May 23, 2018

D - NOT A to Z Challenge

Category: Religion and Spirituality
Theme: World Spiritual Practices A to Z


Dia de los Muertos! Day of the Dead!

Scary? No!

Mourning? No!

Halloween? Absolutely not!

Dia de los Muertos is a day to celebrate the lives of friends and family who have passed.

Ancient Aztecs believed in a Lady of the Dead or Queen of the Dead, who ruled over the underworld. It was her duty to protect the bones of our loved ones. She also had the honor of presiding over the parties and fiestas the Dead would hold. Her name (try and pronounce it without spraining your tongue), Mictecacihuatl. Her husband was Mictlantecuhtli. If I was a dead Aztec, I would probably just call them Mrs and Mr. M!

Because Mrs. M loved Marigolds, Marigolds are now known as the flower of the dead. You will find these beautiful orange flowers used in Dia de los Muertos art. 
Art Courtesy of Deviant Art

When the Spanish invaded the western hemisphere, they brought All Souls Day (October 31) and All Saints Day(Nov 1) with them. Holy days to honor the dead, the regular ones and the really good ones!

The Mexicans, being creative indigenous people, blended the two ideologies together to make them their own. They renamed Mrs. M.  Her new, 'Catholic' name is Santa Muerto. She is a saint who protects the dead and guarantees their safe passage to the afterlife.

Ofrendas or Altars are constructed in homes. The favorite foods of the dead being honored on the Ofrenda are spread out, lots of it! Lots of candles are present to help guide the spirits from the darkness. Also on the altar are reminders of favorite pastimes and hobbies, toys of the young who have passed. The idea is to make the ancestors and family who are in the afterlife extremely happy. Happy spirits will provide protection and good luck to the living.

What about the skulls?

I knew you were gonna ask that!

In the words of Jeff Probst from Survivor, "I got nothing for you!"

I searched for the firsts and the why's. Apparently it began in the 1700's as a decoration for the altars and because there was lots of sugar and it was cheap, the celebrants used it. The skulls apparently developed over a period of time, ending up with the name of a dead loved one on the forehead or top of the skull. The skulls are then decorated to make them beautiful and festive, to celebrate the life once lived. The decorated sugar-skulls are called Calavera.

Sugar skulls developed into face-painting. Apparently the purpose of painting yourself to look like the dead is that you can now go out and misbehave! Everyone will think it is the dead who are being the pranksters. (Believe me, it might fool some people but not your Abuela!)

Google Dia de los Muertos Face Paint for some of the beautiful ideas on how to decorate yourself.

Let's paint ourselves up and get into some mischief this coming Dia de los Muertos!


  1. Have you seen the recent animated movie "Coco"? It's a wonderful and moving story involving the Day of the Dead -- I highly recommend it! But be forewarned -- you will cry.

    1. Coco was excellent. Nothing like being a full-grown adult and sobbing at a children's animation! I did and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

  2. What a great post! I first learned about the Aztecs in college. I was so fascinated by them. And, if truth be told, somewhat horrified, too. Some of their practices were frightening.

    1. Some of what we learned in school about the Aztecs was not exactly the truth. We always need to remember that history is written by the people who can write and that was often the greed-driven, "Christian", aggressive explorers. They wrote to make themselves look good and the 'others' look evil and worthy of slavery or worse.

      Whoa! Three day weekend, putting the soap box away! Have a great weekend.

    2. You are so right, Toni! I always try to remember and live by that that, so what I learned in college may have indeed been skewed. Thanks for the nudge to get back on track :)

  3. Really a beautiful blog.It is very astonishing and marvelous design.



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