“Monarch Souls” is the name of the altar that honors the departed on the Day of the Dead
Mazahuas that dwell the north of Estado de Mexico believe that on the Day of the Dead the souls of the departed return in the form of Monarch butterflies -called tsimu in their original language- to enjoy the offerings that the relatives set in altars, which consist mainly in fruit and bread.
This year 2010, the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) sets the offering “Monarch Souls,” with the participation of members of the Mazahua community, on a 50 square meters surface, where a cemetery, a church and a house will be recreated to be walked by the procession that accompanies the Dead on Saturday October 30th.
Alejandro Gonzalez Villarruel, sub director of Ethnology at MNA, informed that the offering will be mounted at the central yard and inaugurated in October 30th 2010 at 13 hours, with the presence of Mazahuas from San Simon and San Antonio de La Laguna, who will also conduct the procession.
It is believed in those communities that the spirit of departed children arrives in October 31st at noon, visiting homes where there are offerings, and leave in November 1st at the same hour, to allow the visit of the adult souls.
To welcome them, Mazahuas conduct a procession from the church to the cemetery to receive the souls, and to see them off it is done the other way round.
The procession is headed by the patron saint of each community and followed by inhabitants carrying an arch made out of reeds and cempasuchil flowers, and “everything needed to celebrate the dead” such as food, candy, beverages and music, mentioned the researcher from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Gonzalez Villarruel explained that it has become a tradition at the MNA to invite a Mexican ethnic group to install the traditional Day of the Dead altar; “this year it was the turn of the Mazahua community from Estado de Mexico, and the next year it will be set up by Nahuas from the state of Veracruz”.
The anthropologist mentioned that the offering will be presented a day before the date Mazahuas set it up, because they want to be in their communities to receive their dead ones. They believe that if they do not celebrate properly, the departed will not help them to have good crops or to remain healthy.
Mazahua communities that dwell the mountains at the border between Michoacan and Estado de Mexico believe that the souls of the departed return to earth transformed in Monarch butterflies. It is in this time of the year that Monarch butterflies arrive to this zone from North America.
Gonzalez declared that the Mazahua altar for the dead ones contains mainly regional fruits such as bananas, apples and oranges, as well as bread pieces with the form of butterflies, dogs, rabbits and pigeons, and different kinds of food and beverages, including pulque and other alcoholic drinks.
Corn cobs are placed on every corner of the offering to thank the departed ones for their help at the corn fields.
The Mazahua offering will be open to public until November 7th 2010 at the central yard of the National Museum of Anthropology, located at Gandhi Street at Reforma Avenue, Chapultepec Park, Mexico City. The entrance to admire the offering is free.