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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Egyptian Death Masks

The  Ancient Egyptians were extremely religious people and had very elaborate burial rituals, as well as complex beliefs about life after death.  According to Ancient Egyptian myth, death wasn’t the end of life– it was just a process that every soul must go through in order to reach the next level of eternal life (the afterlife).

In order to achieve eternal life, they believed you had to preserve the dead body. This was accomplished  by mummifying it.  The mummy would then be placed inside the tomb with other vital items that they thought they would need in the afterlife.  Mummies were also accompanied by the death mask.  This gave the dead a face in the afterlife, protected the face and helped to ensure that the spirit could find the right body to return to.  Students discussed the amazing discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb and examined the solid gold death mask that was found on his mummy. 

Next students set out to design their own death masks.  Using a mask mold each student  used papier mache to create their own mask.  The headdresses on many Egyptian masks showed images of Egyptian myths and gods.  On the student headdresses they needed to include symbols that could represent the things that are important to them.

Dia de los Muertos

Second grade students learned about the holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd.  El Dia de los Muertos is not the Mexican version of Halloween. Mexicans have celebrated the Day of the Dead since the year 1800 B.C.  It is not scary or morbid. There are no pictures or images of dead people, ghosts, witches, or the devil.

This fiesta is marked by the invitation by the living to the dead to return to their family home for a visit. Families place photographs of their loved ones who have passed on at the deceased’s gravesite or on a family altar. They also place offerings of flowers, drinks and food alongside the photographs. This ritual is particularly important for those who have been lost in the year since the previous festival, and is a way of coming to terms with the death of someone loved and missed.

It doesn’t honor death, but their dead relatives. It’s a time for them to reflect on their lives, heritage, ancestors and the meaning of their existence.  It is not a sad ritual. It’s a day of happiness because they are remembering loved ones.

The well-known Calaveras statues depicting skeletons participating in the activities of the living- from cooking to playing in mariachi bands- take their place on the altar, where their comic appearance brings a smile to the faces of the grieving.

Second grade students created their own Calaveras using art straws and collage.