Over the past year, ancestor work has become a major part of what I do as a shaman and sometimes even as a priest. Our collective ancestors are pushing to be acknowledged. There are a lot of ways to do this, some generic, some culturally prescribed, and there are even ways to help ancestors who are damaged, hurting, sick, or out of balance themselves. That process is called 'elevation.' I've been getting a lot of questions lately about exactly how one should go about elevating one's ancestors. The following article will be appearing in a forthcoming book on ritual (probably next year) and is also used on my ancestor shrine. For those who might be interested, I'd like to share it here as well.
Preparing for the Elevation
The altar should be white: white cloth, flowers, candles. Culturally for us, this color still speaks of faith, purity, and spiritual cleanliness. In doing an elevation for a particular ancestor, we are engaging in ancestral healing, in cleansing a tiny bit of mess, blockage, pain, strain, hurt from that particular line. White, representing cleanliness to us, is a good color to use for this.
Set up a picture of the dead person you wish to elevate centrally on the altar. It should be noted that an elevation can be done for a beloved ancestor just because you love that ancestor and want the best for him or her. While they are usually done in the case of troubled, aggressive, unhappy, unhealthy ancestors or conditions, they don't need to be reserved only for those cases. The only pre-requisite to doing an elevation is that you must already have a primary ancestral altar and an engaged ancestral practice.
Put out flowers. Prepare a candle, a glass of good, clean, fresh water, incense, and whatever other offerings you wish to make.
When you are ready to begin your ritual, set a candle at each of the four corners of the altar and light them, offering a prayer that fire will cleanse and consecrate this space, making it sacred, making it a place where clear communication may occur between you, the ancestors, and the Holy Powers. Call upon any God or Goddess Whose help you might wish in this endeavor.
Ancestral work is a very personal thing. It not only involves us and our spiritual connections but specific ancestors and their spiritual connections. Regardless of the fact that we are Heathen, Norse Pagan, or Northern Tradition, etc., we may find ourselves called to put representations of Deities our ancestors honored on the altar, or to call upon Them. This is not about us. If you have a grandmother who had a close connection to the Virgin Mary, and in the course of an elevation, you get a sense that you should put an image of the Virgin on the altar, I'd suggest doing it because really, who is better positioned to help elevate that grandmother than the God or Goddess to Whom she prayed her entire life? Get over yourselves, people.
Sit in front of the altar (on the floor) and call to the ancestor you are elevating. Light incense, and the main ancestral candle. Begin by offering the following two prayers on behalf of this ancestor (these are the ones I commonly use, but feel free to use others if you wish):
Hail to the Gods and Goddesses.
Your grace illumines all things.
Your gifts shine forth,
Making fruitful nine mighty worlds.
Blessed are those that serve You.
Blessed are those that seek You out.
Holy Powers, Makers of all things,
Bless and protect us in Your mercy.
Lead us along the twisting pathways of our wyrd
And when it is time, guide us safely along the Hel-road.
(This prayer was originally written by Fuensanta Arismendi for the Gods she loved above all Others, Loki and Sigyn, but you can readily adapt it to your own devotional connections.)
My Lord and My Lady, my Beloved Ones,
May those you call always hear Your voice.
May I always love You beyond trust and mistrust.
May my surrender be complete and voluntary.
Give me this day the grace of Your presence.
When I fail You of Your kindness,
Permit me to make amends.
Use me and teach me according to Your will,
And deliver me from all complacency.
Then call directly to the ancestor you are elevating and say:
Oh clement and merciful Gods, magnificent Holy Powers hear my prayer. I offer these prayers for the soul of X, and for all good spirits who wish our prayers and recognition. Please let X know that someone here on Midgard is stepping forth to speak for him/her.
Merciful Holy Powers, and all other good spirits and ancestors, who might intercede for the relief of this soul: grant him/her hope. Grant him/her the awareness that he/she is illuminated by the Divine light, that he/she is younger kin to the Gods, beloved of the Holy Powers. Let her see those tangles in the wyrd, those hurts and imperfections that keep him/her away from peaceful tenure in the realms of Hel, from rebirth, from renewal. Open his/her heart to understanding, grieving, repentance, and restoration. Let him/her understand that by his/her own efforts he/she can make the time of his/her testing easier. Wyrd unfolds always and living or dead the power to weave it well is in our hands.