Today, the commemoration of the dead conserves its religious and popular significance of paying tribute to those who have passed away in an environment steeped in contradictions, of bereavement and celebration, of sadness and silly gibberish.
The beliefs that life continues after death, that the souls of the dead travel and that they communicate with the living, the uncertainty about the destiny of souls provoked by the certainty of final judgement which will send them to Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, or Limbo, continue to be the substance and the reason for the existence of the funerary rituals. In Michoacán the celebrations begin on the 31st of October with the Hunting of the Duck, an activity on the verge of disappearing due to the scarcity of ducks. This is followed by the placement of the Altar of the Little Angels” on November 1st, and concluding with the homage to deceased adults on the 2nd.
According to the myth of these communities, the souls in the uarhicho (the Purépecha heaven) continue to carry out the job that they traditionally recognize as theirs. They work, they walk, they eat, they sleep, they get tired, they get angry and they also party. Therefore, they require our help to cover some of their needs. All of this can be sent to them on the day of the Fiesta de las Ánimas, when they come to visit and in the process take everything that is placed in the offering.
A variant or complement of the above is what is known as a viewing in the pantheon, since for some communities it is more important to wait in the cemetery. To do this, the tomb is carefully decorated: the arch of flowers is placed, with decorations of fruit and bread, candles are lit on top of the tomb and an offering is set up.
For the offerings, one of the elements that stands out the most for its colorful aroma and abundance is the tiringuini flower, (marigold in Nahuatl) or flower of the dead. It vivifies and purifies, it provides a clean environment for the encounter with the soul and the sacred. Afterwards, the family sits around to “watch” which is a way of coexisting with the anima, they eat, drink something hot and there are even those who sleep there.
Another element is bread in human form, which although it is made with the same bread flour for other festivals, has another meaning, it has the shape of the expected soul, it is placed next to the altar or tomb where the soul when it arrives. eats and at the same time impregnates it with its essence.
The elaboration of the altar, its dimensions and complexity, is as varied as the taste of the relatives to whom its elaboration corresponds. It is also taken into account if it is the first year or if it is already a small altar without a party, only to continue offering to the family spirits.
It is common to hear that the altar has four levels and their correspondence with its elements. Each community lives and reworks its custom in a particular way so that there may be similarities in the use of elements, but there is no single altar model.
These rituals take place mainly in the region around Lake Pátzcuaro and some other P’urhepecha communities.