Highway to Hel
The Top Ten Questions about Ancestor Veneration
I've just returned from a pilgrimage to Gettysburg and Virginia as part of my work with the military dead. I have been pushed for some time to visit Civil War sites since that war and its aftermath forms such an deep and integral part of United States history. This trip helped me connect more deeply to the military dead and to the very land upon which I live.
I'll be writing about that over the next couple of weeks, but this week I want to cover some very basic points about ancestor veneration. Since I've started writing publicly about honoring our dead, I often receive emails with the very questions that I am going to cover today. It was no surprise, when I returned from my recent trip, to find the same questions gracing my inbox yet again.
They're good questions and I think they deserve to be answered here, so that's just what I'm going to do.
Question 1: Should I honor my monotheistic ancestors?
Of course. Yes. Honor your monotheistic ancestors (unless of course they were abusive to you, in which case—best case scenario—an elevation might be in order). The exception to this, for me and some of my colleagues, is that generation which consciously chose, for whatever reason, to abandon their ancestral ways and embrace monotheism. Those we do not honor. Those we call out. We name their shame and confront them with it. We demand that they make reparation, that they work with us and with our other ancestors now to repair the damage to which their poor choice led. We're cleaning up their mess after all. The beauty of wyrd is that they are still able to affect it even after they are dead. They can make reparation and if they choose to take responsibility and do so, then they too may join in the veneration the other ancestors receive.
As to those who were raised monotheist and who may have been very devout in their own way, they bear no shame. Honor them just like you would any other ancestor. They'll let you know if they want something specific, or don't like a particular offering. Ancestor veneration is for everyone. We all have ancestors after all. Give them their due.
Besides, some of those monotheistic ancestors may have been parents, friends, and grandparents. They may have been people you loved dearly in life. That love doesn't go away just because they're dead. It's only right and proper to honor them.
Question 2: If I offer tobacco, do I have to smoke it?
This question always makes me laugh. It's a good question, but being a now and again smoker, I have vivid memories of an incident that happened to me about fifteen years ago. I walked in on my Santerian roommate trying to make an offering to Ellegua. He was trying to smoke a cigar as part of his offering. He was also green, coughing, hacking, and all but doubled over. The poor boy was not a smoker. I just took the cigar and smoked it for Ellegua and later, when everything was over, and the ritual concluded, laughed my head off. Of course after that, I was also the one smoking those cigars every Monday for my friend's weekly Ellegua ritual---no good deed goes unpunished after all!
The author of several books on the Northern Tradition, Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, shaman, and devotee of Odin. She blogs at Gangleri's Grove.