Today I want to share with you my ancestral altar, which honours my mom and dad. Having an ancestral altar is a Samhain tradition that I brought into my life last year, and is now a yearly tradition. As the Veil thins between our world and the next, it's a very powerful spiritual act to create a sacred space for the dead. This tradition has most notably been observed in Mexico's Dia de los Muertos, however cultures around the world have created altars and shrines in their homes for their loved ones who have passed beyond the Veil.
You can create an ancestral altar without buying anything. You can be creative, or not. You can make it wonderfully elaborate, or not. Your ancestors all had hardships and struggles of their own, and they know what is in your heart as you honour them. They don't care what you can or can't afford for the altar. Your intention is all that matters.
Any place that won't be disturbed makes a good place for an altar. The top of a bookshelf, a corner, or a small table would do. You want your altar to be in a dedicated space where it will be respected. You can place your altar at the beginning of October and let it stay up for a month, or you can place it for three days. It's up to you.
For offerings, you can represent the Elements. To do this, you can represent Earth by placing a little container of soil, or a stone or a small branch. For Water, leave a cup of water or tea. For Air, a feather will do nicely. For Fire, a small candle or incense will suffice (just remember to NOT leave it unattended!!!!).
In Mexico, you will often see bright, beautiful marigolds used to decorate altars and cemetaries. They are symbolic of the sweetness of life. Buy a little pot of marigolds and place on your altar, or make your own from fabric or paper!
What is considered most essential for an ancestral altar is a skull or skeleton. Sugar skull figures are perfect for this. As a matter of fact, I want to paint the skull on the altar to be a sugar skull. However, this is your altar to honour your loved ones the way you want to, and you can place whatever feels right to you or what you're drawn to.
If you feel drawn to, place some things your ancestors loved! My dad loved to watch baseball (he was a big Yankees fan), so there's a baseball on my altar. There is red thread because my mom was into all kinds of crafts and her favourite colour was red. You can put photos of your ancestors, or even just a bit of fancy paper with their names and dates of birth and death if you don't have any photos of them. Decorate your altar with leaves, pumpkins, acorns, and other symbols of the changing seasons.
So what do you do once you have created your ancestral altar?
Sit. Meditate. Pray.
Talk to your ancestors. Tell them how much you miss them. Talk to them about your memories, the good times, your hopes and dreams and what's troubling you. They will hear you because they love you!
If you need to, ask them their forgiveness.
Do oracle readings and ask your ancestors for guidance. They will provide it.
Above all, honour and love the memory of your loved ones who have gone before you. They have helped to create the gorgeous person you are now! They are still with you, even from beyond the Veil. Reflect on all they have done to enrich your life. And when it is done, thank them for coming to visit. Wish them well.
Same time next year, Mom and Dad.
Love and light,