Link to my tunes of the week!
Dia de Los Muertos, to me, was not a foreign concept. I had done a project on it in fifth grade or something like that but never really dove into the specifics. At such a young age, it can be hard to connect to something so foreign as death when you haven't had those experiences. This year especially has taken some extremely amazing souls and to honor them, it was only right to start the tradition of creating my own ofrenda.
Inspired by the hundreds of #ofrenda posts on social media and the celebrations that are continuing at home I used household items to create an altar to remember my precessors and loved ones.
On a typical altar, incense, candles, and food offerings are left with portraits to welcome the spirits back to the land of the living to spend the night reminiscing. It is usually built with multiple levels to signify la entrada, the midsection is used for the offerings, and the highest level is to represent the ascension into the afterlife. I used a small hay bale and some cardboard boxes (absolutely from online shopping) to create a three-tiered arrangement in a small nook in my hallway. A lightweight serape was pinned to the wall and draped down the structure to create the entrance.
Little tissue paper marigolds were made to represent the sun. I used them to decorate the left section of the wall. Copal resin is traditionally burned to cleanse the spirits, however, we substituted it for a nag champa incense. A small bowl of salt also is used to help purify their souls throughout the next year.
Making papel picado was one of my favorite parts of creating this ofrenda. As a recognized folk art, these designs can become extremely detailed and delicate. I used a not so sharp pair
of scissors and cut out some small rectangles to make five different designs to create a border around the entire structure.
I created and decorated two different nichos or shrine boxes. For these, I painted and cut old card boxes to have an opening on the front for photos in my case, personal belongings. I also make a bigger one out of an all-recyclable hair dye box in
which I placed a tealight candle,
On the right side of the wall, I made two sacred heart shrine frames with a mix of felt, beads, sequins, scrap fabric, and glue. This handmade aesthetic really fits the comfortable and colorful culture of Dia de Los Muertos.
After placing all of the photos and lighting all of the candles, we sat with their energy. Creating this altar helped me to visualize the transition to the afterlife and helped me be a more active part in remembering our loved ones with offerings and decorations. It shifted my perspective towards death. Death is something that in a lot of cultures can mean that the end of something, the end of life. This celebration is to recognize the transition to a higher place in the universe. It gave space to the souls that have not visited earth in some time. This is the one time a year that spirits can travel back and forth between the spirit and mortal world, however, I do think that communication with these spirits can happen at any time. This was such an amazing experience to be a part of and I can't wait to celebrate with all of my loved ones, near and far.