Dia de Los Muertos
"In the midst of life, we are in death"...and vice versa.
One of the wonderful things about living and experiencing other cultures is learning new things and seeing things from another perspective. These insights are particularly interesting in a country with such diverse traditions as Mexico, where Roman Catholic beliefs, brought by the Spanish and used to help conquer the people, mix readily with ancient indigenous beliefs. However one thing that I have learned is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. By changing one's perspective it is possible to see the connections between all things and gain a greater understanding of the entire world and beyond.
All over the world cultures have festivals of the dead, here in Mexico it is called Dia de Los Muertos, but it falls on the same days as the Roman Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Many people associate Dia de Los Muertos with Halloween and there is some connection. The original Celtic pagan festival of Halloween celebrated the dead returning to the living at the end of the summer...perhaps a time when the crops have been harvested and in turn bring life to the people throughout the winter. This pagan celebration became linked with All Saints Day and All Souls Day when that date was standardised by the Pope towards the end of the first century AD.
People here in San Luis Potosi celebrated by making beautiful altars in the city plazas. I have a friend from La Huasteca, a bejungled corner of the state where there are a great many celebrations. We travelled there for a most fantastic weekend; we joined the dancing and fiesta in a small town on our first night and explored the ancient ruins of La Huastecans the next day. I have been waiting my whole life to visit these lands of the ancient peoples of the world. It was a perfect day that ended with a spectacular celestial display as we sat beside a river watching the setting of first the Sun, followed, one by one, by Venus, The Moon and Jupiter.
On a day when I learned more about the traditions of the world and the appreciation of the heavens and their connection to human life and death there was also a deeply personal connection. On a Northamptonshire hillside back in England my family was planting a tree beside the grave of my Grandmother, a tree that will reach up to the sky, a living symbol of the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Events and happenings themselves only hold the significance that we give to them. One celebration which is horribly misrepresented is Thanksgiving. Traditionally a celebration of the gratitude of the pilgrims in the New World, gratitude to the native people who welcomed them and helped them to survive. Modern history glosses over the fact that these native people were massacred in return for their kindness. Colonization has never occurred on such a grand scale before but it has of course occurred throughout human history, even now it is happening in places like Tibet. In fact the origins of Thanksgiving may be found in the defeat of the Muslims in Europe in the C15, the Moors of Turkey.
However, a day on which to celebrate all that we are thankful for is a wonderful thing and this pilgrim is thankful for all that I have found here in the New World. Sadly I did celebrate in truly traditional style bringing with me disease which laid the natives low. My boss spent the day huddled under his smallpox blanket suffering with my cold whilst the rest of the teachers and I feasted downstairs!
Just as Easter is the celebration of new life upon Earth (The Resurrection) Christmas also has Pagan roots (the Winter Solstice) that came to be associated with the birth of God. Back in Roman times Christmas was a festival of feasting and drunken debauchery! Can you imagine what that would be like?! Hehe.
For me this Mass of Christ will be very different to times past, I will be adventuring in the land of the Mayas, exploring Piramides y Playas for the month of December. So, God willing, I will return from my Caribbean Christmas in the year 2009 AD with more Tao of Teaching and other adventures. I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
Goodbye, until next time...
Peacfully Exploring All Created Elements