I was extremely nervous. I had no idea what I was doing or getting myself into. I read books, listened to podcasts and audiobooks, and consulted with friends about what I needed, and none of it helped with the nerves. I even roped my boyfriend into it, telling him what I needed so he could help me look for the items at the store. But I knew the importance of knowing my ancestors. Finally, it was time to set everything up. I cleaned the table, laid the white tablecloth on it, and set up my water, candle, and pictures of my ancestors. Then I sat down in front, lit some incense, and prayed.
One of the first things I heard when I started my spiritual journey was how important it was to connect with your ancestors. At first, I didn’t understand why. I’ve heard very few stories about my family still walking this earth; why is it important to know those who aren’t anymore? What could they tell or show me when I had no clue who they were? It scared me.
The reason why I did it is that some part of me wanted to know them. The reason I am here today is because of them. The good, the bad, and the ugly, but I am here and alive because of my ancestors.
I started with a simple ancestor altar which included a small table, a glass of water, a candle, a journal, and a few pictures of my ancestors. I read this book, which helped me get started, called Honoring Your Ancestors: A Guide to Ancestral Veneration by Mallorie Vaudoise.
Who Are The Ancestors?
First, necessary knowledge is who are the ancestors? An ancestor is one from whom a person is descended. 1 In other words, a person in your family line who has died. Who can be an ancestor? It may differ from whom you ask, but anyone could be an ancestor. No matter how old or young the person was when they passed, or what they may have died from. An ancestor is anyone in your bloodline, from a grandparent who has died to the first humans. How does one connect with these ancestors and get to know who they were?
How to Connect with Your Ancestors?
There are a few different ways to connect with your ancestors. Such as knowing your family history, speaking and praying to them, and building altars to honor them. Each method can give details about who your ancestors were and can help you nurture a relationship with them.
Knowing Your History
The first way of connecting with your ancestors is knowing their history by sharing stories. All of our families come from somewhere and have stories to share of their life. Primarily to share with younger generations to teach a lesson. One of the lessons learned from my ancestors is that you cannot eat everyone’s cooking, even if you consider them to be a friend. My great-grandmother was poisoned by someone she thought was a friend, and thankfully she lived through it to tell the tale. FYI: drink milk if you believe you were poisoned.
Another way to learn the history of your ancestors is by spitting in a bottle and sending it to a lab. Yep, DNA! Places like ancestry.com and 23andme have become famous for finding information about our ancestry line. Another unique thing about this new technology is that it can even tell you little traits, such as if you have the genes to roll your tongue or sing to the odds of disliking cilantro. In addition, these websites could tell you more about your health and if you are more likely to have a specific health problem. And if you don’t know much about this aspect of your family history, this could be life-saving information.
Speaking or Praying
Speaking of praying to your ancestors is quite common. Asking them to watch over you and your family or just having a conversation about how you wish they were here to talk with you. To hear their voice or for them to give you advice on a situation.
My first time talking with my ancestors was nerve-wracking, and I didn’t know what to say. Should I introduce myself? How did I know that they wanted to speak with me? In Honoring Your Ancestors, Mallorie mentions that sometimes your ancestors from long ago also want to connect with you. So, I started chatting with them and praying to them. After a while, it didn’t feel so silly. It felt like I was talking to a close friend.
An altar is a physical object or set of objects placed in a purposeful place that has spiritual significance to you. 2 They are sacred spaces. I use my ancestral altar to pray and talk and a place to hold my offering to my ancestors. Offerings to your ancestors, such as food, drinks, or incense, are a way of honoring and thanking them.
You will only need a few items to set up an ancestral altar. A place such as a table or a shelf, I prefer to be in a less populated area of my house. A candle, a glass of water, maybe some pictures of your deceased family or items that belonged to them or made you think of them, and a journal to write your interaction. On my altar, I found little trinkets that spoke to me, such as seashells and a crystal angel.
Don’t worry about thinking too hard about what to add to your altar. My altar has changed multiple times as I’ve grown on my journey, and it will change more and more as the years come. Before you set up your altar, understand that this is your way of inviting your ancestors into your life. This is your way of introducing yourself to them and telling them that you want a spiritual connection. Some people are ready for this change, and some are not. This is because you also invite traumas that came with your ancestors that have been passed down for generations.
How Can the Past Affect your Present?
If you have not read or heard of the study on how slavery still affects black people today in America, stop what you are doing and read it! African American Health and Posttraumatic Slave Syndrome. It is about historical or intergenerational trauma, a concept developed to explain years of generational challenges within families. 3 You might also hear it being called a ‘generational curse.’
Is there something that negatively affects your family and has been for a long time? It seems like it has been passed down. And it is always there; other people might even comment about it, but you say it has always been like this or it’s not that bad. I know my family does.
One traumatic experience happened to my mother when her guardian called her some very mean and nasty things. My mom believed her and started calling herself these mean things. I would hear her say these words about herself so often that I became immune to the effects of those words. As I got older, I started saying these exact mean things to myself. It wasn’t until my now husband pointed out that I shouldn’t say these hurtful things about myself and how I am just adding fuel to the fire of my self-hatred that I stopped, or better yet, still learning to manage. If I had kept going on and had children of my own one day, who is to say that they would hear me and later in life say those words about themselves?
Your ancestors can help you on your spiritual journey, and you can also help them along with the rest of your family.
How Can Your Ancestors Help You on Your Spiritual Journey?
An easy way your ancestors can help you is by helping you realize the generational curses in the family. You can become blind to trauma since it is a part of everyday life. In my experience, when I started working with my ancestors, it was like the floodgates were open. I could finally see that what was going on was not right. I could see the trauma before my eyes and how everyone else just accepted it and moved on. Almost like their eyes were glazed over because they couldn’t see this was the same trauma being repeated repeatedly.
Your ancestors can also give you support on your journey. There have been many moments when I felt alone, like I had no one there for me, and now I have to remind myself that there is a team that is always there, and they love me unconditionally. Your ancestors can also share knowledge, usually through dreams or a form of divination such as tarot.
Lastly, your ancestors serve as your first line of defense from negative spiritual encounters. You are one of their children, and they want to keep you safe. A hostile spiritual meeting could be a negative-spirited person. The connection to your ancestors could enlighten you on whether a person is a negative spirit or just someone that is not right for you to be around anymore.
How Can You Help Your Ancestors and The Rest of Your Family?
One of the most significant ways you can help your ancestors is by breaking generational curses. If you can see the problem, put a stop to it. And you can do that by healing. Trauma gets passed down because the originator did not heal from it, so it was passed down, and that person did not recover from it, so it is passed down again. And again, and again, and again. You could heal your ancestors and your family by starting the healing process. There might be some family that does not want to be healed because healing hurts. Healing means facing the pain first; many people would rather avoid it. Do not let those people deter you from healing yourself. And trust that your ancestors know this. They will protect you because you are also healing them.
Having a Spiritual Connection with Your Ancestors is Important for Your Journey
It is important to know where you come from. Even if you don’t want a relationship with your ancestors, knowing if they had any health problems or risks is still essential; your ancestors can guide your journey. They can help you navigate life because they have already been through it. Your ancestors can protect you and give you company when you need it the most. They are always beside you and walk with you on this life journey.