Dia de los Muertos for Witches and Pagans

My birthday happens to fall on Dia de los Muertos, which has invited many sugar skull themed items into my house, but I’ve never explored the holiday in much detail. Last year, when I told someone my birthday was on the Day of the Dead, they said, “Oh, November 1st?” I didn’t answer, but thought it was odd.

I did a little research and found out that Dia de los Muertos is, as I has assumed my whole life, November 2nd, but that it was a holiday to honor deceased adults. However, November 1st is also a holiday, Dia de los Inocentes (aka “Day of the Innocents”) designed to honor dead children and infants (angelitos). Traditional gravesite visits are reserved for the 2nd, though the spirits of the infants and children are given 24 hours to return to their families, starting at midnight on October 31st. Decorating family altars is common during this time, and I added photos of both of my grandmothers to our altar on Samhain last year.

Below is a list of Dia correspondences that you can add to your magickal journal, and below that is a list of suggested Dia activities that you can participate in.

Some Dia Correspondences

– Altars (ofrendas, family and public)
– Cleaning and Decorating Graves
– Epitaphs (written for yourself or friends)
– Food (nuts, fruit, or the deceased’s favorite meal)
– La Calavera Catrina (circa 1910)
– Marigolds (the flower of the dead, thought to attract souls to the offerings)
– Pan de Muerto (special bread)
– Sugar Skulls (made only as offerings, not for consumption by the living)
– Water (or alcohol, for the adult departed)

Suggested Activities

Altar: Create an ofrendas, a special altar, for your departed ancestors. Traditional ofrendas can be extremely elaborate and are very beautiful. Alternatively, you can decorate your existing altar to honor your departed relatives. Think of including some of the traditional elements listed above; a helpful ofrendas checklist can be found here.

Epitaph or Obituary: It may seem like an upsetting idea, but consider writing an epitaph or obituary for yourself. Think of what you want to have accomplished by the time you pass to the other side before starting it, you may be surprised what you realize is of the most importance in the grand scheme of things.

Food: Sugar skulls are a well-known Dia de los Muertos treat, but they are not consumed. Traditionally, food made for the departed is not eaten by the living who prepare it until a feast on November 3rd. If you don’t already do so for Samhain, consider making food for the departed, or leave special offerings with names written on them on your altar (ie: orange, apples) until November 3rd when you can place them outside or consume them.

Gravesite: While grave maintenance is a common Samhain activity, you can honor the Dia spirit by decorating the graves of relatives in a spirit of celebration rather than mourning. You can also bring traditional Dia items such as marigolds, sugar skulls, or pan de muerto.

Sugar Skulls: There’s a value to beautiful inedibles that you make for your relatives. Making sugar skulls are an activity that you can include children in, as well. Much like joss paper, what matters is the appearance rather than the ‘literal’ offering. Beautiful and elaborate faux confections make great offerings, and your imagination does not need to be restricted to sugar skulls. The image at the top of the page is from Scott Hove’s “Cakeland” installation and is a sculpture made of inedible materials. Your offerings should only be restricted by your imagination.

I hope that you found this information helpful and that it gave you some ideas of how you can honor the traditions of Dia. Blessed be!


“Day of the Dead & the Sugar Skull Tradition”

Image Credit

Image by Scott Hove

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