"Life is a dream"
During the Spanish Conquest of Meso-America, Spanish Conquistadors were astonished by a ritual performed by native Aztecs, in what is modern day Mexico, that seemed to mock death. They had been practicing this ritual for almost 3,000 years. Skulls were predominate in this ritual that lasted over a month beginning in August.
The ritual was celebrated during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli, and it was believed that the Lady of the Dead or Mictecacihuatl presided over the ritual. Skulls were kept as trophies by the Aztecs and other Meso-American cultures. They also symbolized death and rebirth. The skulls were used to honor the dead, and during their ritual Aztecs believed that the dead would visit the living again.
In this time of conquest, the cultural differences between the old and new world were experienced.
The Spaniards believed that death was the end of life, while the indigenous people saw it as a continuation of life. According to Carlos Miller of The Arizona Republic, the native's culture did not fear death, " they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake".
Similarly to the assimilation of the Celtic ritual of Samhain, the indigenous ritual of the dead was moved to the Catholic celebration of All Saints Day and All Soul's Day on November 1st & 2nd in an attempt to make it more Christian.
Special thanks to Tomascaste at Wikimedia Commons for the great images of Dia de los Muertos, a candidate for Picture of the Year 2007.
Miller, Carlos (2009) Day of the Dead history. The Arizona Republic. Arizona Central, Arizona's Home Page. Retrieved on September 3, 2009
The Pacific Coast of Mexico (2009) Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The Pacific Coast
of Mexico. Retrieved on September 3, 2009 from:
Tomascastelazo (2007) Day of the Dead Images. Tomascastelazo. Wikimedia Commons.
Retrieved on September 3, 2009 from: