Honoring Our Ancestors – The Ancestor Altar

I recently received a newsletter from one of my suppliers with an excellent article on honoring our ancestors by creating an ancestor altar that I want to share with you. Thank you Jacki Smith at Coventry Creations for this wonderful article.

This month my project is to go through the picture boxes and gather some pictures for my Samhain altar. I have the old boxes from my grandma so I should be able to find a few. I also include pictures of our pets that have transitioned as well. They may not be blood, but they were certainly part of our family. Now that we are settled, I will put the permanent alter in my office.

I invite you to create your own ancestor alter and send me pictures. If I get a few in, I will create a post with the images to share.

Until next time —

Mitakuye Oyasin (A Lakota prayer reminding us we are all related),


Live the Magic – Building an Ancestor Altar

It’s that time of year again!Live-the-Magic-October

Are you ready for your grand moment with your ancestors?  They are coming to check on you very soon and if you start your work with them now (and maintain it all year) their messages of love and support will be clearer and more profound than ever before.

All Saint Day, Halloween, Day of the Dead is a time when we assume ghosts abound, but what or who makes up those ghosts; our ancestors do. IT’s not that they come through the veil to scare you, but they come in to bring blessings, share love and allow you to connect with them on a deeper level.

Modern Witch tradition makes Halloween spooky, but the longer standing history is that this is a day of celebration with the loved ones who have helped shape you into the person you are today.  Even if there is hurt and pain associated with them, this is the time for them to make amends (or the other way around) and heal those family wounds.   Even from the harshest beginnings we are given the opportunity to thrive and evolve.  It is from the darkest moments that the greatest potential for the Light to bring blessings is created.

Ancestors are in our blood

From cultures all around the world, ancestor reverence has been part of their spiritual practice.   From West African traditions, ancestor altars are created by the largest tree on your property or in the kitchen of your home.   In China they create a high altar in the main room to watch over the family.  In Rome they would have Spirit Houses by their front door for their ancestors to protect the family and home from evil entering.   Reclaiming or creating your own ancestor reverence helps ground you in your cultural roots and give you a strong base to grow from.    Why do you think we are in the midst of a ghost hunting craze?  We are disconnected from our foundation and need to find some way to reconnect with the spirit realm.

No matter what the story of your ancestors, they are in your blood and their actions got you here today.  When they pass in full from this world to the next, they leave behind the issues, fears, hurts that limited their ability to love while they were human.   Even the nastiest ancestor, once they pass on, is working on making amends for their negative actions.   Bringing blessings to you and your life are a way they can do that.   Put them to work!

Why it works

I have an ancestor altar at my Coventry office.   I put it there, rather than my home because I was in the midst of moving and was not sure how long I would be at the new place.  I needed a place where I could secure my roots, so the office it went.    My people love it here.  Once I moved them all to my office and talk to them regularly, I discovered that many of them were entrepreneurs and risk takers in their lives.   From the Grandfather that my Dad never knew who started a machine shop that employed his whole family, to my Grandmother who ran a day care out of her home after her husband died to keep all of her kids in a decent school through high school.  They lend us the energy to weather any storm, resolve issues and general blessings.

In my old house, my ancestors protected until it was time to go, then they pushed us out.   When there was lots of negative influence in my life, my ancestors would make themselves known and let me know to feed them energy so they could work in my life.   There would be glasses of water moved from the counter to the floor, there was the roast that flipped out of the roasting pan and slid across 3 door jambs to land in front of their altar.  There were the pictures that moved on their own and the door that opened on its own to show us where the item we were looking for was stored.

Start your own tradition

You don’t have to subscribe to any one tradition, you can start your own, but there are a few key universal ingredients needed on any altar.

A Place to start – You need a place that is only theirs.  This is where build your altar and set your offerings to them.  This is a special, reverent place that is not the junk collecting place.  This is not where you set your junk mail or put your dirty shoes on.  Give them something that means “ancestors” to you.

Pictures or items from your people – Let your ancestors know who you are talking to by adding their photo.  Make sure only people who have passed on are in the photos.   You can also add their name and birthdate or if that is not available put on a piece of paper “My beloved Ancestors; known and unknown.”  No worries if you are adopted, you got to choose your family and they choose you – it’s even more powerful!

Water – A universal symbol of the communicating with the spirit world

Candle –This is a universal symbol of spirit, use it.  Of course the Coventry Ancestral candle is an excellent choice, but other candles are just fine.  White is most often used, but if your g-mom loved blue, honor her with a blue candle.

Flowers – This is another universal symbol of bringing the spirit world into the living.  A fresh bunch of flowers is an excellent offering for your ancestors to give them some physical energy to use in this world.

Treats – Your ancestors all had their favorite treats from cigarettes to candy (or maybe candy cigarettes).  Leaving them an offering is a sign of love and respect and gives them energy to use to bring blessings into your live.

Food – Give them a little of Sunday dinner.  Giving them food, especially food they liked while living is a boost to the energy they use to help you in your life.  You see, they need tangible physical energy to create tangible physical change in your life.

There are many traditional prayers to use, but I start with a simple invitation for them to join me and a little conversation.   I talk about what I learned about them, how they have helped me in my life and what struggles I am experiencing now.   I ask for their guidance and then spend quiet time in front of the altar in thanks for all that they have done.   The biggest ritual I do for my ancestors is collecting things over time that they enjoy.  For instance I have a door lock that is in pieces for my Uncle Maury.  He was a locksmith and love to re-key locks.  For my Grandmother Teeny, I learned that she loved angel food cake, so whenever I find an individual size at the store, I know she wants to talk to me.    My Uncle Pete loved to play Euchre, I made him a “Go it alone” hand and have that with his funeral program.

Temporary or permanent it’s a good practice to start your magic with your ancestors; they give it the best boost!