Awakening the Past; Healing the Future
an·ces·tor /ˈanˌsestər/ noun plural noun: ancestors 1. a person, typically one more remote than a grandparent, from whom one is descended.
Knowing yourself is knowing your past and our past is the lineage that came before us, our Ancestors. For many of us, we live in a time where we are so worried about the present and the future that we often forget our past. It can often feel like the past is something we should leave behind because we have become “better” than our history or we feel disconnected since those loved ones are no longer here with us. Many times, they can feel like distant memories, but our ancestors are very much still part of who we are. They are us. No matter how much we may wish to disconnect from them or feel distant from them, their blood runs through our veins. Something as simple as how you crave a specific food or how much you love animals, has more than likely been influenced by someone in your ancestral lineage. Knowing them, the good and the bad, can help us identify who we are in this life.
So how do we connect with our lineage? There are many different ways to reconnect with your Ancestors and venerate them. Remember, this journey is very personal and there is no right or wrong way to remember and respect your lineage. Take what resonates with you, leave what does not. Follow your heart, and I promise, Spirit will never lead you astray.
“Knowing yourself is knowing your past”
The information I share today is the knowledge of my lineage; which traditions lie in Black Southern American Spirituality. Although, my cultural lineage is not the only ones who venerate their ancestors in this way. With my cultural lineage in mind, please note that anything I share can be utilized by anyone of any culture and creed to help them connect to their ancestors. Please be mindful that the information given today in all entirety, is only meant to be the foundation. It is then up to you to build your relationship with your ancestors. But for those who are looking for a bit of guidance, I am here to provide three ways you can venerate your ancestors.
Connect Back to Nature
Many of our ancestors were much more intune with nature than we are today. One of the best ways to venerate this connection is by finding your own sacred place within nature. Rather it be your favorite tree, near a river or a large body of water, remember that the Earth is our oldest ancestor.
“Pour your true emotions out to the sky”
You can bring offerings to these spaces such as fruit or pour libations, such as water or rum, to the ground to show your gratitude for your ancestors. Be mindful of leaving offerings that are biodegradable. We do not want to cause harm to the space we are wanting to commune with. You may also feel called to light incense. Incense is an amazing way to connect back to the air. Frankincense and Myrrh are used often and across many cultures when connecting to the ancestral realm, but remember there is no definite right or wrong way. If something else calls to you, feel free to use what resonates.
So have found your favorite tree, you have your fruits and incense, now what? If you feel comfortable, take off your shoes. Let yourself feel the full connection back to the Earth and ground yourself. Take a few full deep breaths, close your eyes and let your face feel the heat of the sun. Take a comfortable seat, you may want to bring a small blanket to sit on, and when you feel ready, speak your gratitude out loud. Pour your true emotions out to the sky and let the wind take away your sorrows. Allow all of your dreams to reach to the stars. When you are ready, leave your offerings and say your good-byes.
Having a Sacred Space in Your Home
When you are ready, you may want to have a space in your home dedicated to your ancestors. Having your ancestors in your home can help you build a steady relationship. You can greet them every morning and commune with them over coffee and tea. Having an altar in your home, shows that your ancestors are welcomed to share your space with them. How will you know when you are ready to have an ancestor altar in your home? A good sign is being drawn to wanting to learn more; like feeling led to read this post. Or you are taking your first steps down your spiritual path and need more guidance. When it is time, you will know.
How do you set up an altar space? As it has been stated in this post previously, there is no one true way. There is, however, always a good place to start. I would suggest that you first find a place in your home that feels sacred to you. For some, this may be their living room; for others, it may be in their dining room. Although usually not suggested because you may see your sleep schedule become abruptly adjusted, you can also share your altar space in your bedroom. I have seen beautiful altars on top of people’s dressers that have worked out for them just fine. The ancestors know how much space you have and how you operate your life. We must do what works in the space we have.
“You must water the relationship you want to grow”
You have found your perfect space, now you will begin altar set up. Traditionally, you should start with a white cloth. White shows that this is a space you care about. Imagine when you are wearing white clothing? How do your interactions change? Do you notice you live more intentionally in life as to not dirty your clothes? This is the same for an altar space. You want to come to your altar with intentions as clear as pure white snow. Later down the line, you may be called to change to a different cloth that resonates with your lineage and that is also perfectly fine. Now that you have your cloth down, next comes a white candle. This brings in the element of light. Set the beacon to your ancestors to let them know where to find home. You will then add a clear glass cup or clear glass bowl of clean water. Water is necessary for life. It is necessary to feel emotions. You must water the relationship you are wanting to grow. From this point, it is now up to you to make this space for you and for your family. Place pictures of known blood related relatives who have passed that you had connections with.If you do not have pictures, feel free to write their names on a piece of paper. Make sure not to put anyone who is still living on your altar! You can even place sentimental objects such as jewelry or small memorabilia from those who have passed. If you do not know any of your direct blood relatives, do not worry. You do not need to know the names of anyone to create a space for your ancestors. We all have ancestors, we do not know the name of and they still love us all the same. Just remember to call upon your benevolent ancestors known and unknown. They know their child when you call.
Over time, an altar space will change and grow as your relationship with your ancestors continues. Some days you may leave food or candy for them. Other days, you may want to share rum or wine. You may find that you add incense or bells. Leave a cigar; the vices of this world can no longer harm them so they can enjoy these freely without consequence. As time moves on, you will see your altar slowly grow, change and come to life.
For those who live life on the go, if you are on an extended vacation or for those with living situations that would not be conducive for a permanent in-home option, do not fret, you too can have an altar space! Why would you want a travel altar? If you are wanting something a bit more personal than nature-based veneration, but cannot have a permanent space, this could be a perfect option for you. Travel altars are a very minimalist way to have a sacred space with you. An easy way to do this is in a small box. This can be a metal altoid container, a small wooden jewelry box, or a nice velvet bag. Essential items would be a small white cloth, a white tea candle or 2, and a shot glass that you can fill with water. Just like with a permanent altar, you can have small pictures of loved ones who have passed, a list of names or incense. Even though this a smaller option, does not make this altar any less impactful or personalized. What matters is your intention to establish a relationship with your ancestors and show them your gratitude. Remember this is a time for you and your ancestors and that sacred space is anywhere you make it.
No matter how you choose to reconnect with your Ancestors as you are on this journey to learn your ultimate self, remember to be patient with yourself. For many, it may feel a bit silly at first to sit at an altar and talk out loud, but as long as you are willing to give energy and time, I promise you will find the connection you are looking for. Make sure to state your pure intentions and do not be afraid to pour out your true feelings and emotions. Allow your ancestors to celebrate your wins with you and to hold your tears when life can get overwhelming. Ask for their support and their protection. Ask for clarity to see the messages they are wanting to send you. You are from a lineage of thousands upon thousands who are here to clear the path on your journey of healing and self-discovery. You will never be on this walk alone.
Jatohn Monique Redeaux is a Blessed Artist, Certified Reiki Healer, Clairvoyant, and Root-Worker from Chicago, IL. Always having a passion for expressionism through creativity and a love for her spiritualist roots, longed for a way to incorporate the two very real aspects of herself; helping to promote balance and healing to her community through the power of expressionism.