The Tree of Life and Death- Day of the Dead Exhibit, Oakland Art Museum


Last weekend’s festivities- Food, music, masks, and special exhibits at Oakland’s Museum of CA.

Dod-3612Much of it still going on.  This is my favorite mask from Etsy artisan MasqueFaire.

What makes this year’s exhibit special, is the symbolic presentation; overlapping the Day of the Dead traditions we know now, with the early, pre-hispanic symbolism and rituals of the first cultures- highlighting the Tree of Life and Death.

The first MesoAmerican Day of the Dead rituals, held in August and September, coincided with seasons, harvest rites, and the return of La Monarcha who carried souls back to loved ones.  Before the Europeans changed the date to coincide with their calendar, Dia de Los Muertos celebrated the natural cycles linking man with nature.

Tree of Life and Death, complete, sacred, essential-

trunk standing firm on land, limbs skyward, branches

touching heaven, roots fearlessly growing into darkness, detritus, death~

connecting man with both realms~ underworld and divinity alike.

man today with his ancestors past…


Day of the Dead was an agricultural celebration, and one recognizing the center of the life: “Axis Mundi; life-giving force at the center of the universe…”   The tree held not only the power of the life force for man within its column, but also the cause of cycles (time), and what was born of them: the movement of stars, moon, sun.


DodAztec3705And to show the natural cycles of life and death together in partnership, this Dia de los Muertos exhibit is nested in the natural history wing of the museo- alongside stuffed bears and unearthed dinosaurs.  It is very comforting actually, to find myself standing firm, tierra firma, beside trees, or grinding masa for tortillas outside, or dancing to musica in the corridors… This is a great show, with lots of activities for kids; going on through Dec. 8th.  There is more-the first accounts of Aztec festivities, tree rituals in four quadrants, as documented by the Spanish… Go see!


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