We often talk about The Ancestors as some ominous entity. But they aren’t. Also, anyone who says that ancestral work is a “closed practice” is fundamentally incorrect. Why you ask? Because we ALL have ancestors!
Almost every religion or culture believes that our ancestors are watching over us and guiding us. We seek mediums and psychics, use our divination tools, and pray. Who do you think is nudging you to take that new job or go back to study? Your ancestors! Rather than view this relationship as a one-way one where we just take, take, take, why not give something back? Do you think it would have a positive effect?
Ancestral altars are a fantastic way to strengthen the bond you have with your ancestors and give back to them. They can also be very simple. In the least you need;
- A white Candle
- A glass of water (preferably a wine glass)
- A photo or belonging of the ancestor (not necessarily required but improves focus and clarity)
- an offering plate
This altar needs to be kept clean, neat and organised to get the biggest benefit from it. No dirty water glasses please!
Bouncing off of the basics, you can then expand the altar to include;
- representatives of air and earth (we already have water and fire)
- things that your ancestors may enjoy or like
- Candy/lollies, sweets, cakes and such to sweeten the relationship you have with them.
- An indoor plant.
- A spirit (alcohol, rum is usually preferred) for libation.
- Ancestor money
- food, coffee, tea
- salt for purification
- religious relics (a bible, the rosary etc)
Our ancestral family altar is very “salt of the earth”, in that I have used wooden pinch bowls to hold salt, shells and dirt. All the candles are white, we burn incense daily and have some crystals in a cute plate that I found at the Op Shop (Thrift Store).
My son is the main person who helps me look after the altar, but that said my husband interacts with it as well. It’s only been up for a few days, but he rested his beer on the mantle (where the altar is) and then grabbed it back saying to the ancestors “cheeky! thought you could steal my beer!”. My son often picks flowers or fresh herbs to place in the offering bowl and I make a cup of black English Breakfast tea as an offering in the morning.
The altar is about respect and love, your first priority should be to ensure your ancestors are looked after and happy, not to ask for favours or help all the time. The more you love and nurture your ancestors on the otherside, the more inclined they will be to help you out. Also, any tribute you give to your ancestors will be appreciated. But always put your best foot forward, don’t place things on the altar which are broken or cracked. Use a nice, clean mug, bowl or glass. Treat your ancestors how you would wish to be treated.
As you build a nourishing and nurturing relationship with your ancestors, they will spend more time with you and assist you on your journey in this world. Your ancestors are powerful, and even the ones you don’t know about or have been forgotten over time will come to be part of it. They all talk! And the more you give to them, they will come to your altar first (for that hot cup of morning tea!).
I highly encourage you to as ancestral work to your practice, when we personalise the “spirits” who are helping us, our relationship becomes stronger and we feel more gratitude and love rather than entitlement.