Fall is definitely here, the cornfields are turning brown wild flowers are blooming, theres a purple flower that covers roadsides , I cant identify it but I`m told it`s a chrysanthemum.Also cempasuchil flowers are showing up in the markets, which means the Day of the Dead is near,(All Saints Day).
All Saints Day is of European Origin but the Mexican Version predates it to prehispanic times and now it`s a blend of Catolic/Aztec Customs.
The Aztecs had their own way of celebrating death and their concepts that determined where they would go after death. Their idea was that warriors who died in battle were converted into companions of the rising sun, called "Cuahetecatl" or companions of the Eagle.
For those who died ordinary deaths, they would go to "Mictlan" , the 9th region of death to begin their journey , being buried with things they would need on their trip. Sometimes accompanied with their dog, a xolitescuntle, who would lead them through the underworld towards heaven.
In Aztec theology we find the god, "Xipe", who was worshipped and feared and his fiesta was celebrated in the Aztec calendar, el Tonamatl and Xiumatl that fell between Oct. 15th and Nov. 15th of our calendar. It was celebrated with flowers, song, food & drink.
Todays traditions of Day of the dead synbolize a mix of pagan0-christian beliefs, which have become customs with some modifications depending on the region.
The Day of the dead really starts on Oct. 28th.. when Mexicans celebrate the death of persons who have died in disgrace (murder-suicide) or in accidents. At 3 PM the priest orders the ringing of the church bells to receive the souls of the dead. Also people who have drowned on this day, the belief being that the xoloitescuintle (dog) didn`t aid them, for these water is added to the offering which is a sign of regeneration.
All souls are received with incense of copal (rosin), if its a child a white bow is placed on the incense burner. It`s believed that a child never journeys alone but is accompanied with another child who has died.
On Oct. 29th the souls of stillborn children are received.
On Oct 30th other infants souls are received.
On the 31st pubescent children & teens are received.
Nov. 1st is reserved for adults, on the 2nd of Nov. families, friends & godparents have a reunion & give a large offering. Besides flowers its time to clean up the gravesite.
In honor of the dead, food, flowers, fruit & food or placed at the offering. Adult offerings include day of the dead bread, cempisuchil flowers, incense, tamales, beer, tequila & items the deceased enjoyed in life. Seasonal fruits like tangerines, apples, jicamas, bananas, etc., are placed on a wooden altar along with a picture of the deceased, a cross and other religious images.
This is a celebration with a distinct prehispanic & Spanish colonial atmosphere. Very colorful & symbolic.