what is the symbolism of the Mexican skull
Throughout the world, death is perceived in different ways. In European culture, death is often associated with the emergence of everything from evil, fear and sadness. But in other parts of the world, death can be a celebration of the lives of the deceased for their loved ones. And when we talk about the "celebration of death," one of the most colorful and memorable celebrations can be found in Mexico. Characterized by their "Mexican skull" or "sugar skull", this celebration may seem strange, more like a festival than a day of mourning. So what is the story behind the Mexican death's-head and how did it reach its cult status in Mexico?
Mexican skull is a symbol of the day of death in Mexico
The "Day of Death" is a very interesting holiday celebrated in central Mexico and south on the 1st and the 2e November each year. Even though it coincides with the Catholic Halloween day in Europe and North America, the Mexican people managed to "combine" this with their own ancient beliefs to honor the dead loved ones.
The Mexicans believe that the gates of paradise open on October 31 and the spirits of all the dead children (called angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for a duration of 24 hours. On November 2nd, adult spirits descend to join the festivities that have been prepared for them.
Traditional festivities with Mexican skulls
In many Indian villages, beautiful altars (ofrendas) are made in each house. These altars are decorated with candles, bouquets of flowers (wild cares, called "cempasuchil" and rooster combs in bright red), pieces of fruit, peanuts, turkey plates, tortillas and a special bread called the Bread of the Dead. On the altar he must have plenty of food, bottles of soda, hot chocolate and water for the tired minds.
Toys and treats are left for children's minds. The 2e November, cigarettes and mezcal glasses are offered for the minds of adults. The small popular art is to buy small Mexican skulls and skulls of sugar in the markets for the final touch of the celebration.
Here are the traditional altars made for the dead in Mexico
The Day of the Dead is a very expensive festival this autonomous people and living especially in a rural environment. Many families spend more than two months of salary to honor deceased loved ones. The Mexicans believe a lot in the family, for them it is a sacred institution. And the altars are what brings the family closer to them.
The afternoon of 2e November, the celebrations are moved in the cemeteries. We clean the graves, play cards, listen to local bands and remember the dead. Tradition brings the village closer together. The day of death is becoming more and more popular in Europe and the United States, perhaps due to fascination with mysticism.
The makeup of death skull mexiqcaine is very popular
As the years went by, some parts of the celebration remained, for example, the altars, while others disappeared. People begin to visit the cemeteries on November 2 to spend time with their families around the graves of their deceased relatives. This is where the little skulls of sugar begin to appear on the graves of the dead.
Sugar skulls are very important for the altars and they are exactly the ones that are then brought to the cemeteries. Over the years, these sweet little skulls are getting bigger and bigger and become decorations everywhere in Mexico as Death Day approaches. So what does the Mexican death's-head mean exactly and what are its roots?
Skull makeup inspired by the Mexican tradition
The history of the Mexican death's-head dates back to prehistoric times when the skull was a predominant figure in many aspects in Mesoamerican societies. One of the representations of the skull was the "tzompantli": a wooden gate that displayed the skulls of prisoners of war or human sacrifices.
Mesoamerican civilizations would believe in a spiritual life after death, and these skulls were offerings to the god of the underworld who guaranteed a certain passage to the land he ruled. The tzompantli can also be an altar illustrating the passage from earthly life to spiritual life. It is not uncommon to find Mexican skulls decorated exactly with the face of this god.
With the arrival of the Spanish conquerors and their religion, these traditions were almost lost and yet part of them was kept alive by keeping the figure of the skull in a sweet version placed on the altars as an offering for the dead.
The Mexican death cows are still very colorful
These sweets are made from a paste called "alfenique" which is a mixture of sugar, hot water, lemon and other ingredients. A modular mass close to the caramel is created. This paste allows artists to modulate it into a skull shape and decorate it. Of course depending on where you see these skulls, you will realize that a large part of them are made neither alfenic paste nor chocolate. And since these little skulls can be found everywhere in Mexico, some people prefer to prepare these sweets from other ingredients such as almonds, honey, amaranth and even candies. The reason for the different sizes of skulls, besides for decorative reasons, is the fact that they can represent children and adults.
Why then are these little skulls decorated with colorful decorative elements instead of simply representing the skull mold? Is it only decorative reasons? No, not exactly. Everything around the Day of the Dead is bright and colorful and especially the decorations. And if the sweet little skulls are displayed on the altars, they must be decorated with bright icing and bright colors to accentuate the orange hair, the big red eyes and the big white smile of the skull.
The reason this death-themed celebration is so colorful instead of sad is the fact that these people celebrate the lives of those who have already died. It is not simply a day of mourning where stories are told about the deaths on their graves. This is a day when we remember their lives and the impact they had on ours. For Mexicans, the fact that a person has died does not mean that she has disappeared because she continues to live in the hearts of the living.
Of course, sugar skulls can be decorated in all kinds of colors, but when people are struggling their faces as if they were skulls of the dead, the colors they use have certain meanings. Red represents blood; orange is the sun; yellow represents Mexican worry (which represents death in oneself); purple is pain; pink and white are for hope, purity, celebration; and finally black represents the land of death.
Offering someone living a sugar skull with his or her name written on it, no matter if it's a friend or a family member is also a tradition around the day of death in Mexico . Some may find it a bit odd or they may think it's a kind of joke. But the reason for doing this is simple because it means something to the person who offers him the skull and reserves a place for him in the underworld after death. Death is the only thing that is certain in the world of the living, so do not be surprised if you see sugar skulls with names written on them.
There is plenty of representation of the Mexican skull, no matter if it is an image, a decoration, a sweet skull or even a make-up. Often we can see a Mexican skull with a rose but what does it mean? Although there, once again, the variations are numerous, the skull with a rose emphasizes life with its delicacy or death with its triumph. The style of the performance can give a Gothic atmosphere or a joyful meaning.
Nowadays Mexicans continue to have a high regard for the meaning of the Mexican skull. Often this concept goes beyond the day of death. In reality skulls of dead in t-shirts are very popular in this country, as well as tattoos. By recognizing the meaning of the Mexican Death Skull, you will soon realize that this symbol goes beyond the Day of Death or Decoration.
In addition to the sweet Mexican heads of death, what is also very popular is to paint or make up his face in Mexican death's-head. This tradition is a mixture of Catholic beliefs with the religions of the Mexican people. Again, for those who are unfamiliar with Mexican culture, it may seem strange and even scary. But we must not forget that the skull has only a positive meaning and very different from Halloween skeletons and spirits.
Even if painting the face is not exactly an ancient tradition, what makes it meaningful is the image of the skull. The skulls, called "calaveras" or "calacas" in Mexico, were also a very important part of the All Saints' Day festivities in Medieval Europe, especially after the Black Death ravaged people in 1300. Across the Europe of the artists authors and poets were inspired by the theme of "memento mori" and the "dance of the dead". Many works of art and books describe skeletons or portraits with skulls.
At the same time, in Mexico, the Aztec culture would believe that life on earth is only an illusion and death was a positive step towards a higher level of consciousness. For these peoples, the skulls of the dead were positive symbols, not only of death, but also of rebirth.
Mexicans wear traditional masks and the tradition of painting his face like a skull is born as a variation of this practice. Masks have always been very strong objects in many cultures and painting his face in skull is a way to defeat the fear of death, act recklessly and go beyond the mischiefs prohibited in other times of the year .
At first sight the skulls can not look elegant or feminine, but the "elegant" skull has become an important symbol in the tradition of the Day of Death. The "Calavera Catrina" is an engraving of 1913 made by José Guadalupe Posada. The image shows a skeleton dressed as a rich lady as a reminder that even the rich and the beautiful bear death in them. Nowadays, calavera catrina is a source of inspiration for women to paint their faces in a beautiful and frightening way. In Mexico it is usual to see "catrinas" everywhere around the Day of Death. These are ladies figurines in beautiful dresses but with skulls.