Dia de Muertos

Death has always been intriguing to human beings, I would even dare to say that it is THE great mystery of life. Every culture has its own traditions and beliefs when it comes to death:

In ancient Greece, people believed that when souls left our body they would go to Hades, the underworld, but to reach it you would have to cross the Acheron and Styx rivers and the only way to do it was by boat. To do so you would have to pay a coin to Charon, the ferryman, and if you didn’t have money you would have to wait 100 years to take the passage. Therefore people would place a coin on the mouth of their dead loved ones.

People who practice Catholicism believe that when you die your soul will leave your body and go to Heaven if you embraced God and lived the way of life preached by Jesus; go to Purgatory if you accepted Jesus as your savior but died with sin; or go Hell if you rejected Him.

Muslims believe that men who fight for Allah will get to spend afterlife with 72 virgins.

Egyptians believed that the next life was a continuation of this one and therefore buried people with things they might need on their new journey such as food, clothes, jewelry, etc.

In Mexico, we have a very beautiful tradition. On November 2 we celebrate Dia de Muertos “Day of the Dead”. This is a prehispanic tradition that consists on the belief that during this particular day our dead loved ones visit us from the underworld; so we prepare altars where we place their favorite food and beverages (as they will come tired from their journey), skulls made out of sugar, a picture of them, flowers, candles, some items that they used to love, Bread of the dead, etc.. The result looks something similar to this:

Image                                      image: http://proton.ucting.udg.mx/

During this day we visit the graves of our loved ones and remember them. Most people think that in this day we make fun of death and that we celebrate it. It’s not true. Dia de Muertos is a way of honoring the people that are no longer with us but still have a special place in our hearts. It is a way of rediscovering our purpose in life and making that special person part of our present. It is a way of remembering our loved ones and not letting their memory fade away because people only truly die when they are forgotten.

Me, I am afraid of death. I don’t fear the pain, I fear the possibility of losing conscience, myself and my loved ones. The law of conservation of energy states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed -but there are transformations that lead into nothingness-. When I think about it I really envy people of deep faith or people who never question things… Then, I look at a picture of my beautiful family and it makes me think that after all I have nothing to envy and that the shadow we call death disappears in the presence of the light we call love.

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2 thoughts on “Dia de Muertos

  1. A christian perspective: I am one of those with faith, there is no doubt in my mind about where we go when we die. Life for us summed up in memories that we live by and cherish. Many people place emphasis on the day we die, who will be at our funeral. Our life is the people we love. Those miraculous moments that can never be forgotten, are not tangible, and love has no true color because we can not see it. That is why being remembered is of most important. Evidence of our existence lies in the memories of those we love. If I can continue to live with the people I love within my consciousness, what is to stop the creator from existing within me through love as well? I analyze things by asking myself what is logical, tangible, and conceptual. Words, thoughts, memories, ideas, meaning, all of these things are conceptual and treated as tangible. Does that keep them from existing within us. You will live on like words live on in a culture. The ancient legends that fill our veins still, the ones that carry emotion and joy. I think that is how I carry my faith, and that is why I think that through love we can live forever. I just believe in a love that can move mountains, and keep the world turning, a love like any other that is forgiving and knows us inside and out. The one that guides morals and gives meaning to those moments we hold close to our hearts. I do find it sad though that the American culture is one of the few that has such a sad outlook on death. Maybe it is because in America everyone believes something different, and many don’t know what to believe. Where one see’s decay, and loss of existence, another sees a better future for that person. I myself don’t celebrate death but I admire that other cultures do. Makes me wonder if I should too. I think it is beautiful how the Mexicans celebrate death. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Knightsparrow, thank you for enriching this blog with your valuable comment.

    I have questioned my faith several times but I am sure of one thing: love and life go hand in hand. There cannot exist one without the other. Being the source of happiness of someone else and not their source of pain, planting a tree, taking care of a dog, being happy ourselves… He who does these things will have lived life, he who doesn’t will be dead in life. I believe that loving is the essence of this beautiful adventure that life is; knowing what happens after we die can definitely wait…

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