Traditional day of the dead altars include offerings to the four elements — a tribute to the atavistic, pre-Colombian roots underlying the Christian holiday. These four skull masks capture the darker aspect of the tradition where ancient meets modern, life courts death, and earthly and spiritual worlds collide.
- Earth Spirit
- Earth is represented by a crop: The Mexicans believe the souls are fed by the aroma of food. The ear of corn is the staff of life in Mexico.
- Wind Spirit
- Wind is represented by a moving object: On an altar, this can be tissue paper. Here, wind is depicted as feather, a traditional Native American symbol.
- Water Spirit
- Water is placed in a container for the soul to quench its thirst after the long journey to the altar. The trident and ancient wave pattern represent water.
- Fire Spirit
- Fire is represented by a wax candle: Each lit candle represents a soul, and an extra one is placed for the forgotten soul.