Peru – Ollantaytambo.
Quinoa, skulls of ancestors, dried guinea-pigs, Ekako figurines, flowers and candles in a household shrine.
In Peru at the present time, the ancient Ancestor Cult still survives in folk traditions. The belief that the dead "manifest themselves" is widespread even today, and on the Feast day of the Dead, the people leave various offerings, "potajes", on their graves. "Blank windows" and "blank doors" are thought to furnish an entrance for the spirits of their ancestors. Just as the souls of the living differ from one another, these too, are different from the real windows and doors. Mummies of the ancestors, displayed in niches in the walls, played a very important part in the ceremonies of the Incas. Since the spirits of the dead dwelt in sacred mountains, mummies often acted as intermediaries with mountain gods. In the Andes mountains, the abundance of crop yield and the ancestors are closely interrelated. The photograph shows quinoa or amaranth, a pseudo-cereal of high nutritional value, grown on high plateaux, hanging down on both sides of the niche. It has been placed in this house, together with the skulls of ancestors, to ensure a plentiful supply of food. Because the upkeep of this household is financed by breeding guinea-pigs, including the preserved dried bodies of these animals is a way of persuading the ancestors to vouchsafe protection of the household and its income. During the age of the Incas, the guinea-pig was considered to be one of the most acceptable offerings to the gods. Like placing flowers on a grave, the custom of putting flowers behind, and lighting a candle in front of their skulls reflects traces of Christianity.
The Hasidim (the 'pious ones’, a Jewish sect) , at the graveside of great followers of the Kabbalah (mystical traditions of Judaism) meditate in silence, their eyes closed, in the hope of catching a divine spark from the immortal soul of their master.