did not suffer the same fate as Virgen de Guadalupe who was originally a Mexica Goddess known as Tonantzin (Moon Goddess & milder aspect of Coatlicue) did not suffer the wrath of the missionaries whom tried to christianize Tonantzin stating that she was the Virgin Mary in their idigenous image come to lead the heathens to christ. Mictecacihutal retained her true guise albeit her image changed via syncretism as in her current form the Santa Muerte.
2½ cups sugar Egg white from 1 extra-large egg or 2 small eggs 1 teaspoon light corn syrup 1 teaspoon vanilla Cornstarch, about a half-cup, for powdering surface Colored sprinkles Food coloring Fine paintbrush Colored icingSift sugar into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix the egg whites, corn syrup, and vanilla. Slowly pour the liquid into the powdered sugar. Mix with your hands until a sandy dough forms. Form dough into a ball. At this point, you can continue, or you can refrigerate dough for later use. Lightly dust surface with cornstarch, as well as your hands. Pinch off a heaping tablespoon of dough, and shape it into a skull. If youre using them, lightly press colored sprinkles into the soft candy. Let the candy dry overnight. When candy is dry, use the paint brush with food coloring to decorate the skulls. Or you can use frosting (one that will dry hard) with a fine tip to decorate them. Hand them out as is, or wrap in a small cellophane bag tied closed with a small ribbon. Tips: The skulls may not dry completely on a humid or rainy day. The dough should be the consistency of damp sand, just moist enough to hold together. If the dough is too dry and crumbly, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time to moisten. If dough is too moist, add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until dough is the right consistency. If the candy has trouble drying completely, place in a 125 degree warm oven until dry.
Bread: Sauces: (Candied Pan de Muerto Molé Verde Pumpkin) (Bread of the Molé Poblano Sopaipillas Dead) White Chocolate Caramel Flan Tamales: Molé Cajeta Creme Soups/stews: Brulee With Tamale steps Mexican Masa (Tamale Posole Chocolate Sauce Dough) Posole II Beverages: Red Chile and Tinga Poblana de Pork Tamale Pollo (Mexican Horchata Filling stew) Agua de Chicken Tamale Main dishes: Tamarindo Filling (Tamarind Water) Shrimp Tamale Chicken in Pipian Agua de Jamaica Filling Sauce (Hibiscus Flower Sweetened Bean Chalupa Water) Tamale Filling Blue Corn Creamed Corn Enchiladas and Cheese Sweets: Tamale Filling Calabaza en Tacha