Try this ritual to invite connection with and guidance from your ancestors.
Ancestor veneration is an umbrella term for beliefs and practices that spiritually connect us with those who have gone before us. These beliefs and practices are found in cultures around the world.
Honoring our ancestors helps us feel grounded in our own histories. But it also reminds us that we are connected through our ancestors to the rest of the web of life: all humans, animals, plants, fungi, and so on. Once we have developed that relationship through ritual and reflection, we can begin to ask for their blessings. And they will begin to offer us guidance, helping us make better decisions to benefit the generations that are to come.
As you begin working on your relationship with your ancestors, there are several things you are likely to encounter.
- Coincidences, synchronicities, and dreams. These will increase in frequency and weirdness. Typically, they should be pleasant and rewarding: a chance meeting that leads to a new opportunity, a coincidence that reminds you of a happy childhood memory with you grandfather, a dream that prompts you to call your mother right when she’s about to call you. It’s good to pay attention to these, especially when they delight you. But it’s also important not to pay too much attention to any particular sign. It’s easy for people on a magical path to go down a rabbit hole of synchronicity that can lead to obsession, paranoia, or worse—becoming insufferably boring at parties.
- A shift in your relationship with your living family. The spirit world is like a mirror: everything you do is reflected there, somewhere. As you reach backward, your ancestors—including the strongest, most loving ones, sometimes millennia removed from the present—reach forward. And when your fingertips meet, the generations in between fall in line. As the whole collective heals itself, you’ll notice your living family changing as well. You don’t need to tell family members about your ancestor veneration practice for them to benefit from it, but I have found that politely asking your relatives about the people they knew and loved who came before can be a profound experience.
- More information about your ancestors and their cultures will likely find its way to you. This is not necessarily something you need to seek out. You’ll randomly find genealogical information, flyers for dance classes, and used cookbooks in the strangest places. If you are starting with less information about your ancestors than you would like, trust that anything truly important for you to know will find its way to you. Remember: You’re not in this alone, your ancestors have your back. (To deepen this practice, read "The Art of Receiving What You Are Getting.")
A Ritual to Reconnect with Your Ancestors
This ritual is designed especially for individuals who are hoping to start an ancestor veneration practice for the first time, or who have not honored their ancestors in a long time. It is designed to invite your ancestors to draw near to you.
Before performing this ritual, you may wish to put together a list of the names of your ancestors going back as far as you remember. This list should include your direct ancestors, that is, your biological mother and father, and their biological mothers and fathers, and so on. You may also include other ancestors, including anyone who nurtured you for a significant length of time, especially when you were a child.
Obtain a white candle. This can be any kind of candle: a glass-encased seven-day candle from a grocery store, a shabbat candle, a tea light. It can even be scented or electric, if that’s what you have on hand. Along with the candle, get a nice loaf of unsliced bread and a bottle of either wine or spring water, depending on what you like to drink.
Fast for at least an hour. Then, take your candle to a quiet place in your home. The kitchen or the dining room are ideal, and if you need to wait until the evening for the bustle of day to calm down in those areas, it will be worth it. If you have family or roommates who are also interested in ancestor veneration, you can invite them to come with you.
Take a moment to breathe. Then, light your candle and say:
“Through the love of the first Mother and the first Father, I remember my ancestors. I remember them in joy and sorrow. I remember that this air is the air they breathed, that this bread is the bread they ate, that this wine/water is the wine/water they drank.”
Now, if you feel comfortable doing so, you can read the list of names that you have prepared. After you recite each name, say a short prayer for their soul. There are several of these out there, for example:
“May she rest in peace,” “Peace be upon him.”
Take the bread and hold it in your hands. Pray for nourishment:
“We pray that we will always have the resources we need so that our body can handle the work we are called to do.”
Now, rip off a small piece and put it on a plate before the candle. Don’t use a knife; this isn’t the time for weapons. Rip off pieces for anyone who is joining you and one for yourself.
Now, take the water or the wine. Pray for inspiration:
“We pray for clear words, clear vision, and clear purpose.”
Pour in a glass and leave it before the candle along with the piece of bread. Serve some of the drink to anyone who is joining you, and to yourself. You can drink out of individual cups, or a shared cup, or even pass the bottle around, depending on what kind of a mood you’re in.
Relax and enjoy the gentle glow of the candle. Some people see shapes when they gaze at a candle for a long period of time. Perhaps you will see something in the flame or the melted wax, or perhaps a strange thought will occur to you unlike any you have had before. Whatever you see or feel is appropriate. Write it in your journal or share it with your companions.
From Honoring Your Ancestors by Mallorie Vaudois. © 2019 by Mallorie Vaudois. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., www.Llewellyn.com."
You could also try: "Circle of Strength: A Ritual for Times of Change."