Monday, November 1, 2010

Dias de los muertos

Traditionally Días de lo muertos is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd; a time to remember those who have a been a part of our lives. It is a tradition that comes from the Maya and the Aztecs combined with 16th century Roman Catholic traditions. The dead are remembered, favorite items are shared; a toy for a child, whisky or coffee for an adult. A favorite picture of the departed.

This ofrenda was presented by the La Pintoresca library staff and includes traditional elements. The spirits return to partake of the spiritual portions, the living often enjoy the tangible portions. To help the spirits quench their thirst water is included. To help light the way candles are lit. To help guide the spirits, marigolds are placed in vases on the ofrenda and on the pathway that leads to the grave of the departed or home. Food or drink is shared. The nature of the ofrenda is set by the pocketbooks of the surviving.

The students, staff, and parents of St. Mark's Episcopal School made this altar. The pan de muerto, bread baked for this holiday, is visible. Pictures of saints and of the dead can be seen. The elements are traditional, the form can be a means of creative expression. Often skeletons or skulls are included reminding us that death is always close and that it need not be feared.

Also acknowledged is the Mexica (Aztec) tradition that there are three deaths.

The first death is when our bodies cease to function; when our hearts no longer beat of their own accord.

The second death comes when the body is lowered into the ground.

The third death, the most definitive death, is when we are lost from memory.

Nothing can be done about the first two deaths. The last death is delayed by remembering those who came before.

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