“I’m afraid that I am losing you, bit by bit. I thought I lost you when you died, but clearing out drawers is losing more of you, donating your clothes is losing more of you, throwing away your curry sauce that expired over a year ago is losing more of you, still I keep losing you. It’s as if the dying never ends.”Continue reading
My latest illustrations are now available on the Grande 15 ounce Mugs. Just in time for the holidays. You can check out all the mugs here.
About Dia de los Muertos
Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico and the Southwest states, and coincides with the Christian All Souls and All Saints Days. On November 1st and 2nd people remember those who are deceased. November 1st is considered the� Dia de los Angelitos—the day to remember children that have died, November 2nd is the traditional Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead). Pictures� of the deceased are placed on Dia de los Muertos altars with their favorite food and drink. Candles to light their way home, and soap and water to freshen-up after their long trip back are also often placed on altars. Trinkets they were fond of, symbols they would understand, and gifts are left to communicate to them that they are always in the hearts of those they left behind, and that they are still part of the family even though they aren’t physically with us any longer.
Families often spend time at the cemetery with loved ones, bringing food and drink along with all the other necessities for a picnic. However, at this picnic the deceased is the guest of honor. Dia de los Muertos is a time of joy because we know that we are surrounded by those that we love—both living and dead.
People often compare Dia de los Muertos to Halloween, and while at first glance there may appear to be a similarity, in truth the two celebrations are quite different. Halloween is a European holiday that is based on their concept of death, which is vastly different from the original Aztec meaning. The Aztecs beliefs were very similar to the Aboriginal beliefs of Australia. This life is considered to be a dream and when you die, you awake to your real life.� Halloween, on the other hand, is celebrated with witches, demons and monsters and none of these are shown in a positive light.�
Dia de los Muertos HistoryDay of the Dead began as an Aztec celebration originally celebrated in August. Skeletons and skulls were used as symbols for death and rebirth. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it and considered it a “moving-on” to a higher level of consciousness. When the Spaniards came and converted the Aztecs, the Aztecs incorporated the symbols of the crucifix and devil into the celebration, which the Spaniards moved to November 2nd.�
The Devil doesn’t have the same meaning that he does in the religious “Exorcist” mentality. People often misunderstand other cultures definition of the Devil, and I have had many people offended by my Dia de los Muertos artwork that features him/her. In many cultures there are deities that are neither all good, nor all bad, but a mixture of both. Depending on which side they got of the bed that morning and how you treat them. There for these deities that may at times be cruel, can be treated with honor and respect by someone hoping to get their help and remain on their good side. This really is no different from the old testament God, who if he liked you, put you on an arc with 2 of every animal, and if he didn’t he acted the part of the stereotypical mafia don and “Iet you swim with the fishes.“�
The devil did not exist for the Aztecs until their conversion to Christianity.
Dia de los Muertos art
Dia de los Muertos art is meant to show the duality of life, which is that it can only exist surrounded by death. This is reality, not superstition. The artwork is meant to show this and make it, death, a part of life, to be accepted and acknowledged instead of feared.�
My Dia de los Muertos art is rich with color and tradition, and is used symbolically (cards, canvases, clock, votives, etc.) as well as functionally (goblets, platters, salsa bowls, pastry domes, etc.) to celebrate through food and drink.
As the old saying goes: “Every day is a dance with death.” So live a life you enjoy, and when the time comes that those you love build altars to celebrate your life on the Day of the Dead, know they are thinking of you and they will join you in their own time
A Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altar is meant to honor the memory of someone who touched your life. This can be anyone from the family pet to Mother Teresa. Anyone who had a positive impact on your life can be the subject of your Day of the Dead altar.
People also make altars to show their support for others. I have seen Dia de los Muertos altars made to those who have died due to AIDS related illnesses, to those lost in the World Trade Towers attack and the students at Columbine.
There are people who believe that those building an altar are trying to raise the dead. This can’t be farther from the truth, because the belief is that the dead are never really gone, so raising them would be redundant. There is nothing demonic about building a Day of the Dead altar.
Are we trying to communicate with the dead? Yes, and no. There are two aspects to altar making on el Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). The first is to communicate with those that are no longer physically with us. I don’t see how this is any different from people going to visit the graves of their dearly departed. It isn’t about witchcraft, it is about having an eternal dialogue with those that we love. The second aspect is the connection it provides us to the world at large and to our place in the after-life. By building an altar we are acknowledging that we go on and that not being physically present isn’t the same as being gone.
Altars should include:
- a picture of the one being remembered
- items they were found of
- something to snack on
Altars could include:
- pictures of saints or religious icons
- toy skeletons, skulls or bones
- sugar skulls (recipe from Angela at mexicansugarskull.com )
- tequila, or their favorite drink and a glass
- soap, water & a small towel (because being dead can be messy)
A Dia de los Muertos altar can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. The purpose of an altar is remembrance, with that in mind feel free to do what you think your honoree would enjoy. While we have included a few guidelines, these are by no means rules to live by. They are a starting place, where you end up is completely up to you.
Some people take up entire corners of their homes with Day of the Dead altars, others use a simple end table dressed up with fabric and other items. The point is, size doesn’t really matter, what matters is the heart you put into it.
Just like a person who loses their sight, or a limb, when someone you love dies you lose a part of yourself and this forever changes who you are and how you look at and fit into what surrounds you.Continue reading