As a puff of wind, the psyche leaves the body at the moment of death.
Marble grave stele of a little girl, ca. 450–440 B.C (commons.wikimedia.org/)
Then, either enjoying the easy life in the Elysian Fields or wandering as weeping shadow among the pale asphodels or ascending to “a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of repose” * the psyche needs honors. In an unbroken continuity from ancient Greek times through the Byzantine era to the present, offerings of food hold an important place among the dead honors.
Funerary banquet scene, IVth cent. BC
(Nat. Mus. Istanbul, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki)
On the days that departed souls return to the upper world, they cannot find peace if not treated graciously. Because there is a popular belief that souls return to earth. They freely roamed the ancient Athens on the third day, called Chytroi (Pots), of the Anthesteria, a festival in honour of god Dionysus. They wander at the places they had loved during their lifetime and they sit in the trees watching the living, according to Greek folkore. On Psychosavvata (Saturdays of the souls), that is the two Saturdays before the Great Lent and the first Saturday after it, the dead are the breath of wind and the shadows at the Carnival feast.
Though traditions vary from town to town, its a common place that souls cannot find peace if not treated graciously. Therefore, people have to act accordingly. Beautiful flowers and burning candles decorate the graves; bread and kollyva, a mixture of grains which echoes the ancient Greek pankarpia (all fruits) or panspermia (all seeds), are offered to the neighbours or brought to cemeteries. Cheese, cheese-pies, halvas etc. are included in small lunches at the grave sites (Crete) in remembrance of those who cannot be seen.
4 cups hulled wheat
2 cups ground blanched almonds
3/4 cup ground toasted hazelnuts
1 cup crushed toasted sesame seeds
2 cups toasted and powdered chickpeas
3/4 -1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 /2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup currants
2 1/2 teasps ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
3 tsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
1 small bay leaf
Clean, wash and boil the wheat with the bay leaf and salt until it’s soft. Drain, place under cold water, drain again and let cool. Spread it on a clean towel and cover with another one to dry overnight. The next morning add cinnamon, ground cloves, parsley, 1/2 cup of powdered chickpeas, nuts, currants and pomegranate in the wheat. Mix very well. Place the mixture in a tray and cover it with sesame seeds and 1 1/2 cup powdered chickpeas. Press it smooth on the top. Shift sugar over kollyva and press smooth with a wax paper. Mix well before serving.
*Book for Commemoration of the Living and the Dead.