Elements of the Ofrenda of Day of the Dead

Marigold.  The defining element of Day of the dead is the marigold (flor de cempasúchil); so much so that many people know it as “flower of the dead.”  The Purépecha name of the flower is Tiringuini tsїtsїki (flor de Tiringuini).  This flower is associated with the sacred, and is an emblem of the season.

It is the aroma of this intensely bright yellow flower that serves as a guide for the faithful deceased.
Ofrendas in Patzcuaro, Mexico for Day of the Dead
Ofrendas in Patzcuaro, Mexico for Day of the Dead
Water.  A glass of water is typically placed on the table to quench the thirst of the deceased upon arrival, after a long trip from the underworld, and to fortify the return.

Salt.  A purifying element to prevent the deterioration of the soil of the deceased when returning to the underworld.

Incense.  An important part of the Day of the Dead in the Lake Pátzcuaro Region.  It helps clean the area of bad spirits so the soul of the deceased may arrive without fear.
Ofrendas for Day of the Dead in Patzcuaro
Ofrendas for Day of the Dead in Patzcuaro

Candles.  They help the soul of the deceased find its way to and from the visit.  The flame also signifies faith and hope.  They are frequently displayed in the shape of a cross – or the four points of the compass – to serve as a “map” for the soul of the deceased.  The use of purple candles indicates mourning.

Petate.  A resting place for the soil of the deceased, and to place the food that forms a part of the ofrenda.

Bread.  It is important that the bread have a human shape, and be placed next to the altar.  When the soil arrives, it partakes of the bread, impregnating it with its divine essence.  Later, the living eat it and are nourished by its essence.
Day of the Dead ofrenda elements
Day of the Dead ofrenda elements
Sugar Skulls.  A reminder that death is always among us.

Fruit, chayotes, and corn.  Food of the living and the dead, representing that which is planted and cultivated and protected fiercely.

Napkins.  Hand-embroidered napkins are used to decorate the ofrenda.  They can take months to create, but this is an important day.  It’s Day of the Dead (Animeecheri Kúinchekua).

Day of the Dead Ofrenda in Patzcuaro
Day of the Dead ofrenda in Patzcuaro
Arches.  It isn’t uncommon to see archways introduced into the ofrenda.  It welcomes the souls of the dead and are made of redes.

Portrait of the Deceased.  Obviously placed prominently in the scheme of the ofrenda.
*Text and pictures property of Hotel Mansion Iturbe.
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