Creating Your Altar Honoring Your Departed

Part 2 of 4

Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve is tonight. Children dress up going from house to house to receive sweet treats. Could it be that for this one night in the United States, we embrace death instead of fearing it? Tomorrow on November 1st, All Saint’s Day- Dia de los Muertos when creating your altar honoring your departed reverence can fill our hearts as these beautiful altars are constructed with love and care. Creating these altars is one of the most important traditions during Day of the Dead in Mexico and in Mexican-American communities around the globe. I invite you to create your altar honoring your departed today - All Hallow’s Eve - so when you open your door to your Trick or Treaters, they see your altar honoring your departed and receive a new awareness.

The elements of an altar honoring your departed may include:

  • Candles - Candles are lit to welcome the spirits back to their altars.
  • Marigolds - These yellow-orange flowers, also called cempasúchitl, symbolize death. Their strong fragrance also help lead the dead back to their altars. Marigold petals may also be sprinkled on the floor in front of the altar, or even sprinkled along a path from the altar to the front door, so that the spirit may find her way inside.
  • Incense - Most commonly, copal incense, which is the dried aromatic resin from a tree native to Mexico. The scent is also said to guide the spirits back to their altars
  • Salt - represents the continuance of life.
  • Photo of the deceased - A framed photo of the dead person to whom the altar is dedicated, usually positioned in a prime spot on the altar.
  • Pan de muerto - Also known as “bread of the dead”, pan de muerto is a symbol of the departed.
  • Sugar skulls - As symbols of death and the afterlife, sugar skulls are not only given as gifts to the living during Day of the Dead, they are also placed as offerings on the altar.
  • Fresh fruit - whatever is in season — oranges, bananas, etc.
  • Other foods - Traditional Day of the Dead foods that you would find on altars include atole, mole, tamales, and tortillas. Altars also usually include the dead person’s favorite foods, including modern foods like Rice Krispies or potato chips.

As you can see in the photo of the altar created to honor my Beloved Departed, it was:

  1. Built on the entryway table
  2. Included: Candles, Marigolds, Incense, Salt , photos of the deceased AND

The Beloved Departed’s favorite drinks: Coffee and Vodka.

So what is nice farm girl from Nebraska, like me doing creating an altar to the dead?

Why in the world would I encourage others to do so?

When I left Nebraska in 2000, I created my sacred space where every single morning I began my day reading sacred scriptures, enlightening devotions in my Daily Guidepost Devotional book, meditating, journaling and praying. This space always had a table where the little white angel with curly hair played his reed flute as the fuzzy sheep next to him listened. I did not realize at that time, that this really was an altar. As was the display of my Beloved Departed son, Reed’s art in the dining room hutch.

I had without any malicious intent created something soothing to my shattered soul.

So today, you are invited to create an altar to honor your Beloved Departed. Mine is missing several of the elements listed above AND that is perfectly ok.

I invite you BEFORE you begin to go to home page and take the Free Grief Assessment.

Then create the altar with photos and things you’d want your Beloved Departed to enJOY upon their return.

Notice your grief once again.

Has it increased, shifted, dissipated?

Have your thoughts and sensations in your body increased, shifted, or dissipated?

Simply notice without any judgment.

Then celebrate not only your Beloved Departed, but yourself for your Courage and Willingness to engage in this Day of the Dead experience.

Updated 10/31/2017

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