Among all the Mexican prehispanic cultures, the adoration of the Death was central. It was believed that everyone had an ulterior purpose, which led to think that there was a life after death. When a person died, he or she would begin her journey to Mictlán, the kingdom of the dead. That journey lasted 4 days. Once he arrived he offered presents to the sovereigns and he was later sent to one of the nine regions where he remained for four years. After that period of time, he was allowed to the last place where he will rest in peace forever.
Prehispanic burials included numerous objects which were used by the deceased and which could be useful in his journey to the underworld.
Death was not feared, it was part of the purpose of the souls.
During the colonial times, the idea of death as something to be terrified about was introduced. The missionaries brought to the indians the concept of hell. In consequence, the cultures began to blend. That blending was what originated the celebration that we have nowadays: a mixture of the different indigenous cultures and the catholic church.
Today’s celebration includes the belief that during the nights of November 1st and November 2nd, the souls visit the Earth. Families set up and decorate an altar to celebrate and honor their dead.
In addition to any decoration, the altar typically has the following elements:
– Different levels representing heaven and earth.
– The picture of the dead family member or friend.
– Salt which symbolizes the purification of the soul.
– Bread or the bread of the dead to feed the souls for their journey to the underworld.
– Favorite foods of the loved one.
– Cempazuchil or marigold flowers.
– Incense to purify the air.
– Sugar or clay skulls that symbolize the death.
Being so proud of my traditions, I have always set up altars in my house. This year, Jon and I had an altar dedicated to my uncle and Jon’s grandfather.