There is a good reason that ancestor veneration has been a part of so many religions and spiritual practices all over the world. Our Ancestors are our links to the past and to our history. They form the basis of our links to the past and the knowledge that we inherit to pass on to the future.
Often, when people talk about the Underworld, they picture a dark, gloomy, terrifying place. But is that really the case? After all, the Underworld is home to our ancestors – the bright, lively souls of those who have gone before.
Our perceptions of the Underworld are often coloured by our own perceptions of death and dying. When we think of the dead, we feel sad and a great sense of loss. Does this really have to be the case, though? Perhaps it is only conditioning that makes us fear the Ancestors rather than celebrate with them.
In the world of modern witchcraft, we hear talk of the Mighty Dead on occasion, but we’re never really told who or what they are. For our purposes, the ancestors are those of our kin that have affected out lives in one way or another, our blood relations, and our adopted families who keep an eye on us from time to time after they have passed through the veil. The Mighty Dead are those who have passed the veil who take an active interest in our activities as witches, who circle with us, and who try to help us from the other side.
Why is Ancestor Veneration Important?
Ancestor veneration is a spiritual practice that can make a huge difference in your life. It is thought of as one of the best forms of luck magick, as the ancestors will look after you if you look after and honour them. They can protect you from harm and make your life smoother.
On a much deeper level, ancestor veneration can lead to deep healing of ancestral karma, and strengthen your spirituality. It can also offer us much in the way of making peace with our fears of death.
It can take a long time to make the connections to our ancestors, but ancestor veneration is vital to a living tradition. Their guidance in making decisions and resolving problems can be invaluable. As you work on connecting with them, you will find that not all of your ancestors are related to you by blood. Many will not be. Spend time finding your ancestors and making connections to them.
The most common way that people build a relationship with their ancestors is through building an ancestor altar. This practice is found across cultures, and allows the ancestors a space where they can interact with you and your life.
Creating an Ancestor Altar
To make an ancestor altar, first you need to decide which ancestors you want to venerate. These can include your actual relatives that have passed over. You can also consider people that affected your life in a large way, either known or unknown personally to you, people that you consider inspiring, or people that have influenced your growth into the ancestor category as well, as they helped form who you are today. You may also consider including your unknown ancestors in your ancestor veneration practice – many people do.
Once you have decided which ancestors you want to connect with, select a place to put your altar. This should be separate from your main altar. It is traditional to put ancestor altars in a central room in the house, as it is thought that the ancestors want to be part of your everyday life. If you are lacking for space, a small tray will do fine!
Usually, the ancestor altar is covered with a white cloth, and contains a glass, an offering plate, and a candle.
Here are a few ideas for other items to place on your ancestor altar:
- A vase of flowers
- Photos of your deceased beloved ones
- A list of your family genealogy
- Items that belonged to your loved ones
- Grave dirt from their graves
- A figurine of a deity that guards the Underworld
If you want, you can devise a dedication ritual to formally introduce yourself to your ancestors and invite them to your ancestor altar. The dead love to be given offerings of food (without salt), liquor, tobacco, coffee, and other things that they may have enjoyed while they were alive. Fill the glass with water – spring water if you can. The water acts as a medium for the spirits to anchor themselves onto your altar. Be sure to change the water at least once a week to keep it fresh.
When the ancestor altar is set up, spend some time each day greeting and honouring your ancestors. Treat them as you would if they were still alive – talk to them and tell them about your day, recall your favourite memories of them, vent to them about any problems that you have, and ask them for help with issues that you have.
Honour and venerate your ancestors, and prepare to see huge changes for the better in your spiritual life!!