Whether you celebrate Halloween or Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) this is the weekend to celebrate masks, skulls, and the other world.
I had great fun researching the holiday and making some examples of Skull art for a Professional Development workshop and residencies around Mexican Masks and Day of the Dead.
For the PD Mexican Folk Art Workshop with Delaware elementary art teachers we created relief skull prints using 9″x 6″ pieces of foam. The participants drew their skulls as well as the patterns on the skull. Then cut out the outline of the skull as well as the eye sockets and where the nostrils would be. All you need are foam sheets or clean foam food trays, pencil, scissors, white ink (we used Speedball Relief Ink), roller or brayer, and color card stock paper. Oil pastel was also added to the festive print.
History of Day of the Dead- Dia de los Muertos
Day of the Dead is celebrated in throughout Mexico and in most Catholic countries. It is celebrated on November 1 & 2 and honors loved ones that have passed on. It is believed that the gates of heaven are opened on October 31 and the spirits of the deceased come down to be reunited and celebrate with their families. The roots of Dia de los Muertos could be traced back to the Aztecs and their festival dedicated to the goddess *Mictecacihuatl, For the Aztecs skulls were a positive symbol, not only of death but also of rebirth.
*Mictecacihuatl (pronounced meek-tay-cah-SEE-wah-tl) is the Aztec Goddess of the dead. She rules over Mictlan, the underworld, with her husband, Mictlantecuhtli. Mictlan is the lowest level of the underworld (there are nine levels), and is where those who died non-violent deaths go. Mictlecacihuatl escorts those who have died to their families, and watches over their bodies. She is also known as Mictlancihuatl and the Lady of the Dead, and is especially honored on November 2, El Dia De Las Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
There are many traditions associated with Day of the Dead including preparing elaborate feasts, creating beautiful altars, and cleaning the tombs and gravesides of the departed. One such tradition are sugar skulls which date back to the Colonial period in Mexico. They are made from boiled confection sugar from a tradition passed down through the generations. These skulls were decorated with bright colors, flowers, and often the names of the departed. Flowers are meant to symbolize life. Burning candles set inside the eyes are a sign of remembrance. The skulls are used to decorate altars. It is a celebration of the person, rather than a mournful scary symbol. For more info on the history of Day of the Dead and resources to make your own sugar skulls visit Mexican Sugar Skull.
This collage was inspired by a blog post I found by Everyday is a Holiday- art journaling with Jenny and Aaron.
Thanks J & A for your generosity of time and spirit.