The Mortality Club

SAVING THE DEAD: El Da de los Muertos

June 3, 2016

Tags: day of the dead, ancestors, ancestor worship, mourning

In Mexico there is a widespread belief that we die three times. The first happens when our hearts stop beating. The second occurs when our bodies are buried in the ground and we are no longer in sight. The third and final death happens when our loved ones have forgotten us.

The Mexicans try to make sure the final death never takes place. On November 1 and 2ndof each year, they celebrate the Day of the Dead. The celebration is joyful with an emphasis on honoring the lives of departed ancestors rather than on attempting to pacify malevolent spirits.

The tradition is an old one. All the ancient Indian civilizations of Mexico celebrated El Da de los Meurtos. Their celebrations were held in August, and continued throughout the month. In the fifteenth century, the Spanish Conquistadors converted the locals to Catholicism. As part of their attempt to get rid of what they regarded as pagan traditions, they moved the celebration of the dead to November 1 and 2nd, so that it would coincide with the Catholic All Saints and All Souls days.

The change in date hasnt muted the passion of the festival, nor lessened the time, energy and resources devoted to its preparation. The planning process occurs throughout the year. The fall is devoted to gathering the foods and goods that will be offered to the dead. At the end of October, families gather to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones with wreaths of marigold and other offerings. Adults are given bottles of tequila, mexcal or atole. Toys are left at the graves of the little angels, the dead children. Sugar skulls often inscribed with the names of the deceased on the forehead are prepared, and eaten by a friend or relative in a passionate and joyous ritual designed to commenorate and remember their dead loved ones. (more…)

Selected Works

Psychology/Aging and Dying
In youth we are invincible. The world is forever: we are forever. But, sentient creatures that we are, time inevitably plays its part. Aging and illness shadow those early sensibilities until one day we feel the lurking presence of death itself. Fearful of our own dark thoughts, too often we keep such anxieties to ourselves. To deny our own mortality is a parlor game of sorts, played within our own heads and frequently played alone. Pamela Cuming will have none of it. In her latest book, The Hourglass, she throws back the parlor curtains and lets the light stream in. This is a powerful, objective, unflinching, and yet profoundly empathic work that explores the rewards of honest caring⎯the privilege and the pain⎯not only for ones friends and family but also for ones self. Drawing upon an uncanny intuitive understanding of human foible plus a broad knowledge of character development, honed from decades of consulting in the business world, this is a book filled with personal stories both engaging and instructive. In short, The Hourglass is a must read for all those who seek to live life to the full, from start to finish. ________________ Peter C. Whybrow MD, Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Beavior at UCLA and award-winning author of The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived.
Fiction: Publication Date Nov 14, 2014
Set in New York City and Los Angeles between August 1999 and November 2001, The Stranger Box is the story of a mother and a daughter caught like two white dwarf stars in separate orbits, destined to collide. Though she does everything in her considerable power to insure the child never finds out who she is, the vain and self-obsessed Katherine Blair is unable to change the course of her destiny or evade Eden, the resourceful daughter whose pursuit is fueled by the desire for revenge and the determination to steal the family that has been denied her.
Memoir
Widows Walk is a bold, brave, and candid admission of bereavement, weakness, and, ultimately, strength.
Nonfiction
A strategic guide to organizational and personal effectiveness
Turf is a direct, and sometimes disturbing book about the use and abuse of power in organizations.

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