Most holidays can be associated into the Masonic calendar and celebrated without much connectivity to the fraternity, patriotism and religious veneration aside. One holiday, not widely celebrated in the U.S., comes to us from the south in the form of a celebration (and perhaps veneration) of the Dead in the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos.
Suggested to have origins in the ancient past, the celebrations roots grow out of the distant Aztecs dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, who is the queen of the Aztec underworld and watcher of the deceased’s bones. Today the celebration is a hybrid of this ancient practice and the more modern Catholic celebration of the All Saints Day, which venerates all known (and unknown) Catholic saints. In this Latinized tradition, the feast extends to the remembrance of all those who have passed in the previous year to remember their spirits.
The resonance to Freemasonry comes in the veneration of the idea of Hiram Abiff, the Grand Master himself, as the fraternity venerates his role in every Masons making. It strikes me that the idea of veneration is truly at the heart of our being. Not to say that it is a ritualized worship, but rather a means of remembrance of his spirit upon the fraternity.
Traditionally, Día de los Muertos is celebrated with the construction of private altars to honor the deceased, the making and decorating of sugar skulls which is a gift to both those still living and those departed, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. The meaning behind the offerings of food is representative a welcoming gesture (called ofrendas) to bring the departed with the foods spiritual essence. Further, the celebrants go upon visitation to their graves with these as gifts and stand watch for their spirits through the night.
Again, this resonates with the tradition of Freemasonry, in that it is in the spirit of Grand Master Hiram that all Freemasons strive to emulate and represent, and it’s through the ceremonies of the degrees and that his essence is to be imparted through his wisdom and actions.
Also, there is a tremendous symbolic connectivity in the use of the skull and skeleton imagery, in that their application in the Día de los Muertos tradition closely follows its use in the Masonic tradition as a remembrance of the place where each of us is destined for. Further, that no matter our status in life, we all are equalized and made to look the same in death. The Calavera mask (skull mask) and the full calacas (skeleton) led to the more recent Día de los Muertos attribution of the Catrina figures, which are today a prominent inclusion to the day’s celebration.
It is in these symbolic gestures that I suggest Día de los Muertos most resonates on this most spooky of holidays, and that in the giving of sugar treats to young ghouls and goblins to pause for a moment and reflect on the passing and upon the spirit of those brothers who have passed before us and to leave one sweet treat should their spirit be passing by.
In memory of the spirit, for a moment forget the reality of ones life lived and instead remember their presence of spirit.