HONOURING OUR ANCESTORS
We all have ancestors, both of blood and of spirit, and each of our lives rests firmly on the foundation of their sacrifice. They are as near to us as our breath and bones, and when related with in conscious ways, they can be a tremendous source of healing, guidance, and companionship. The ancestors we choose to honor may include not only recent and more distant family but also beloved friends and community, cultural and religious leaders, and even other-than-human kin such as companion animals. Our ancestors bring vital support to fulfill our potential here on Earth, and, through involvement in our lives, also further their own growth and maturation in the spirit realms.
Like the living, spirits of the deceased run the full spectrum from wise and loving to self-absorbed and harmful. Physical death is a major event for the soul, a rite of passage we will all face, and the living can provide critical momentum for the recently deceased to make the initiatory leap to become a helpful ancestor. Once the dead have become ancestors, part of their post-death journey may include making repairs for wrongs committed while here on Earth. For their sake and for ours, it’s good to spend a little time now and again feeding our relationships with the ancestors.
Here are ....practical ways in which you may honor your ancestors
1. Fulfill Your Soul’s Purpose as an Ethical and Loving Person
The most important and most challenging way to honor our ancestors is to fulfill our personal potential and life’s purpose here on Earth. Many cultures maintain that we each have a unique destiny or karma to fulfill and that we ideally make it a high priority to remember these original instructions and do what is necessary to express our gifts, our true will, and our most authentic selves. The ancestors are seen as allies in this process of remembering and a reservoir of power and backing to help us embody our potential in this lifetime. Conversely, when we have lost touch with a sense of greater purpose, if we are fortunate, the ancestors may bring about life changes aimed to jar us into greater contact with our soul’s longing and increased awareness of the agreements made before our birth.
2. Dedicate Positive Actions in the Name of the ancestors
3. Stay Open to Direct Communication from the Ancestors
Direct contact with the spirits of the ancestors can be cultivated through ritual practices; however, communication may also happen spontaneously in forms such as dream contact, waking encounters, and synchronicity. When we have a framework to receive their outreach, their work is made easier and we are open to the enjoyment of conscious, ongoing relationship.
4. Dream Visitation
The ancestors can often reach even the most skeptical of descendants with a well-placed, emotionally charged dream. Not all dreams of the dead necessarily involve direct spirit contact, and discerning when an ancestor is actually trying to get through is not always easy; however, contact dreams are often accompanied by the felt sense of actually meeting with the deceased loved one. These dreams may include receiving a message or some kind of healing around the loss that accompanied the loved one’s death. If the dream has the quality of contact and the deceased seems in distress, you may offer direct prayer, healing ritual, and positive energy toward their elevation and happiness. If the ancestor seems well in spirit, simply being open to their visit supports future dream contact and other forms of relationship.
First popularized by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, synchronicity refers to two or more events that are meaningfully related, but which otherwise would be unlikely to occur. Although a complex process to explain in logical terms, the implication is that the ancestors may also speak through events themselves. Suppose that your deceased partner loved lilacs and on the anniversary of her death you’re on the front porch having a drink and feeling particularly sad. At that moment your new neighbor walks over to share with you, out of the blue, that she’s thinking of planting a lilac bush and asks your opinion on the matter. You feel a chill pass through your body and a sense that something magical is happening, a temporary drawing close of the worlds. After the conversation, you’re left with a sense, against all logic, that your partner has reached out to comfort you. Meaningful songs on the radio, written signs and messages, and spontaneous animal encounters are but a few of the ways in which the ancestors shamelessly make use of our surroundings to generate meaningful events and get their point across.
6. Establish a Physical Place to Honor the Ancestors.
The most common type of place for honoring the spirits of the ancestors is likely the individual or family-level shrine, typically located in or near one’s place of residence. By anchoring the presence of the ancestors somewhere outside our bodies yet still in the physical world, we both externalize the dead and create conditions that support ongoing relationship. The altar may be a small table or shelf and can include images of the ancestors, stones, candles, colorful fabrics, incense, inherited objects from the deceased, inspired artwork, religious items familiar to your ancestors like a Bible or rosary, and other physical offerings.
7. Make Offerings to the Ancestors
Just as we feed our human relationships with particular kinds of attention, engagement, and gifts, so can relationships with the ancestors be fed through the practice of making intentional offerings. Acts of ritual feeding may underscore a request we are making of our ancestors, convey gratitude for support already received, or just be a way of sustaining the intimacy of ongoing relationship. Physical offerings may include food, drink, coins, cloth, tobacco, ash, tears, stones and other found objects, flowers, fire, and creations made with our hands. Offerings to the ancestors may also take less physical forms such as song, dance, prayer, practices of healing and forgiveness, release of a pattern or relationship that no longer serves, and commitments undertaken for personal or collective good.
(Excepts from ancestral medicine...not my own writing)