(Essay) El Día de los Muertos by Jayne Marie DeMente


We know that the essence of El Día de los Muertos festival dates back to at least to 1800 BCE, then later becomes a mixture of indigenous & the Catholic All Saints festivities.  El Día de los Muertos is a celebration by the living for their deceased loved ones – using food, dance, costume, music and festive altars to honor life and is a happy celebration usually on November 1st & 2nd!  Ofrendas (a type of altar) is set up at home – after the home is thoroughly cleaned.  Ofrendas are also seen around the community and at a festivals; it can be layered and a candle is set out for each guest (spirit) to be celebrated.  Food, memory items, photos and the crucifix are placed on each layer of the altar.  The women dress in their best clothing (or costumes depicting historical wear) and paint their faces as skulls… but finding where the wedding couple myth is derived from is difficult, but is probably from the European version of La Llorona; I suggest it might have a meaning somewhat like the that of the story of DeMeter, Persphone and Hades?  Lastly, many colorful sweet foods are shared to dispel the bitterness of death.

The first inhabitants of Michoacan, the state where Janitzio island is located in Mexico, thought that because of the extraordinary beauty of the Janitzio lake, that it was the door to heaven and through it the gods/deities used to come down to earth.  “One of the vastest and richest kingdoms of pre-Hispanic times was established in this Mexican state, the ‘Purepecha’ Empire, which was able to maintain its independence from the powerful Aztecs…”  It is believed that here the myth of La Llorona was preserved & she is regarded as “a woman both faceless and ageless, a compendium of many symbols and pre-Hispanic deities. She’s both a condemned woman and at the same time, a goddess bearing an ominous message.  In the book; Vision of the Conquered, by Ángel María Garibay, the author collects the forebodings that theMexicas  (the pre-Hispanic Mexican empire) received from their gods before the arrival of the Spaniards.  One of these omens makes reference to a woman; ‘La Cihuacoatl’ … (serpent-woman), that wandered about the broad streets of the Great Tenochtitlan wailing and lamenting: My dearly beloved children; your departure is near; we’re about to become estranged! Oh, my children! Where shall I take you? …the echo of La Cihuacoatl was disseminated with the conquest of the Spaniards and every region was fused together by the image of various feminine deities:  Auicanime – the needy one, the thirsty one, the goddess of hunger, was of the Michoacan Tarascans;  Xtabai – the goddess of suicide, according to the Mayans of the Yucatan Peninsula; Xonaxi Queculla – “the red-fleshed lady”, the deity of death, of the underworld and of lust among the Zapotec people of  Oaxaca.  And, of course, the “colonial” version also ensued, that of a young and lovely woman who, having been rejected by the man she loved, drowned her children and then committed suicide.  Upon arriving at the gates of Heaven, God asked her about her children and she answered, ‘I know not, my Lord’, so she was sent back to find them.”


http://www.inside-mexico.com/dayofthedeadarticles.htm )


This celebration is a mixture of what we study in our movement – ritual which is still active and well preserved and it is not some scary version of All Hallows, Halloween or Harvest Festivals.  It is a wonderful celebration of life and death and I encourage all of you to add any information or research you would like to share with our Mago members.  As is said on the Day of the Dead:

Mujeres juntas, sólo difuntas” – Women together only in heaven!

Read Meet Mago Contributor, Jayne Marie DeMente.

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