The first thing that struck me when I saw these objects was the delicate, sparkling papier mache skulls. Far from the turnip lanterns of Scottish tradition, these have their roots in Latin American Day of the Dead celebrations. Similar to the Celtic Samhain beliefs, it’s thought that for one night the boundaries between living and dead blur. Otherworldly creatures and loved ones return to the earth, so families will often visit graves and leave offerings.
The red mask had an air of the demonic. I imagined that perhaps after being trapped for so long they would also make the most of being able to run wild for one evening. It’s a fleeting moment of joy, though, as the gates close at dawn and the underworld beckons.
There’s a lot of overlap with Christian traditions; I would have loved to have explored this syncretism further.
Writing this sestude has reignited my interest in South American culture, which I researched in detail for the protagonist of my urban fantasy novel. I’m planning a trip to Bolivia and Peru in the autumn, which will hopefully bring with it many more writing ideas.