Thursday, October 29, 2009

the dead are far too busy


The candles are lit, the copal incense is filling the air and the door stands open but there is one task remaining before the dead begin to arrive. Everyone knows that in life things change. Despite best efforts to maintain the status quo, people move. As one ages, one’s appearance changes too.

According to Enrique, from Ejutla, and Soledad, from Octlan, the dead are far too busy to keep up with all that is happening to to their living relatives and friends. “How can a dead one know to come to this house? If he goes to the place where he used to live, he’ll find strangers there. Will they treat him well? Like a relative? Perhaps not.” Others have suggested that the dead begin to lose their memories of life, and so, even if there are no changes, the dead may have trouble finding their way home for the celebration. The living recognize the dead need help.

Early in the morning of November 1, a child, ideally a young girl between the ages of seven and ten, takes a basket of marigold petals or veruche and begins to carefully scatter the petals in a narrow band. She will begin in front of the ofrenda and spread the petals to the door that connects the house to the street. The traditional families will extend this path or trail of flower petals all the way to the cemetery to ideally end at the foot of the grave or graves of the deceased who have been invited to the celebration.

This magic path now shows the way from the grave to the ofrenda and the family’s home. The assumption is that the dead can easily return to the last place they occupied on Earth, the place where they were buried. The grave acts as a homing beacon, attracting the dead to the right place. Once there, the soul follows the appropriate path to the home of his or her loved ones and he cannot get lost because of the path’s magic. I was told that the young girl who made the path is usually a relative of the deceased and that relationship between the living and the dead imparts magic to the path. It converts the thin trail of petals into a private road meant only for those dead who belonged to the living household.

From The Day of the Dead: when two worlds meet in Oaxaca by Shawn D. Haley, Curt Fukuda.

Photo: From The Skeleton at the Feast
by E. Carmichael and C. Sayer


Fran said...

Dia De Los Muertos is such a special time in which we can publicly mourn the loss of spirits and in a celebratory manner in which to share the Life that they leave with us as we move forward on our own Living journey. I appreciate your post here - death intrigues me and so do the people that I have the opportunity to meet often who have one foot in and one foot out of this plane and into the next...

suttonhoo said...

hey Fran -- thanks so much for your lovely comment and for stopping by. so good to cross paths with you on Facebook -- I look forward to exploring your blog.

Related Posts with Thumbnails