October 29, 1999

The Day of The Dead

By Toltecas En Aztlan

The people of Latin American and Mexican descent, maintain the traditions of the beliefs of the ancient natives of the American continent, by celebrating the days of the dead on November 1st and 2nd.

The 1st day of November, called all Saint's Day is celebrated in honor of all the Saints, because it is the day when we remember the children who died in innocence and life afterward as angels. On this day, they return to their homes in their spiritual bodies to visit their families friends and loved ones. Their souls are in waiting during the night showing guidance and protection so that the children don't become lost and can find their way home.

The 2nd day of November commemorates the day of the adults who died and they return to their own homes from the other world at mid-day.

On both of these days are processions formed with the families and the people of the villages asking for food fruits, sweets and different things for their offering to the souls.

All of this is done to give to the dead all the nourishment and necessities that they need to undertake the long journey that they must take to the other world.

In all the homes of those families that remember their relatives who have died, they raise altars decorated with Zumpaxuchitl flowers, paper chains squashes, pumpkins, vigilant candles, plate of sweet foods, bread and they burn incense, transparent resin, and place statues of virgen saints, or idols there.

On those days, the families make themselves ready to go to visit the dead at the tombs, and they arrange their graves decoratively and bring their offerings.

In honor of these days in all the markets there is an infinity of flowers, sweets, skeletons, toy coffins, squashes shaped like skulls and also there are articles of expressions and sayings and talk of skulls and skeletons. They wear crowns, bracelets and bows made of flowers. After they all gather to the center. The atocicdis (sea shells) come out toward the right. The cihuacoatls are escorted by a row of warriors carrying the representation of a Huitzila (hummingbird) which they carry on their shoulders by four men, and then when the Hueyteotl (medicine man) shows up the first dance starts dedicated to Aceteotl (jaguar). Then the jaguar is executed by women with offerings of corn.

For the second dance, 8 cihuacoatls show up from the right side with their offerings and crowns of flowers and from the left side a mancebo (young man) with a banner, followed by four priests. They all are holding the copal offerings during this dance. Then 13 warriors come out pretending warrior movements, making a reverence to the sky, the earth and the four cardinal points.

While they play the rattle and drum, the 13 warriors gather, making the shape of a square, finishing in a reverence of a half turn to the center where the ceremony is performed. That way the squad takes the form of a cross. When the cross is already formed they scream the world "Ohueyteotl" and the dance of the Ceremony of the cross takes place. When the dance is over all the participants break the cross, walking backwards with a humble attitude to form a circle. They start performing the Warriors Dance. Once the Warriors Dance is over the defeated lay down on the floor. At the same time the priests show up offering incense at the center of the ceremonial place. They make a reverence to the defeated warrior. Afterwards they also offer incense to the four cardinal points. Then they take off, retaking their specific positions as tecotlis (chiefs in command), leaving the incense at the center of the ceremonial place.

The four seashell players then show up with their atecocdis (seashells). They go to the center, get on their knees, and offer the seashells with copul (incense) to the defeated warrior. The seashell players stand up and take the positions of the four cardinal points respectively. They blow the seashells to call the spirits to help resuscitate the defeated warrior. When they stop blowing the seashells they walk toward the center and then leave the seashells on the floor. Later they go back to retake their positions as tlatians (priests in command). Slowly they play the drums as the defeated warrior starts to rise. Then the warrior falls down again in a horizontal position. At the same time they play the drums with the rhythm of the Dansa del Aguila Blanca (Dance of the White Eagle). Everybody who is then in the circle starts the ritual of the Dance of the White Eagle. Then the Huey Hatoahi (governor) comes out of the circle going toward the center to pay tribute to the defeated warrior with his dance. At that moment the warrior starts raising his feet. After the Huey Hatoami offers his right food to the warrior they link with both feet and start rotating to the right side. The warrior stands up in a reverent position, proud but humble, looking to the sky and afterwards the second part of the dance takes place. When it's finished they play the seashells paying tribute to the four cardinal points.

When we die we aren't really dead, because we live. We return to life and we keep on living, we are awaken but there is something lacking when we direct ourselves to thinking there's death when we die.

The sky awakes in red. The aurora presents itself and the golden birds sing colored in lights of fire. The butterflies have already returned, for all this the ancients say: Whoever has died has returned a god, wanting to talk about death. This was the thinking of the old generation of ancient Mexicans and with this concept they have respectfully made these ceremonies in order to help in the journey to the other rebirth leaving their materive world.

For this reason the Day of the Dead is not considered a sad observance, it's a day of joy, because it is when our dearly departed ones re-visit us.

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