The Hardest Thing About Creating An Ancestor Altar

The Hardest Thing About Creating An Ancestor Altar October 26, 2016

It’s not the candles. It’s not the food. It’s not the photos. No it isn’t the time, the effort, or even the money. The hardest thing about creating an ancestor altar is both more simple and more complicated than these things. The hardest thing is remembering.

What in the hell is this crazy woman on about ? This may be what your thinking and I don’t blame you. Remembering, remembering what? Yes, when you create an ancestor altar you have to remember to light candles, leave water, food and other offerings, place photos and other items from those who have passed… but most important you have to remember that these people have crossed on. This means many different things in many different traditions.

Some traditions believe that once loved ones are gone they travel to a different plane… a heaven, a nirvana, or a whole other world. It doesn’t really matter what your belief system is. However you do have to remember they do things differently now. When my daughter passed away several years ago it was hard to get past missing her, her smile, her laugh,… the things a mother treasures. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have a strong belief system and a faith that allowed me to still honor her and communicate with her, even if it was in a different way.

Maman Brigitte wedding jar photo by Lilith Dorsey.
Maman Brigitte wedding jar photo by Lilith Dorsey.

New Orleans Voodoo and Haitian Vodou Ancestor Altars

In New Orleans Voodoo and Haitian Vodou much time and attention are given to the ancestors. Weekly, if not daily, offerings and prayers are given. If enough sincere and proper care is given to those who are gone they elevate to the realm of honored ancestors, possibly even becoming Loa/Lwa themselves. Some view these loa as saints, or gods, or just representations of divine energy. In any case they are very powerful, and can be very helpful to the living if the proper tributes are given. So in addition to remembering that our loved ones are on another level of existence, we also have to remember to help them on their journey so they can help us on ours.

We must remember to honor them in whatever way feels right and proper to us. We have to remember the lessons they taught us …even if they are just whispers now lingering in our grieving memory. We also have to remember to listen to what they may have to say now. Listening even if our hearts and minds are heavy, and their messages are more confusing than ever. Ancestor worship can be challenging. Our listening can be improved by divination, prayer, visits to the cemetery, and in many other ways. The very creation of an ancestor altar or shrine will help us to better understand. We have new and different ways of communicating with our loved ones once they are no longer with us. If you are unsure what goes into making one, please see my post Creating Ancestor Altars.

Have a blessed Samhain season and the rest of the year with your ancestors! If you, and they, have enjoyed what you found here please remember to share, share, share.

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