So what do you put on an ancestral altar?
Most of us have family photos of our ancestors, and these become great items to proudly display on the altar. Unfortunately, we just don’t have photos from all of our known ancestors (or we don’t have the space to display them all) but a great way to still include other known ancestors is to have some sort of small trinket box where on slips of paper you write out the name of your various ancestors. I can go back to the early 1500’s so far for my family. Along these lines, including scrapbooks, photo albums, or binders full of genealogy information is also appropriate.
The altar is also a great place to display ancestral pieces and family heirlooms: great-grandmother’s silver candlesticks, grand-father’s pocket watch, and yes even the family bible. Even if a bible is a symbol of Christianity, if it’s part of the story of your ancestors and family history then yes it still does belong on a heathen ancestral altar. The benefit of a family bible, is they were used often to record births, marriages and deaths and therefore become a great depository of family genealogy.
Ultimately altars symbolize our connection with our ancestors, so not everything needs to be such a direct derivative as listed above, you can also include items that you feel symbolize them. Maybe you come from a long line of horse ranchers, and so you have a small figurine of a horse on your altar as a ‘nod’ to that portion of your ancestry. Perhaps your family is from Ireland, and as a result you have framed photographs of natural landscapes incorporated into your altar, or rocks taken from the famously green island. Perhaps you are fortunate and able to visit cemeteries where some of your ancestors rest… rubbings of tombstones can also be framed and used for display on your altar.