For Pagans and witches, Fall is the season to connect with the world of spirits, starting with our own ancestors. Especially at the end of October and beginning of November, it’s thought that the separation between the land of the living and the land of the dead becomes thin.
Oct 31st-Nov 2nd are the days for Samhain (the Celtic holiday that Halloween, All Souls Day, and the Day of the Dead grew out of.) This is when the spirits of our ancestors are ready and willing to take a seat at the table, if we should choose to invite them.
While this is a high point for Pagans, many work with ancestors all year round. Ancestors guide us, inspire us, and protect us. It is believed that while all your lineage is looking after you, you have to extend a welcome to really start to receive the help that is waiting.
If you don’t already have a strong sense of your family history, begin by learning about the cultures your people came from. If you don’t know, it’s alright to be general, or use your intuition as a guide.
Remember, we also have cultural and spiritual ancestors. Anyone whose life’s work has greatly influenced yours could be considered an ancestor. Ancestor work isn’t about race or nationality. If you go deep enough, you’ll find that, instead, it leads to the fact that we are all connected.
Supper with Your Ancestors
Many cultures throughout the world honor their ancestors with offerings of food and drink. Whether it’s Samhain, or any other time, sharing food with the spirits of those who came before us is a wonderful way to connect with them. It’s a way to show gratitude for their hard work, and that their goodwill and presence is welcome in our lives.
Welcoming your ancestors to the table is as easy as literally setting an extra place for them. Make your evening meal a special one, simply by pulling up an extra chair and putting out an extra plate.
- Start the meal by lighting a white candle and saying “We welcome our ancestors to guide and protect us. Welcome to our table!”
- Serve the empty place with the same food and drink that you eat.
- When it’s over, thank them and blow out the candle.
- Don’t save that food for leftovers — consider it consumed! Throw it in the trash, or better yet, the compost.
An Altar to Remember
Making an ancestor altar is easy, even if you are new to making altars. An altar is simply a dedicated space where you can arrange some objects that are significant to you.
To make one for your ancestors, start by laying down a cloth you like and build from there. Collect objects that are reminiscent either of someone you knew who has passed, or that represent your ancestors, both recent and ancient. Begin by looking around your home, and then have fun at thrift shops and in stores getting treasures that fit the bill.
For example, if your ancestors were native to the Americas, place some dried corn or corn husks on your altar. For a beloved Grandpa, put his favorite drink or tobacco out. Jewelry, beads, food stuff, photos, art objects, and religious objects are all good choices for relatives of the distant past. Finish out your altar with the basics: candles, incense, and flowers.
By Raven Hinojosa