Ancestor veneration: What is it and why is it important?
Posted on September 15 2020
“Walk like you have 3000 ancestors walking behind you” ~African Proverb
What are ancestors?
Usually when people think of ancestors they think of recently deceased ancestors.
But the fact of the matter is, your ancestral line extends out to the distant past down to the ancients down to the first Mitchondrial Eve, the mother of all humans, an African woman.
There are legions of benevolent ancestors beyond the veil wanting to protect you and guide you along your path. To some people this may sound kind of creepy, but the fact of the matter is, we will all be ancestors one day to the ones we love.
If you could provide guidance and look out for your loved ones in the afterlife wouldn’t you want to do so?
Working on yourself and healing yourself benefits not you only yourself but your ancestral bloodline backwards and forwards. That’s why it’s so important.
Why should you connect with your ancestors?
The basis of certain African spiritual traditions teaches that you must pay homage to the ancestors before paying homage to the spirit guides.
Our ancestors have so much more wisdom and have dealt with so much more than we can imagine and have many messages to share with us.
We can’t bypass the ancestors to get to the spirit guides because we incarnated through our parents lineage and have a blood connection to them.
Also, they are more closely connected to the physical world seeing as they have previously lived in it.
Therefore paying homage to the ancestors is first. Your manifestations and meditations will work so much better once you understand this.
Culture and ancestors
It’s important to have a good understanding of the culture your ancestors come from in order to know the best way to honour and venerate them.
Understand the tradition and customs of your cultural heritage as it may be what your ancestors have practiced.
Learning more about the traditional foods and how they are made can help to make you feel more connected to not only your ancestors but your ancestral heritage.
If you come from a mixed background do you feel more connected to one side of your family than the other? If so, then you should explore the cultural heritage of the side you are most connected to.
How to work with your ancestors
In the Yoruba system of divination (also known as Ifa), it is believed that communicating with one’s own ancestors is a birthright.
Unlike having the power to work with Spirits, which comes from training and initiation, it is believed that everyone has the power to spiritually communicate with blood ancestors. In Ifa, ancestor spirits are referred to as Egun (ancestor spirits).
In Ifa, one way to perform ancestor veneration is by way of creating an ancestral altar. An altar is created using photos, as well as other objects that represent your ancestors, including offerings to your ancestors.
It’s important that the space in which the alter will reside is clean and neat and free of dirt and dust. Dirt and dust can attract unwanted spiritual energies. A simple but important step.
After preparing the alter space, cleanse the alter space energetically by smudging with white sage. Also use the sage to cleanse yourself.
Construct your altar:
Construct your altar space using a box or table which will be the altar. Cover the altar with the following:
- White cloth
- White candle
- Fresh glass of water
- Photographs of relatives you would like to venerate
- Other historical figures
- Food offerings to your ancestors
- Any religious texts that your ancestors used (i.e. Koran, Bible, etc)
Stand in front of the altar and light a candle. The candle acts like a portal, which opens the connection and draws the ancestor spirits closer to us.
Declare to your ancestors your commitment to meet with them regularly. It is important to live up to your agreement and commit to it, even if it’s only once a week.
For example, it’s better to commit once a week and maintain the commitment, than to commit daily but break the commitment.
Establish a day and time you will meet with your ancestors and commit to that day. This will enhance the connection you are making with your ancestors. Turning to your ancestors only in times of crisis will weaken the connection.
Wearing an ancestor necklace can also serve as a reminder of the importance of venerating your ancestors and that they are always with you, wanting to support you.
As per Africa Speaks, “The white cloth, candle, water and pictures can be thought of as an electron magnet that draws ancestor spirits to the altar. The current that drives the magnet is the prayers directed towards the altar...charging the batteries on a regular basis strengthens and clarifies the spiritual connection”
During this time you can meditate on your ancestors and be open to whatever guidance you may receive from them.
End the session by giving thanks to your ancestors for their wisdom and guidance and then blowing out the candle.
Others ways to work with your ancestors
A great way to work with your ancestors is through meditation.
Before I begin my meditation, I light a candle and ask my ancestors to offer me any messages or guidance.
Sometimes I will ask them for guidance on a specific issue, and sometimes I will be open to whatever messages they have for me.
In my experience when I started doing meditations this way, I started receiving strong messages from my ancestors in the form of visions, during meditation. In one meditation in particular, I had a vision with my maternal grandparents and my inner child.
Ancestor veneration is not evil or demonic...it is your birthright.
Our ancestors live through us and in us and when we connect with them via the ancestral realm, we empower and liberate ourselves by tapping into their vast wisdom and immeasurable love. We are never truly alone.
You stand on the shoulders of your ancestors and they are all rooting for you.
Wearing an ancestor necklace can serve as a manifestation anchor and a daily reminder of the importance of venerating your ancestors.