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Feliz Dia de los Muertos
and a Blessed Samhain!
Our latest episode ventures "beyond the veil 'tween the living and the dead," to explore the rites and rituals of the upcoming celebrations.
Even at our age, there’s something seductive and alluring about this chance to put on a mask and be someone ... or something ... other than ourselves. Beyond the jack o'lanterns and kids trick-or-treating, we -- as baby boomers -- still find it a tantalizing time, with that special aura of otherworldliness and mystique about it that is always tantalizing.
But there is more to this holiday than candy and costumes. One celebration that's fascinated us for years has been the "Day of the Dead" -- or "Dia de los Muertos" -- that falls on November 1st and 2nd.
We love what we've seen -- those incredible painted skull-faces, brilliant altars and all-night parties. One of the biggest and most impressive of those is right here in our backyard, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It's been been going on for twenty years, and has become hugely popular, growing to more than 40,000 in attendance.
Like much of our lives, the celebration was cancelled last year due to the Pandemic. Tragically, the past year was the busiest in the 100-year history of Hollywood Forever, with a surge in burials due to COVID-19 deaths.
But Dia de Los Muertos is back this year, -- with the appropriate theme of "rising from the ashes" symbolized by the plumed serpent Quetzalcoatl, God of the Aztecs and Mayans, the universal symbol of resurrection.
Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, Ancient God of the Aztecs and the Mayans, represents "rising from the ashes" in the post-COVID era
As Gringos, we've always viewed el Dia de Los Muertos from a distance. We've never ventured beyond the colorful surface to really learn what the festival is all about. Hopefully, you share our curiosity -- and if you're Hispanic yourself, you welcome this chance to share this fascinating glimpse into your ancient culture. So we gathered our courage and ventured over to our local graveyard, for a meeting in a 100-year-old Mausoleum with an amazing woman: Adela Marquez, who works at Hollywood Forever and is one of the organizers of the Dia de los Muertos celebration.
"La Catrina," or The Lady of the Dead, who stalks the cemetery and protects the bones.
Photo © Piero F. Giunti
Adela explains the meaning of "las calaveras" or "sugar skulls" representing ancient Aztec human sacrifices, and offerings of "pan de muertos,"or "bread for the dead," reflecting the merger of Catholic rites with Aztec traditions under the Spanish Conquistadores. She shares some fantastically irreverent traditions born in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, reflected in the fabulous faces and costumes of "La Catrina," or "Lady of the Dead," who has roots in the Aztec Goddess of the Underworld, Mictlancihuatl.
We hear about the true meaning of the holiday -- a joyful celebration to greet the souls of our lost loved ones, who are able to return just for a brief visit on these two nights, when "The veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest." We'll learn the symbolism of those bright orange Marigolds marking the path for the spirits to find their way to the party, and about the fabulous altars and offerings of food and drink . She also shares a poignant personal story of how the ceremonies can help heal the pain of personal loss, and sings a hauntingly beautiful a capella version of a traditional song of Dia de los Muertos, "La Llarona" -- or "a Woman Crying."
Join us -- venture into the unknown, and learn something new!
Host Julian Simmons also explains the European roots of our own Halloween, in the Pagan rites of Samhain (pronounced "Sau-wen"), the day named in honor of Celtic Lord of the Dead, which dates back to the Dark Ages in Ireland and England. There are some intriguing echoes of the Aztec belief, that this moment -- the end of the harvest and the beginning of the "Dark Time" -- is also when "veil is the thinnest" and the dead come visiting. Followers of Samhain still offer "soul cakes" to their spirit guests, but also don masks and set out carved pumpkins to frighten off the spirits, which they feared might drag them back to the Land of the Dead with them...
We hope you will listen along on a journey that starts out spooky and ends up a celebration!
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