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Ancestor Honouring Ritual

by The Sacred Earth Medicine Team on April 15, 2024
image credit: Maartje Van Dokkum⁣

Honouring our ancestors is a beautiful and powerful way to acknowledge our roots and all those who have come before us. Whether known or unknown, our ancestral lineage impacts our lives, and taking time to remember where we have come from can allow us a golden opportunity to understand ourselves better.

At this time of Samhain, where the veils between the living and dead are thin, it is a potent time to pay homage to any loved ones (including any animal friends) who may have passed over in the last year. If you are blessed not to have anyone in your circle cross over in the last 12 months, choose to pay reverence to any other ancestors. In this ritual we invite you to create a simple ancestor altar where you can spend time in communion and commemoration.

What you'll need

  • Photos, pictures, heirlooms, or other mementos of your loved ones
  • Tealight candles to represent your ancestors plus a lighter or matches
  • An altar cloth – black and orange are symbolic but follow your intuition here
  • Smudge of your choice - perhaps sage, palo santo or a space clearing spray
  • Journal and pen
  • Food offerings (see more below)

Note regarding food offerings:

You may like to collect some apples and pomegranates which are traditional fruits offered at this time. Not only are they in season, but they also symbolise the cycle of life and death. Alternatively, you might like to prepare a favourite food of your dearly departed – and of course you can always offer both!

The Ancestor Honouring Ritual

First decide on the best place for your ancestor altar, perhaps using a table, dresser, or other surface for the base. Then gather all you will need for the ritual and place it in front of the altar.

Cleanse the space, first of any excess physical clutter and then energetically with the sage etc. Take this time to also cleanse and clear your own energetic field.

Next, create sacred space in your own special way. You may want to honour and call in the directions, the elements, and anything else you feel is important.

Come to sit in a comfortable position in front of the altar and gently close down your eyes. Allow yourself to fully arrive, taking 3 deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth with a sigh or sound. Feel the body softening as all that has come before begins to simply melt away with the exhale.

When you feel ready, slowly open your eyes, and begin to create your ancestor altar. Place the cloth over the altar first and then arrange your mementos however you like, including enough tealights for who you are specifically honouring and remembering at this time. Food offerings can be included now also.

Stay fully present to all that arises as you create your altar, allowing all emotions to be lovingly welcomed.

When the altar is complete, light the candles in their memory. Speak their names out loud, calling them present, expressing well wishes, and thanking them for being part of your life and/or lineage.

Continue sitting quietly with your eyes closed again, breathing rhythmically. Let your mind drift as you begin to picture your linage, seeing your loved ones or ancestors faces, or simply sensing their energy.

Pay attention to your experience and be open to receiving any messages or signs. Whether you can sense their presence or not, trust your connection and begin to commune with them, sharing what lays in your heart. Give yourself all the time you need, especially if you feel there is any ‘unfinished business’. Communicate all that is needing to be spoken and feeling any feelings.

Give thanks for any messages you receive. And when you intuitively feel ready, open your eyes. You may like to take a moment now to note down in your journal, any special messages.

When you are complete, give thanks to your ancestors once again for all you have received, before closing sacred space.

You may like to keep you altar up for a specific time frame over this Samhain portal, and when the time feels ready, disassemble your altar with the same amount of presence and reverence with which you created it.

For further inspiration...

For further inspiration on how to connect with and honour your ancestors, you may like to refer to our journal Honouring our Ancestors and Healing Ancestral Wounds, or read more on this tradition in Mexico.

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Whether known or unknown, our ancestral lineage impacts our lives, and taking time to remember where we have come from can allow us a golden opportunity to understand ourselves better.