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We all, now and then, want to commune with our ancestors. For advice, or comfort, or just for the novelty of it. For that reason, ancestor worship is a common form of spirituality that is present in most religions around the world.
How can you communicate with your ancestors? Through prayer, sacrificial offerings, meditation, and ritual, you can bring your ancestors to the table and gain their insight on your life.
Intuitively, we sense the presence of our ancestors in our lives. And the wisdom they hold from life and death is a valuable resource for any witch.
The History of Ancestor Worship
Ancestor worship originates from many different cultures and religions, going back to human prehistory. Ancestor veneration is practiced in cultures around the world to this day, from Japan and China to the Mexicans.
Veneration of the dead is also practiced in some form in almost all religions. In Judaism, they will leave a pebble on the headstone of graves they visit. Even secular American culture venerates the dead with holidays such as Memorial Day.
In China, a family’s ancestors get special reverence. This is sometimes called the family cult or cult of the ancestors, and it comes from the belief that a family’s ancestors continue to influence the living. They give offerings and if they aren’t venerated in the proper way, ancestors may exert negative influences.
In other cultures, ancestors may be asked for favors, help, or advice. Ancestor worship is a means to assure their own immortality, as well. When a family stays together and venerates their ancestors together, one can go into the afterlife knowing they will be respected and remembered in the same way.
Some believe ancestor worship could be the world’s oldest religion. The belief that the dead continue on after death is so common, and that belief is what creates more formal ancestor worship.
When an ancestor is angry, it can be a fearsome force that causes misfortune, bad luck, and may jeopardize ones own place in the afterlife.
What Are Ancestor Spirits?
Ancestor spirits are different from deities in that they act as messengers to those deities. Ancestors may intercede on the behalf of the living to influence their fate.
The ancestors we work with do not have to be part of our own family, though. You can choose to work with any spirit or ghost of someone who has passed, which is especially useful for questions or help needed in a specific area of life.
For instance, if you needed help with a business decision, you could contact an ancestor in your own family who started a business. If you don’t have or know of an ancestor like that, though, you could also contact Steve Jobs, for instance.
Ancestor Communication Spell
This spell will allow you to easily communicate with your ancestors even when away from your ancestor altar.
It’s important that you come into this spell with at least one specific question or topic of discussion. This isn’t for a general chat about life.
Ancestor Communication Spell
- An ancestor invocation
- Ancestor offerings Offerings in the Earth element are best. Meat is a great option.
- A safe container to burn incense
- 8 candles any color
- To invoke your ancestors, you should create a unique ancestor invocation. It should be specific and include the names of those you are calling.
- Go out into nature, near at least one tree. The more wild the area, the better, but your backyard will do just fine in a pinch.
- Set up your area with your 8 candles in a circle. Burn them (safely!).
- Surround the candle circle with a salt circle.
- Start burning your incense. Place what you came to offer them near your candles. The fire sends up the offering to your ancestors.
- Sit comfortably in your double circle, and begin your ancestor invocation. Think of things related to your ancestors. If you know what they look like, begin to visualize them.
- Repeat the name of each ancestor you are invoking at least 12 times.
- Close your eyes, and relax. Listen to the sound around you.
- Wait for answers. It could be a sound, or an approaching animal. You may even hear the answer in your mind, or feel it as a decision.
- You may open your eyes when you are ready. Look for visual responses from your ancestors.
- When you are ready, break your circle and clean up the area. You may leave the offering if you own the land you are on and it is biodegradable. Otherwise, take it with you and either burn it or dispose of it in whatever way is proper. If it's something long-lasting like a crystal, it can be placed on an ancestor altar.
- On your way home, continue to look for signs or symbols that could be an answer.
- Your ancestors may continue to communicate with you for a few days. Feathers, stones, dreams, or even unexpected calls can all be answers from your ancestors.
Build An Ancestor Altar
These are energetic beings, not physical ones. If you want to have a more constant link to your ancestor spirits, you can create an ancestor altar.
This is a space where you focus your ancestor worship, and leave offerings for your ancestors. Ancestors like to have a consistent flow of respect and communication, rather than only being acknowledged when we need something from them.
Here are the things you need to build an ancestor altar:
- A table: This should be made from a natural material like metal or wood.
- Images: Photos, paintings, or anything that can be used to represent your ancestors. This is a great way to remember who to pray to.
- Personal items: These will be items that make your ancestors happy. If your grandma loved coffee, you could place coffee beans on your altar. If your aunt had a beautiful handmade comb that you now own, that could be placed there as well.
- Candles: Candles represent the Fire element, and sends offerings to your ancestors when it is lit.
- Water: A small cup or bowl of water represents the Water element.
- Incense: Representing the element of Air, incense can be used as an offering for ancestors and can put your into a meditative and calm state when communing with them.
- Crystals, stones, and plants: To represent the Earth element, earthy things are needed. All types of crystals represent the Earth element.
- Altar cloth: While not strictly necessary, this cloth can help keep the table scratch free and can be used to set the general mood of your altar as well.
- Ancestor money: While not necessary, ancestor money or Joss paper can help pay down the debts that the ancestors may have left in life. This fake money is burned to ease the financial strains that their debt may have brought to your life.
- A fireproof container: These are places to burn your candles and your ancestor money in a safe way.
Where to build an ancestor altar depends on a few things. It’s good to have your altar in a space where it won’t be disturbed by pets or children. You can put it in a secluded corner of your house, or even in a closet.
If you like to build things, you could even build an outdoor ancestor altar that is protected from the elements.
Emma is a mom, a wife, an eclectic witch, and dead but dreaming.
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