A little more on Dia de los Muertos which was officially celebrated last night. My husband attended a lecture where he learned (and reminded me) that the 4 elements must be represented on the traditional altar for day of the dead. Those elements are: earth, air, fire and water. Earth is represented by the flowers and sometimes corn and the special bread-pan de muerto. Air is represented by the paper cut-out flags-in San Antonio we call them Fiesta flags-that are draped around the altar. Fire is of course represented by candles and now water is often represented by the spirits placed on the altar to honor the people who loved them. (On our home altar this year we served beer, tequila, and whisky.)
My husband also learned that according to traditional wisdom the single sense that the dead have left to them is the sense of smell. This is why flowers-specifically marigolds are so abundant--many altars actually have small pathways lined with marigolds leading up to the altar proper so that the ancestors may be guided by scent.
We the mortals touch the metals,
the wind, the ocean shores, the stones,
knowing they will go on, inert or burning,
and I was discovering, naming all the these things:
it was my destiny to love and say goodbye.”--Pablo Neruda