Modern Ancestor Worship Musings

Galina Krasskova’s column tomorrow will be focusing on ancestors, and it got me to thinking about my own ancestors and how I incorporate them into my spirituality.

I’ve been slowly tracing back my family’s history and thinking of the stories my parents and grandparents told me. Usually talk of ancestors was accompanied by a book, either a small notebook crammed with notes or family Bibles being opened. My mother’s father had no birth certificate and the family Bible was the only proof of his birth date he had. I remember as a kid being mesmerized by the names: James, William, Avis, Alma, Lydia, Susan, Sion, Abel, Nancy, Edna, Charles, Lloyd, Obediah, Effie, Curren, Honorah, Jakob and Sophia.

Probably influenced by my upbringing, my first inclination towards ancestor worship is to record their names. Unless you were wealthy or famous, and often even then, you were the only one who kept track of your ancestry. It was not the job of the government or churches/temples to record births, marriages and deaths. After writing and copying copiusly by hand as a student of traditional Witchcraft, it really only makes sense to combine the handwritten notes and Bible records of my ancestors with the concept of a Book of Shadows. Perhaps a very large scrapbook where I can record by hand the names, dates and stories where I have them.

My next inclination is toward a calendar. I’m working on a calendar with all the birthdays, marriages and deaths recorded, with the idea that in the morning as I begin my daily routine I can check the calendar, and then light some incense to honor an ancestor’s birth or marriage. Once finished, in just a couple of minutes each day I can connect with and honor my ancestors in a truly meaningful way, and make it a part of my daily life.

The last impulse I have is the hardest, for several reasons. I was raised that you care for the graves of your ancestors. I haven’t been doing that. Honestly, it makes me feel uncomfortable visiting the graves of people I knew, even though I love to go chat with a complete stranger long buried in a cemetary here in town. I even bring him cashews. Yet, regardless of my feelings regarding my recent ancestors, it just feels proper in my bones to care for their graves. I haven’t figured out just how I will do that. Perhaps I will decide on appropriate days during the year and make a day-trip of it. Perhaps the Sunday before Beltane and the Sunday before Samhain? Maybe I’ll even talk my sister into going along…

Combining the very ancient practice of venerating your ancestors with the customs of your recent family and culture you were raised in feels right to me. My ancient ancestors are so far back that I will never know their names or find the patch of ground in which they are buried, so an indoor shrine will have to do until I can create and outdoor one to maintain and treat with the same respect as my recent ancestors.

One thing I can do to connect with them is to research and embrace the culture they came from. The biggest surprise of my research was that rather than being predominantly Irish, my ancestors were mostly English. My perspective on my culture and heritage is changing due to this revelation. While I still have great affinity for Ireland, I am beginning to embrace traditional English culture, especially music. I’ve even come across an anthem of sorts for my journey to discover my roots:

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About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Illiezeulette

    I, too, have begun tracing my lineage.  Fortunately, all of my mother’s family is Mormon, so I have access to complete records and even biographies on that side of the family (my great great great grandfather Alfred married three wives, two a pair of sisters, consensually and all over 20 years old, and I am a descendant of one of his 27 children…polyamory is in the blood!)

    I made a trip down through Utah, but only had enough time to honor the graves of my maternal grandparents, whom I never knew.  I am reluctant to take care of my father’s grave, because I really just don’t know what to say and I’m not exactly the daughter he had in mind.  Very traditional, conservative folk, and he died long before I got all “weird.”  But my paternal grandparents are also nearby his grave, so I will visit them as well, once I muster up the courage.  Taking care of graves is rewarding, do it if you can!

  • Illiezeulette

    I, too, have begun tracing my lineage.  Fortunately, all of my mother’s family is Mormon, so I have access to complete records and even biographies on that side of the family (my great great great grandfather Alfred married three wives, two a pair of sisters, consensually and all over 20 years old, and I am a descendant of one of his 27 children…polyamory is in the blood!)

    I made a trip down through Utah, but only had enough time to honor the graves of my maternal grandparents, whom I never knew.  I am reluctant to take care of my father’s grave, because I really just don’t know what to say and I’m not exactly the daughter he had in mind.  Very traditional, conservative folk, and he died long before I got all “weird.”  But my paternal grandparents are also nearby his grave, so I will visit them as well, once I muster up the courage.  Taking care of graves is rewarding, do it if you can!

  • Illiezeulette

    Oh and P.S., I thought I was mostly Swedish but turned out to be mostly English, too!  Funny how that happens.  (:

  • Illiezeulette

    Oh and P.S., I thought I was mostly Swedish but turned out to be mostly English, too!  Funny how that happens.  (:

  • Chas Clifton

    Show of Hands — always a good choice!

  • Chas Clifton

    Show of Hands — always a good choice!

  • Chas Clifton

    Show of Hands — always a good choice!


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