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If you’ve been curious about working with your ancestor spirits, now is an excellent time of year to start, because the dark of the year is a great time to listen to otherworldly voices and connect with the shadow lands.
We’re nearing Samhain, which is the ancient Celtic holiday that Halloween is based on.
All the Halloween zombies and ghosts are half-remembered reminders of an ancient truth: around the end of October, the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead grows thin.
We now have a heightened opportunity to reach across the divide and communicate with all the spirits of those who have passed.
Here are some tips for developing relationships with your ancestors:
First, keep in mind that your ancestors are as diverse as your living family. They might not all want to talk with you, especially in the context of a Pagan ritual. While most ancestors interact with their descendants in a loving and encouraging manner, some are difficult or quarrelsome.
If you have an especially trying time interacting with your deceased family, keep in mind that there are multiple types of ancestors you can work with.
Who are my Ancestors?
Ancestors of spirit are all those who inspire you, whose work you carry on in the world, who built the tools and traditions you use in your life.
Your ancestors of spirit might include the Witches and Pagans of the past. Your ancestors of spirit might include the writers and musicians and artists whose work has touched your heart, lifted your spirits, or inspired you to create yourself. They might include activists who have fought for the rights and opportunities that you enjoy. They might include the people who founded the field you work in, the people who started the hobbies that fill your life with joy.
Ancestors of place include all the beings who once lived in the area you live.
They extend beyond other human beings to include the animals who lived and died, the plants who flourished and decayed. The ground you walk on is literally made out of the bodies of those plants and animals, those ancestors of place. If you live in a city, your ancestors of place include all the human hands who planned and built and cared for the houses and streets that make up your world.
Ancestors of blood are the people you’re physically descended from.
Their bones are your bones; their blood flows through your veins. You can imagine yourself as the bud on a branch of a great tree, with roots extending far into the past. You are the child and the grandchild and the great-grandchild of people who survived, at least long enough to reproduce. Whatever else your family might have done or failed to do, they brought you into this world.
How to build relationships with these Ancestor Spirits
All three types of ancestors have given us many gifts.
An excellent way to begin developing relationships with them is by expressing your gratitude for the many gifts they’ve given you. Your ancestors of blood gave you your body and your life. All the other experiences you enjoy are based on this first gift.
Your ancestors of place give you solid ground to walk on, a home to shelter you, perhaps a lovely garden to enjoy. Your ancestors of spirit give you inspiration, magical tools and ways to understand the world.
Building an Ancestor Altar
When we are trying to build a relationship with a living person, we might invite them to dinner. In order to do something similar with ancestors, we can build an ancestor altar. This creates a space for them in our homes.
An ancestor altar can be as simple as a table with a candle and a few photos of loved ones who have passed, or as complex as a full spread of magical tools with a pentagram at the centre.
Try sitting with your ancestor altar once a day or once a week, as your schedule allows. Thank you ancestors for what they’ve given you. Tell them about your life. Ask for their advice. And simply allow yourself to listen. Your ancestors may make specific requests from you. They might want you to light a candle for them, or burn a certain kind of incense. They might want to be served a small plate of the food you eat for dinner, or a glass of water.
Be patient and generous and your connection with your ancestors will flower.
By Allison Grey
StormJewel: Thanks for another fantastic article Allison! There’s lots to learn and do from this.
I’d love to hear your ancestor experiences, or even just whether you think you will be trying this or not. Let us know below! Blessings!