TITLE: Soul Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
DESCRIPTION: Calavera (Skull) Mask Representing an Espíritu (Soul)
MAKER: Manuel Horta Ramos, Tocuaro
CEREMONY: Día de los Muertos
FUNCTION: celebration; spirit invocation
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; maque
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an important Mexican celebration of pre-Christian origin. In its modern incarnation, Day of the Dead (actually, two days in most places, November 1st for children and 2nd for adults) celebrates deceased family members with ofrendas (offerings) to the spirits who return to visit and night-long vigils at the graves of the departed. The graves are frequently decorated with flowers, candles, and sweets for children and alcohol for adults.
In parts of Mexico, Day of the Dead is also celebrated with desfiles (parades) or comparsas (appearances or performances) by masqueraders. Because Day of the Dead celebrates the departed, the calaca, or skull, remains an extremely popular image. The skull and skeleton are important symbols in pre-Christian Mexican culture and are found extensively in Aztec, Mixtec, Mayan, and other indigenous art. This mask represents a soul (espíritu) being carried to its destination (Heaven or Hell) by a bat.