People around the world want to preserve the memory of their ancestors. In their hearts they store memories and images of people who have left the earth’s. Once a year there comes a time when you can go back to the past in your thoughts, revive at least for a moment, those who have left us behind. Let that celebration begin.
Iranian Tower of Silence
On the outskirts of Jazd (central Iran) you can see hills with rounded buildings elevated on them. This is Dakhma, or Tower of Silence.
The inhabitants of Jazd believe that after death the body becomes unclean and is attacked by demons that infect it with evil powers. To prevent this from happening, the dead were transported to the top of the Tower of Silence and placed on one of the stone circles (the outer belt was for men, the middle belt for women, and the inner belt for children).
Vultures began to circulate over the dead from time to time… The belief is that a man had to return to nature what he had received during his lifetime. The remaining bones were thrown into a shaft inside the tower and covered with lime. The last such burials took place in the 1970s. Now only elders bury the dead in concrete tombs.
Bolivian La Paz is worth visiting on November 8th. Then whole families in their colorful, festive costumes gather on the cemeteries. They come to the necropolis with skulls of their loved ones, which they decorated with flowers. This is how Dia de Los Natitas begins.
According to Bolivians’ beliefs, ancestral souls live in the skulls. If they are properly cared for, the dead will take care of their living relatives. They will send them prosperity, futune and love. However, if the skull is not surrounded by proper respect, the dissatisfied ancestors will bring all the misfortunes and take care of the family break-up.
Bolivians keep the skulls of the dead in their homes (some even take them with them to work). But once a year they bring them to the cemetery. On this occasion, they are decorated with garlands, glasses, hats. Cigarettes should be put in their mouths to ensure eternal peace. The leaves of a certain plant help in the transition between the world of the living and the dead.
Kites Resembling Signposts
The city of Santiago Sacatepéquez is located in southern Guatemala. Its inhabitants (Kakchiquel Indians) believe that during one day of the year, the souls of the dead descend to the ground. In order not to lose their way, giant kites are flying towards the sky as signposts.
The making of kites starts 40 days before November 1st. They are made of natural materials (wool, bamboo, agave fibers).
When the firecrackers explode it is a sign that you can start celebrating. Prepared kites wait on wooden racks. They are dazzling with saturated colors and intricate execution.
These colossuses set men in motion. Kites float in the air until late in the afternoon. They direct the dead to their former homes. There, shrines and food await them. Native Indians return to their homes to meet their ancestors.
With Death to Their Faces
Mexican people arrive to the cemeteries on November 2. Then the Día de Muertos begins. The necropolises are quickly populated by people who decorate their graves with wreaths, flowers, pictures or candles. They also put sugar skulls, salt and sweets on them.
The atmosphere on the cemeteries is extremely joyful. In the distance, one can hear mariachi orchestras and people, between the graves, have small parties. The Mexicans meet with their friends to remember those who passed away.
On this day no one sheds any tears. Everyone is happy, they tell stories about their ancestors, sing and “play for the health of the dead”. (this is what a folk song says).
What do you think about such unusual ways of celebrating the dead?