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The Day of the Dead is an ancient festival, originally Aztec, officiated by the goddess Mictecacíhuatl, Queen of Mictlán, ruler of the afterlife and the underworld.
Mictecacíhuatl is known at The Lady of the Dead and her duty was to watch over the bones of the deceased and celebrate the festival of the dead.
The Day of the Dead is a syncretic ritual (the blending of more than one religious belief systems into a new system), that unites the living and the dead once a year; offers the dead their favorite food, drink and songs, and sends them back to the afterlife with some treats after the visit. It is a ritual recognized by UNESCO as part of the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
This deeply rooted Mexican celebration was regarded by the colonizing Catholic Spanish clergy as pagan. They decided to move it from the mid-summer to October 31 to 2, in order to correspond with the three day Roman Catholic festival known as AllHallowTide.
Altars to the Lady of the Dead (Mictecacíhuatl) and the deceased are still made, in contemporary times, with specific ritual elements that direct and welcome the souls of the departed loved ones every year, in every cemetery, and in the homes of those with indigenous blood.
Join Gabriela Alcántara, a native Mexican, and Day of the Dead practitioner, as she takes us through the steps of building a traditional Day of the Dead altar together.
You will learn:
- How to make a traditional and authentic Day of the Day altar
- The significance and importance of the different levels of the altar and each of its elements
- The traditional objects that you can incorporate into you own altar which have been made available at Awentree directly from artisans in Mexico by special arrangement
The Day of the Dead ritual creates sacred space to feel the presence of your ancestors in your life and to thank them for it. It honors the infinite link of love that brought you to life.
About Gabriela Alcantara
Gabriela was born in Mexico city, lived in small towns in Mexico and learnt from older people how to do the traditional altars.
Honoring The Day of the Dead gives her an opportunity to slow down and reflect on those she loves that does not see anymore but are present everyday in her life. It allows her to manifest her affection for her loved ones through a beautiful and rich ritual.
She prepares food, choosing beautiful fruits, papel picado, candles, and sugar skulls. She sets up the altar, and then sits down to watch the candles burn while listening to their music, remembering their words as the copal smoke rises.
Gabriela studied art at Hampshire College and has been living in the United States since 1994.