Skeletons, in addition to being incredibly useful in the study of anatomy, are traditional depictions of the dead. Just about every culture around the world uses skeletons in representing the dead. Death itself is most often associated with a skeleton dressed in a dark robe. Here in the US the most local culture is Mexico where the day of the celebrations incorporate some of the most elaborate skeleton based artwork ever imagined. And that’s just pictorial representations of skeletons.
Skeletons themselves- like, the actual bones- also play an important role in every culture around the world. They may be used in rituals for various purposes, placed in important locations in order to complete spells, or meddled with in some way to thwart a ghost. In fact, it’s hard to find a death ritual that doesn’t involve a skeleton in some way.
And because of their relative simplicity, they’re pretty versatile. They can be evil or they can be jolly. They can move independent of muscle or lie perfectly still for centuries. They can be associated with somber funeral rites or uproarious parties.
Much like a lot of the other things I’ve discussed- witches, harvest celebrations, and the myriad of traditions linked with this crazy holiday the full conversation of skeletons and their cultural significance throughout the world is far beyond the scope of this entry. For the history buffs out there I recommend you look into it further. But for now, I offer a shout out to those bony friends of ours who are so deeply embedded in the culture of my favorite holiday.