This coming weekend marks an important event in Aymaran society. November 1 is La Fiesta de Todos los Santos (Todos Santos), or All Saints Day. It is believed that at this time of year the souls of the dead return to this world to eat, drink and take back with them the things they need for life in the other world. The souls arrive in a great caravan and find their way to the homes of their loved ones who must make proper preparations to receive them. If it is a “hot” soul that returns, that is one who has recently died, the preparations must be especially elaborate. Special breads are baked, shaped in the form of people. Fruits of all kinds are gathered together, including those things that are out of season, and other favorite things of the deceased are prepared and laid out on a makeshift altar consisting of a table covered with a black woven shawl or poncho.
The souls arrive at noon on November 1. Upon their arrival the family members begin to share the food in the name of the deceased and to pray. These prayers and eating continue throughout the day, into the night and end at noon on the following day when the souls return to their own place. The remainder of the food is gathered up and taken to the cemetery where the family continues the feast on the grave of their loved one. The prayers continue along with the eating until all is gone. None of the food offerings may be left over.
If the family of a deceased person completes this obligation for three years in a row, they are then released from the necessity to continue welcoming the soul to the house and the soul will stay in its own place with the possibility of becoming a type of god to guard and protect his family.
You may ask why the family goes through all this for three years following the death of a loved one. It is out of fear, because if the soul returns and does not find things to its liking it will punish the family with misfortunes of all kinds. On the other hand, if the soul is pleased with its reception it can bring prosperity to the family.