Con­nect­ing with The Realm of The Dead Cus­toms and things you will find at an al­tar for the Day of the Dead

The Playa Times Riviera Maya's English Newspaper - - Art & Culture - BY BEATRIZ LU­CAS

The Day of the Dead in Mex­ico is an an­cient tra­di­tion dat­ing back to pre-Colom­bian cul­tures to cel­e­brate life and death.

The in­dige­nous cul­tures of South Amer­ica and the Caribbean (in­clud­ing the Arawak, the Aztecs, Toltecs, among oth­ers), be­lieved that life and death were as­pects of the eter­nal cy­cle of na­ture.

Those left be­hind on Earth would honor their de­parted by sum­mon­ing spir­its who had trav­eled to the other side. Death for them was a re­flec­tion of a higher sphere of an al­ter­nate re­al­ity.

Th­ese cul­tures be­lieved the Uni­verse was di­vided into as many as 13 planes of ex­is­tence. Th­ese realms were in­ter­con­nected. Spir­its had a way to send mes­sages that ap­peared in our phys­i­cal realm, and af­ter death, peo­ple would tran­scend into a dif­fer­ent realm. Just like re­li­gion nowa­days, the con­nec­tion be­tween us (hu­mans) and them (spir­its and deities) was per­formed us­ing food, plants, flow­ers and herbs. Of­ten, th­ese pos­sessed psy­choac­tive sub­stances, such as pey­ote, that el­e­vated con­scious­ness to reach an­other level.

Hon­or­ing de­ceased an­ces­tors is a fes­tive oc­ca­sion, a time of mourn­ing, griev­ing, re­mem­brance and mak­ing of­fer­ings, ofren­das, to pay their re­spects to those who had en­tered a new realm.

The week of fes­tiv­i­ties -from Oc­to­ber 28 to Novem­ber 2- is hon­ored by mak­ing an al­tar at home, with pho­tos of the de­ceased, burn­ing can­dles and in­cense, marigolds, más­caras or masks that sym­bol­ized the dead’s al­ter­nate per­sona, food, drink and much more. Vis­it­ing gravesites is an­other cus­tom at this time.

In the cer­e­monies for re­mem­ber­ing, com­mem­o­rat­ing and con­nect­ing with the dead, pulque, an al­co­holic drink made from the fer­mented sap of the maguey, and mez­cal -that was orig­i­nally ex­clu­sively for pri­ests- is also placed at the al­tars made to an­ces­tors.

Learn­ing how Mex­i­cans cope with grief and mor­tal­ity as they take the time to face it, cel­e­brate it, pay their re­spects to loss, and even have fun with it, is a valu­able insight for all.

Photo: www.nues­trami­rada.org

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