The Magic of Monarchs

by K-Dean

Ancient Mexican manuscripts depict the goddess of love as a butterfly.

Every year tens of millions of monarch butterflies migrate more than 2000 miles to Mexico to get away from Canada’s cold winters and they’ve been doing it for at least 10,000 years, according to recorded history. Their transcontinental odyssey, continues to amaze scientists as the butterflies fly to the exact same place monarchs before them have been. They travel at around 6 mph, but can cover over 200 miles in a day with prevailing winds. The local inhabitants welcome the returning butterflies each year, as they believe the butterflies carry the spirits of their departed. The Aztecs believe that when we die our souls become butterflies and all of our ancestors’ spirits are still here. They called them Eternal Sun Dancers, because of the feeling experienced when seeing them in their habitats and because many people believe that the butterflies energize the soul.

The arrival of the monarch butterflies coincides with a popular Mexican festival. The spirits carried by these butterflies are honored by the towns’ people during Los Dias de los Muertos, which is known as the Days of the Dead. It is celebrated every year on November 1st and 2nd, and is a time when ancestors visit the living. The townspeople dress up like ghosts, mummies, and skeletons, and parade around town carrying an open coffin. The corpse in the casket smiles as it is carried through the streets of town. Local vendors toss oranges in the casket. A lucky corpse can also catch flowers fruits and candles.

Families arrange altars with flowers, candles, bread and photographs of loved ones in their homes. This is a time to reflect on the ones who passed away. The next day families all gather at the cemetery to clean the graves of their loved ones. The gravesides are raked, weeded and scrubbed clean. The family will also bring new flowers, and play the guitar or radio while they spend the entire night in the cemetery.

Read more:

Journey of the Butterflies | NOVA

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