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Posts Tagged ‘cempasuchitl’

As my grandchildren finished their trick or treating up in el norte, I put the final touches on my Día de los Muertos ofrenda (offering) here in Oaxaca.

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A yellow (the color of death in pre-hispanic southern Mexico) cloth covers two chests; papel picado (cut tissue paper), signifying the union between life and death, has been added, along with the traditional flowers of Day of the Dead — cempasúchil and veruche (domesticated and wild marigolds), their scent to guide the spirits, and cockscomb to symbolize mourning.  Visitors brought the sunflower and, since my grandfather, father, and father-in-law were avid gardeners, it is for them!

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There is salt to make sure the souls stay pure and chocolate, peanuts, pecans, apples, mandarin oranges, and pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread) to nourish them.

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The sweet smell of copal incense and its smoke help guide my loved ones to the feast I have prepared.  And, there is water to quench their thirst, as they travel between worlds, not to mention mezcal and cervesa (beer).

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But, most important of all, there are the tangible remembrances of my departed — photos and some of their favorite things.

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Revolutionary catrina and catrin for my revolutionary comadre and compadre, Sylvia and Nat.

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Yarn and a crochet hook for my dear grandmother who many of the abuelas (grandmothers) in Oaxaca remind me of — always wearing an apron, never wearing pants, and incredibly adept with crochet and embroidery thread.  And, for my adored grandfather, a San Francisco Giants baseball cap.  My grandparents moved next door at the same time the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco and grandpa and I listened to many games together on his transistor radio, as I helped him in the garden.

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There are other cherished friends and relatives on my altar, but pride of place goes to my parents.  For my father, who was killed when I was only two and a half, there is beer (below the above photo) — alas Victoria not Burgermeister!  And for my mother, a fan to cool herself as she dances and a bottle of port to sip before she sleeps.

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It’s been a two-day labor of love as I wanted everything to be perfect for my difutos (departed) to find their way and feel welcome in my Oaxaca home.

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Celebrations in Oaxaca surrounding Día de Muertos are beginning.  This past week, we, members of the Mexico Travel Photography Facebook group, were issued a 5-day “Day of the Dead” photo challenge by moderator, Norma Schafer.  There are always so many favorite images from so many events that I never get around to posting, so this was my opportunity.  My five…

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Panteón, Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca on Oct. 31, 2015

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Offering on tomb in Panteón Municipal de Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca on Nov. 1, 2015

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Muerteada, morning after the night before, Nov. 2, 2014, San Agustín Etla, Oaxaca

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Sun sets on Santa María Atzompa panteón, Oct. 31, 2014

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On the Alcalá in Oaxaca City, Oct. 31, 2014

And, five more, just because…

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Santa María Atzompa, Oct. 31, 2015

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San Pablo Villa de Mitla, ofrenda with pan de muertos, Nov. 1, 2014

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Chocolate calaveras at Villa de Etla, Oct. 31, 2014

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Cempasuchil (marigold) vendor at Villa de Etla, Oct. 31, 2014

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Casa de las Artesanías de Oaxaca, Oct. 31, 2015

That’s all folks, for now.  Stay tuned for more to come from this year.

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Marigolds have begun appearing in the city.  The yellow of this flor de muertos (flower of the dead) will help guide the difuntos (deceased) home to feast with their families during the upcoming Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Known as cempazuchil (also spelled cempasúchitl), flower pots and/or vases of marigolds may find their way onto ofrendas (the offerings on home altars for the difuntos).  Some scatter the petals on their muertos altar, others in a trail leading from the street into the house and up to the ofrenda.

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Next week, seasonal Day of the Dead markets will spring up and shopping will go into high gear.  Needless to say, I will join in buying the traditional fruits, nuts, flowers, and sugar skulls to place on my ofrenda.  And, along with friends, I will pay my respects to the difuntos of friends in Teotitlán del Valle.  It’s a special time of year in Oaxaca.

Once a librarian, always a librarian, thus a few resources about Day of the Dead:

A brief note:  Celebrations vary throughout Mexico and, even in the valley of Oaxaca, traditions differ from village to village, but the above articles will give you a general idea.  You can also click HERE for my Día de Muertos blog posts from previous years.

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Today I ventured down to Calle de Ignacio Rayón (the block between the Benito Juárez and 20 de Noviembre mercados) to purchase flowers for my Día de Muertos ofrenda (an altar of offerings).  On the list was cockscomb (cresta de gallo or borla de Santa Teresa), marigolds (cempasúchitl), and veruche (also known as flor de muertos).  I wasn’t alone, the sidewalks were crowded with other shoppers in search of the same traditional flowers, fruits, nuts, copal, and other items to place on their ofrendas.

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Veruche is a tiny relative of the marigold that grows wild in the valley of Oaxaca at this time of year.  Yellow was the color of death in southern Mexico, long before the Spanish set foot on the continent and, along with the scent of the flowers and smoke from the candles and copal, it is thought to attract the difuntos (spirits of the dead) to bring them to the ofrendas prepared for them.

Muchisimas gracias to Shawn D. Haley for his informative presentation at the Oaxaca Lending Library on the Zapotec celebration of Día de Muertos.  Needless to say, I also purchased the book he coauthored with photographer Curt Fukuda, The Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca.

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My BFF (since age 12 — I won’t say how many decades ago that was) arrived last night from Alaska.  It was her first trip to Mexico and it took 22 hours.  Of course we talked late into the night, thus the morning unfolded slowly.

However, eventually we emerged into the hustle and bustle of the temporary muertos stalls near 20 de Noviembre mercado, to begin purchasing the elements for our Día de los Muertos ofrenda:  Apples, oranges, and nuts to nourish the spirits, cempasuchitl (marigolds) to guide the spirits, cockscomb to symbolize mourning, and copal incense to draw the spirits home and ward off evil .

Muertos Altar

As you can see from the above chart, we have much more to buy and bring out of the storage closet.  And, the above list doesn’t even mention sugar cane stalks!

h/t Chef Pilar Cabrera for posting the chart on Facebook.

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Sunday, blogger buddy Chris and I drove out to Tlacolula for market day.  It didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t your usual Sunday market — there seemed to be twice the number vendors and twice as many shoppers.  It was the Sunday before the Días de los Muertos and this mega mercado was providing those who live in the surrounding area with everything they could possible need for their ofrendas (Day of the Dead altars).

Mounds of apples, tangerines, and other fruit.

mounds of bananas and tangerines

Rows upon rows of pan de muerto (the special Day of the Dead bread).

Pan de muerto

Wheelbarrows full of peanuts and pecans.

Wheelbarrow full of nuts

And, in the city of Oaxaca, special Muertos vendor stalls have been set up between the Benito Juárez Mercado and 5 de Mayo Mercado for city dwellers to stock up.  Intricately decorated sugar and chocolate skulls (calaveras) to satisfy the sweet tooth of Mictlantecuhtli (Goddess of Death).

Shelves of sweet calaveras

Decorated clay incense burners…

Clay three-legged incense burners

waited to burn copal resin and perfume the air with its wonderful, and now familiar, scent.

Bags and piles of copal resin

Doll house size tables were filled with miniature clay food and beverages (favorites of the departed) …

Tiny tables with miniature clay foods and beverages

and included these diminutive plates of mole and arroz (rice) — which I couldn’t resist buying for my altar!

Tiny plates of ceramic mole and arroz

And, of course, there were mounds and mounds of Cempazuchitl (marigolds), the flower of the dead, that grows wild in Oaxaca at this time of year.

Pile of marigolds

All the necessary purchases have been made, now to build my ofrenda.

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