Once upon a time, October 31 marked the end of the calendar year. Over the years, I have noticed that as we enter Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, many folks begin to feel drawn to the past, called upon by days gone by. We begin to reminisce; we start tidying up our homes and spaces with the winter darkness looming in the future. For many of us, this is also a time to celebrate, find our balance, and reconnect with our ancestors. Those that came before and oftentimes, whose blood courses through our veins. Those that look after us and have a vested interest in our follies, as well as our success. Many primeval cultures looked to their ancestors during this time of year, for guidance as the tribes and communities made preparations to sustain during this dark season.
Photo credit: U. Guygen, 2014
For some of us, now is the time to spruce up our ancestor altars with fresh flowers and candles. Perhaps a change of decor, for the honoring the season.
For those that have never worked with their ancestors, now is the perfect time to start just such a tradition. Start by building your ancestor altar. This should be a small, quite space that will be theirs. I have used everything from a space on a small bookshelf to an outdoor flat stone, a traveling tin box to an elaborate 8 ft shelf attached to the wall. It does not matter what you use, and it does not have to be fancy. You also do not have to run out and spend a ton of money on something. Look around you – use what you have. It will likely evolve, over time.
Add any photos of ancestors that you wish – anyone that was close to you: parents, grandparents, great grandparents – then branch out from there. I often get asked by clients about working with ancestors that were unknown or perhaps the client was adopted. Remember, ancestors do not necessarily have to be blood, nor do you have to have actually known them. And there is a preconceived notion that ancestors are those that have passed within the last 50-150 years. No babies, when I talk about ancestors, I mean every single one – from the most recently passed to the very first, thousands of years before. So do not be too narrow in your thoughts. Also, if you did not get along with someone – that is okay. Old negative energies were left behind when they passed. So do not be afraid to connect with someone that may not have been the best of souls when they were alive.
My grandfather, Blacky
Once your space is created – begin by adding a white candle or specially blessed altar candle. Light it when you wish to converse with them. Light it to let them know you are there. Light it in appreciation of them, as well as their sacrifices. A small vessel of water is also a nice touch.
From there, the possibilities are endless. I bring my maternal grandmother black coffee – as that was something her and I shared a fondness for when she was still among the living. My husband buys her a bouquet of fresh roses every week as roses were her passion and something she was known for. Other ancestors get scotch or rum, cakes and cookies, small trinkets that equate to tokens of my appreciation for them. You can also decorate it with the changing of the seasons. You can add anything you like, or nothing. Simply being yourself and giving that altar energy and love will be enough. Over time, this space will evolve into a place of solitude from a crazy world, a place to find grounding and calming energies, a place to stand or sit before and feel their strength when you need it most.
As a side note, do not forget to spruce up burial sites and graves for ancestors, as well. Or as a wonderful gesture, spruce up a neglected grave of someone you are unfamiliar with. The spirits will thank you.