Each fall clouds of Monarchs descend upon the forests of central Mexico. Their arrival is the last stop in their 3,000 mile journey. This amazing journey is made only once in their lifetime. The monarchs fly south from their summer breeding grounds in the US and return to the same forest as all the generations before them, guided by only an internal compass as their navigation. Millions of fluttering orange and black wings blanket the forest and find safety on the branches that will shelter them throughout the winter months to come. Their arrival in Mexico coincides with the onset of the Day of the Dead celebration.
Every year at the beginning of November, Mexico comes alive with the celebration of its Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The holiday is one of remembrance and reunion. Stories of loved ones are shared and ofrendas are arranged to honor them.These altars are adorned with calaveras, sugar skulls, photographs, favorite foods, momentos, cempasuchil (marigold flowers) and, of course, monarch butterflies.
"Be kind to a Monarch, you never know who's soul it carries inside."
Monarchs have a unique place in the hearts of those who observe the Day of the Dead. These butterflies are more than just beautiful insects; they hold deep cultural and spiritual significance within this tradition. Mexican Indigenous people thought of the monarch as sacred. You can see them in Aztec paintings and stone carvings, represented in the same way as Egyptians would depict cats. Aztec belief is that monarchs hold the souls of the warriors who died in battle or the women who died in childbirth (also considered warriors). The flapping of their wings relayed messages. Mexican communities of today believe Monarchs are the spirits of loved ones coming back to the world of the living to visit for a short time during Dia de los Muertos. The vibrant orange and black colors of the monarch are said to represent the sun and the darkness of the afterlife, signifying the delicate balance between life and death.
As these majestic beings embark on their epic migration, remember that they serve as a bridge between the living and the departed, embodying the themes of transformation, connection and the cyclical nature of life and death. A symbol of hope, remembrance and the enduring bond with those who came before us.