Marigolds aka Cempasuchil or, in the Nahuatl language – Cempazuchtli , are the symbolic flowers for the Days of the Dead celebrations here in Mexico. The scent and colour of these vibrant flowers guide the spirits of departed ones towards an altar the families have prepared with offerings of favourite foods, drinks, photos and possessions of the departed.
This lovely story about how marigolds came to be is a favourite of many of the students I’ve been telling tales too. I share stories with them and in turn they share with me.
The Legend of the Cempasuchil – The Day of the Dead flower
This Mexican legend recounts the love story of two young Aztecs, Xóchitl and Huitzilin, a romance from which the cempasuchil flower was born.
It began when the two young Aztecs were still little. They used to spend all their time playing and as they became teenagers they explored Tenochtitlan, the great city on the lake.
They particularly enjoyed hiking to the top of a near mountain where they would offer flowers to the Sun god Tonatiuh. The god seemed to appreciate their offering and would smile from the sky with his warm rays. On a particularly beautiful day at the top of the mountain, they swore that their love would last for ever.
When war broke out the lovers were separated as Huitzilin went to fight and protect their homeland.
Soon the dreaded news of Huitzilin’s death reached Xóchitl. She felt her world falling to pieces, her heart completely torn.
She decided to walk one last time to the top of the mountain and implore the sun god Tonatiuh, to somehow join her with her love Huitzilin. The sun moved by her prayers threw a ray that gently touched the young girl’s cheek. Instantly she turned into a beautiful flower of fiery colours as intense as the sun’s rays.
Suddenly a hummingbird lovingly touched the centre of the flower with its beak.
It was Huitzilin reborn as a handsome hummingbird. The flower gently opened its 20 petals, filling the air with a mysterious and lovely scent.
The lovers would be always together as long as cempasuchil flowers and hummingbirds existed on earth.