Bread of the Dead
Bread of the Dead (Pan de muerto) is a kind of sweet bun baked in Mexico before the Day of the Dead. This roll is often decorated with chopsticks in the shape of bones and a tear. The bones, of course, symbolize the dead, and are arranged in a circle that symbolizes the circle of life.
The tear depicts the tear of the goddess Chimalma; which in Aztec mythology was the mother of Toltec and Quetzalcoatl. Her tear also symbolizes life. This bread is richly sprinkled with sugar.
There are also other interpretations: when the bread of the dead has 4 lines, it is believed that they reflect the four main points of the Aztec calendar, which in turn presents the four main deities of Aztec mythology.
Origin and recipe
The Bread of the Dead was already known in the pre-Hispanic era; but then it was made of amaranth grains with honey. Initially, the bread had the shape of animals (turtles, crocodiles or rabbits); which indicates the Aztec origin. Often the bread of amaranth was dipped in blood from the heart of the sacrifice on the altar and eaten by the shaman.
To give an end to this tradition, the Spaniards began to bake their own bread from wheat flour; initially in the shape of a heart. It is assumed that from that time the Aztecs began to consider this bread as a sacred.
Eggs, wheat flour, butter, sugar and a little orange peel, which gives it a beautiful yellow color.
Details ? In Spanish here: Recipe
The Bread of the Dead is eaten on the Day of the Dead, it is also left to the deceased in the cemeteries and on the altars made for predecessors in the houses.
In some regions of the country, it is baked out a few weeks before the Day of the Dead; in others it is not very different from bread baked throughout the year (as is the case in the Oaxaca region); on the Day of the Dead, only decorations are added.
Mexicans believe that this bread allows the dead to absorb its essence in combination with water, which is also left on the Altars of the Dead. This allows the deceased to recover after a long journey to the ground.
In Mexico City, the Bread of the Dead is called hojaldra, and some ethnic groups use pink sugar to decorate it.
In Mixquic it is called despeinadas and it is decorated with colorful sprinkles or sesame seeds.
In Michoacan, the Bread of the Dead includes: pan de ofrenda, pan de hule and corundas, the latter are not sweet at all, but seasoned with tomato sauce and chile de arbol.
Monarch butterfly (in Latin Danaus Plexippus Linneo) was called by the Aztecs Xochiquetzal (precious flower) or Quezalpapalotl (holy butterfly). It was considered the goddess of motherhood, love, flowers, beauty; symbol of spirituality, dead and fire, as well as the spirit of the forest.
The Aztecs believed that the monarch butterfly represents the souls of dead children who are returning to the earth; and the natives saw the image of a human face in the motif of the butterfly’s wings.
The Mazahua tribe called these butterflies “daughters of the sun” referring to the color of their wings or to the fact that the awakening of these butterflies meant the arrival of the spring sun.
In the Teotihuacan era, the monarch butterflies were depicted on seals, nasal rings and head ornaments. They were presented from a faithful portrait of this butterfly to advanced stylizations.
In the Náhuatl tribe, the monarch butterfly was called “papálotl“. This butterfly symbolized fire and war. The legend of the Náhuatl tribe says that if someone wants happiness, he must whisper this wish to the monarch butterfly. Only a butterfly that can move without sound and is the only living creature who is able to take this request to Xochiquetzal, the goddess of joy and flowers.
According to legend of Guerrera, this butterfly represented the heroes and important people who died. It also represented warriors who were killed or sacrificed on the altar of sacrifices. It represents as well women who died during childbirth. According to legend, the souls of these dead transformed into butterflies or hummingbirds with colorful plumage.
The Mexica, Mixteca, Teotihuacan, Tolteca and Zapoteca tribes protected the wintering sites of the monarch butterfly.
From the pre-Hispanic era the monarch’s butterflies represent the souls of the dead who return to earth to visit the living. But it was only in the nineteenth century that these butterflies gained an additional status, when the day of the dead on November 1 and 2 was officially established. Monarch butterflies appear in Mexico around this date to winter in Mexico and Michoacán.
In this region, the descendants of Purépecha and Mazahuas still consider the monarch butterflies to be envoys of the gods representing the souls of their ancestors, offering them a wax and resin copal.
The monarch’s migration takes place from Canada, through the United States, to the sanctuaries in Mexico established to protect this beautiful butterfly.
Butterflies in everyday culture
The monarch butterflies have become a part of culture and are presented on everyday objects such as stamps, porcelain and drawings.
The well-known Mexican fashion designer Pineda Covalin has dedicated the monarch butterfly a whole range of products in many color variants.
Xoloitzcuintle, short Xolo, is an Mexican endemic race of dogs knows for over 3000 years. Its name is decoded as a “god of the dusk”, a brother of god Quetzalcóatl incarnating a dog or a dog incarnation of a god of life and death. This race is known as well as Aztec dog.
According to the Mexica mythology, dogs of this race were accompanying souls of the dead in the journey to Mictlán, an underworld. To enable this journey, live dogs were buried together with bodies of the dead.
There is a legend that it was a god Xolotl who offered Xoloitzcuintle to the people as a remain after creation of life from the Bone of Life (according to the mythology, the whole life on Earth has been created from the Bone of Life); this race supposed to come from the splinter.
Those dogs were considered saint and many of them have been depicted in sculptures and paintings.
First traces of this race have been discovered in the cave Tecolote in Huapalcalco in the state of Hidalgo, and are dated 3500 years B.C. There are proofs that particular tribes like Mayans or Aztecs had contacts with this race.
Xoloitzcuintle didn’t have a lot of luck: if they weren’t buried with the dead, there were bred for meat. Hernán Cortés noted in his diaries that when he arrived to Tenochtitlán in 1519 saw puppies of that race sold on markets as food.
After European colonization the Xoloitzcuintle race was close to extinction and has been saved in the last moment. From 1 May 1956 Mexican Dog Federation started a program of registration of particular individuals and their reproduction.
Xoloitzcuintle were the favourite race of dogs of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and were inspiration to their art.
Even if they do not have a striking beauty (no hair) and they need to sleep under a blanket, to not to freeze, they are appreciated for their intelligence and ease of training. They are sporty dogs, they supervise well their owners and are quiet towards people.
Xoloitzcuintle are available in 3 dimensions: mini, middle and big. Their weight can vary from 4 kg to 20 kg.
16 of August 2016 Xoloitzcuintle has been proclaimed a national heritage of Mexico and a symbol of Mexico City.
Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead is a very Mexican tradition. It is celebrated the 2nd of November and is full of magic, colours and superstitions. This is the day when Mexicans celebrate their dead, and invite them to return to this world and coexist with the living in the festive atmosphere.
For a Mexican, the death is taken with a humour, is celebrated. Mexicans don’t believe that their dead go away forever. They imagine that they pass to the parallel reality from which they can come back when they want.
Mexicans laugh with and of the death. They coexist with it in the natural manner, they accept it in their homes and their daily routines. Every Mexican family has some spirit which hangs around the home without conflicting with its inhabitants and without scaring them.
Origin of this celebration ascends to the ancient times, before the Spanish came to Mexico. Festival from which comes this celebration commemorated the 9th month of the solar calendar of Mexica, and lasted for 1 month. Festivities were chaired by the goddess Mictecacíhuatl, “Lady of the Death” and they paid the tribute to the dead family members.
The ancient Mexicans believed that the souls were taking different passages or paths, which were determined by the sort of death they suffered, not by the live they were living (the duality of the hell and heaven came with the Spaniards).