The Ancestor Altar

by Donata

The ancestor altar is set up to honour and remember the ancestors, not to worship them. The ancestor altar can become an all-purpose altar and be used for meditations, ceremonies, etc.

Choose the table, mantle, dresser, etc., where you will set up the altar. Pick four stones or crystals for the four corners (the corners of the world). You will need a carafe or wine decanter to hold spirit water - which is white rum and spring water that you bless. You may include family pictures, or objects that either belonged to family members, or that you decide will represent them. If you use an altar cloth, it is traditional, but not necessary, to have one that is fringed. Fringe is one way to connect your consciousness with that of the ancestor’s. Candle/s and incense are optional, but a nice addition. The ancestor altar will often have an abalone shell to represent the womb of the Earth Mother.

There are three classes of ancestors: our blood ancestors, the ancestors of our spiritual lineage, and the ancestors of the land where we live. We may choose to honour all three classes. (A coven member recently suggested that our own previous incarnations may also be our ancestors.) One way to honour the ancestors of the land is to place a pot of earth on the altar. A way to honour the spiritual ancestors is to place an object with a symbol of your spiritual path, e. g. the Awen for druids.

Dedication of the Ancestor Altar
Prepare food and drink that would appeal to them in life and offer them to the ancestors. State your intention that this is a sacred space where you will honour them. Ask them for their aid. You don’t have to include all your ancestors - it’s a good idea to state that only those ancestors who come in love and peace, and to do no harm, are welcome.

At the first feast, at the time of dedication, and for future food/drink offerings, (remember the ancestors regularly with food) bless the food, and say,

O blood of my blood, this is your child (name yourself). I bring you (name the food/drink) for your nourishment. Know that you are loved and respected. Accept this offering for our good. Watch over your descendant: Let there be no death, let there be no illness, let there be no accident, let there be no upheaval, let there be no poverty, let there be no ill-fate (name any other attributes you wish to dispel). Stand fast for me, for my good fortune, for my wealth, for my happiness, for my home, for my health (name any other attributes you wish to attract). Thank you, blood of my blood. Thank you, O mighty dead.

Other prayers: (from Luisah Teisch)

O good and mighty dead, you who wish me only good, hear me; guide and guard me, and when the time comes, greet me. You are neither blind nor deaf to this life I live; you did yourself once share it. I come to you in love and trust. I seek to honour you.

A Prayer for the Living:
To my kindred (name all you wish to remember)
May the blessing of the spirit be upon you. May you be your best self.
May you walk in beauty.
May your guides be with you at every crossroads,
May you be honourably greeted when you arrive.