Monday, 26 May 2008

El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Celebrations - Mexico

This morning I received an email from a reader of ITLAD who lives in Iceland and is in the process of backpacking round Mexico. I was so interested in the implications of his observation that I have decided to post it for him. He writes:

"I spoke to you a while ago about your theory which I find fascinating. Anyway I am currently backpacking around Mexico and have been reading my copy of lonely planet religiously and noticed that when I was reading about the famous day of the dead celebration that occurs every November it seems to tie in very well with your theory. The festival stems from indigenous beliefs that when you die you relive your life in a parallel world but on this one day in November it is possible for the dead to return in spirit form to this world and they believe this festival eases their passage. You may already know about this but if you don't I thought you might find it interesting and maybe worth researching further. I am going to look into it further when I get back to Iceland. Any way best regards from a keen follower of your blog."

Ari, thank you very much for this. I for one was totally unaware of this parallel. I will be checking it up today. I am sure that we will receive some interesting comments. I look forward to any other obervations you may have.

Could it be that you are our first field-based itladian anthropologist - an itladian Margaret Mead perhaps?

6 comments:

roshni said...

TONY; something similar happens in India too....!!!Religion and rituals are the basics of human life in this world from time immemorable, irrespective of caste, creed or geographical location. Landmarks such as Birth, Naming ceremony, Marriage, Death have special positions in life with rituals attached to each of them.
The ritual of Shraddh or Rememberance prayers are offered to the Departed Soul, in the hope that the Soul would attain Moksha, and in return our ancestors bless us a peaceful and prosperous life, in our journey on this planet.

Hindus perform the ritual of Shraddh which is spread over four generations - meaning this ritual has to be offered to our departed Parents, Grandparents and Great Grandparents. Our scriptures also mention that in the event a individual cannot physically perform the Shraddh, it can be performed by a Brahmin on his behalf.

Shraddh can be performed on any day round the year, or on Death Anniversaries or during the fortnight of Pitrupaksh. An individual can also perform Pinddaan for himself during the course of his life.

Hindu Shastras have identified three basic locations in India for such Shraddh offerings, namely in line of superiority:
Gaya, Banaras and Nasik.

Anonymous said...

I watched a progamme about this festival a while ago now. The one thing that struck me is how these beliefs give so much comfort, hope and reassurance to people. Families of all ages were in the graveyard with music, hanging flowers etc and it really was lovely to see. It seemed to take the 'sting' out of death and instill the idea of continuing existence. I think this is missing from western society. death seems to me steeped in fear and taboo and is not discussed or dealt with very well at all.

This is where you come in with your band of merry ITLADian followers, Tony!!

Jo (unable to post again from wk!)

Karl L Le Marcs said...

Tony: Back in the days of my carefree youth *looks over shoulder with binoculars* I recall playing a computer game called Grim Fandango which your post delivered back to the front of my memory from wherever it had been long dormant.

After some consdierable rooting about in my treasure trove of my loft, I found the game and the box from which the following is taken:

"Grim Fandango takes place in the Land of the Dead, where recently departed souls make their way to the Ninth Underworld. For sinners, this is a four-year journey made on foot and many do not complete it, ending up taking jobs at way-points along the route. However, more virtuous souls receive assistance, the most virtuous getting passage on the "Number Nine" train that cuts the journey down to four minutes. The Travel Agents of the Department of Death act as the Grim Reaper to escort the souls from the mortal world to Land of the Dead, and then determine which mode of transport the soul has merited. Each year, on November 2, there is a large festival celebration of the Day of the Dead."

Sounds like a Robert Rankin plotline doesn't it, but Cheating The Ferryman indeed!!!

And Roshni: Yes, you are very correct, similar ideology and days of meaning exists across the globe. Indeed, recall our previous discussions around this post from last month:

Walpurgisnacht

Jesamyn said...

Tony.... you have changed my life probably forever... but I do not like this picture of the skeletons... sorry!!! I cannot look at it and reply...I hate it...
Jesamyn.

Anthony Peake said...

JESAMYN: The picture is taken from the Festival itself. I can quite see why you find it disturbing. At your request I have taken it off.

Jesamyn said...

Oh now I feel bad.. I am an adult and I was a bit down yesterday.. Please feel free to put it back if you want, but thank you for your courtesy... after all we are ALL skeletons walking around are we not??:)) I appreciate very much your sensitivity though..
Highest Regards
Jesamyn.