As the darkness of winter creeps in and the season of Halloween is with us, it seems natural to think of those who have gone before. The Celts had great respect for their ancestors, preserving their wisdom and keeping contact with their spirits. You can use the mystical atmosphere to connect you to those who have passed away, to feel spiritually uplifted and strengthened.
Here we look at:
- Talking about the ancestors
- Making an altar to their memory
WHO ARE YOUR ANCESTORS?
You may naturally think of your parents and grandparents as your ‘ancestors’ but actually it goes much wider than that. Of course family members, especially those with whom you’ve had a personal relationship, are very important. But remember also teachers, mentors and any cultural icons who have influenced and inspired you.
For instance, you may remember the fascinating stories told by your grandfather, the encouragement of a teacher, but also wisdom and inspiration that may have come from individuals that you may never even have met. They could be figures from sport, the arts or religious movements. These people may have influenced you spiritually or creatively – if they’ve helped fashion the person you are then they are definitely your ‘ancestors’.
WHY REMEMBER THE ANCESTORS?
Some people believe the past is the past, that ‘progress’ is all that matters and everything else is old hat. That’s such a shame because it can leave you without roots or a system of values. Being aware of your ancestors gives you a sense of meaning.
It is also vital to understand history and see its patterns if we are to be able to understand ourselves today. Your ancestors are part of your own special history – the important part. Realising what they have meant to you can help you on life’s journey and be a big step in self-understanding.
GIFTS OF THE ANCESTORS
Start by making a list of important people you remember. Write each name at the top of an A4 sheet of paper. Underneath it write all the benefits you’ve received from knowing this person, or knowing of them.
Think about how they have helped to shape your life, how they have affected the way you think and what are the main things you remember. In what ways have you benefitted? Would you be the person you are now?
Reflect on each person in turn and let your gratitude towards them flow out and uplift you. Roll each of the sheets of paper into a scroll and tie these with purple ribbon, or a colour of your choice. Place them on your ancestor’s altar (see below).
TALK ABOUT THE ANCESTORS
In the days before writing, knowledge was kept alive by talking. Tribes-people had extensive memories, and bards were able to remember vast amounts of information and poetry, which they would recite on special occasions. Exploits of the ancestors were a major topic, and Halloween was the start of the story-telling season, to our Celtic forbears.
Today we let our memories lapse as books, and computers do the job for us. However, there is nothing like talking about your ancestors to keep their presence alive. So why not set aside an evening to be with friends and family and reminisce. You can mark all you’ve been given to carry into the future with an informal celebration.
Above all, don’t forget the funny side. Those who’ve gone before loved to laugh, and humour keeps their legacy lively and uplifting.
AN ALTAR TO YOUR ANCESTORS
An altar does not have to be anything religious. It’s just a focus for reverence and a reminder of something sacred. So, for a few days or weeks around Halloween, put aside a shelf or cupboard top for your ancestral altar.
Cover your altar with a purple cloth for this colour is associated with spirituality – although of course you may choose another colour if you have a specific preference or reason. Place candles on your altar, along with the scrolls you have made. Photos of your ancestors or other important pictures can be included. Flowers or plants that you feel appropriate can decorate the space. Other things you include can be personal, such as jewellery, statues etc.
When you can be quiet and peaceful, light the candles and burn a joss stick fragranced with frankincense and myrrh. Reflect on all the good things that have come your way from your ancestors. Say ‘Ancestors, grant me your protection that I may be strong, wise and just. Let me be filled with love for you, and for all of life. Thank you, and Blessed Be’.
Remember that you will one day be an Ancestor, and resolve to live your life being true to yourself and kind wherever you can be. This makes for a rich and meaningful existence.
HOW WE CAN HELP
We have looked at what the word ‘ancestor’ means, why they should be remembered, their gifts valued, their memories kept alive in stories and teachings, and making an altar to your ancestors. All of this can enrich your life experience, but if you find any aspect painful, if difficult emotions are triggered or you are grieving, never think for one moment that you have to soldier on alone. Our supportive and empathic team of Readers is on hand with their own helpful wisdom, so get in touch without delay to be uplifted and cheered.
PUBLISHED: 06 October 2017