As the time of the veil thinning continues, many of our thoughts turn to our ancestors in preparation for the various cultural ancestral rites that occur through August – October. But for some of us, this is a year long process, that never ends, and never will, for our ties to them are held in Ancestral Veneration.
It is important to make the distinction between Ancestral Veneration and Ancestral Worship. Ancestral Worship deifies the deceased. Ancestral Veneration honours the memory and holds communion with them. It is conducted for relatives by birth, or choice, and is equivalent to visiting their graveside. It holds the belief that there is more to us than the mortal coil we reside within. There is spirit, which transcends this time and space.
My path, believes in reincarnation. It always worried me that I would be calling to their spirit after they have re-inhabited a new body, began a new life. How would this affect them? Then in high school, I came across the teachings of Carl Jung. He believed that the Collective Unconscious stored the memories of all our ancestral lines. Keeping an ancestral altar, meditation and seeking council with them, is essentially tapping into this collective unconscious.
My ancestral veneration calls to both of these beliefs. I ‘feel’ them when I sit at their sacred spaces in my home. When I ask for guidance, I know that I am reaching their wisdom from spirit and the collective unconscious. Whichever I am lead to. And when I am, this is our journey.
My grandparents, whom I call with love and respect, Mama and Papa, raised me for the formative years of my life. And for this I will always be grateful to the fates. Both Mama and Papa died back home in Trinidad, and in staying within the customs of their primary path, they were both cremated. Having a special place in my home to honour them has become important to me. Over time, and as my own spiritual knowledge grew, I have constantly adapted and changed my ancestral ‘home’/shrine, or altar. The things that never changed within this sacred space was the love I hold for them, and know they return, the respect I have for them, the knowledge that they share with me, and the memories we’ve shared.
I currently have two sacred spaces setup for ancestral veneration. I have one location for Mama as my spiritual inspiration for my path, she sits in a frame in front of the Hindu Goddess, who represents the triple aspect of the Goddess. This altar holds the female Shakti energy, and lunar energy. The essence of the ‘Lady’ my mama taught me about. Behind the frame, in a protective bag with specially selected stones, are my gold baby bracelets and two of Mama’s bracelets. This is the first thing you see when you enter my home. I do no ritual there, but when I need her council, or a ‘hug’, I light the candles, hold or wear her bracelets, and sit with her memory. It is my equivalent to visiting her graveside.
I have another location for my working ancestral altar, which is adapted for the Ancestral Feast in September through October. It too, has been modified through time and will continue to grow and change as my spiritual practice does, for spirit is an organic mutable being. My ancestral journey I now share.
The basic setup of my current ancestral altar includes the following items:
A crystal skull, housed within a skull box : for communion.
3 small glass skulls used for the offerings and as ‘diyas’
Sand from Trinidad: representing a connection of home and hearth
Rose water with a pinch of salt: to bathe and purify
Rice in ‘spirits’ to nourish them and quench their thirst
3 candles placed within the ‘mouth’ of each vessel.
An incense burner on a lotus
Special occasion offerings:
Fresh flowers (as the budget allows)
Cakes and ale for birthdays and anniversaries.
Ancestral meals during the Pitri Paksha observance.
For additional information on how I celebrate the life and lessons of those who came before me, please visit my posts on:
Ancestral Altar – Setup
Ancestral Veneration : Communion & Divination.