I recently read a couple of questions about Ancestor Veneration, specifically Modern Ancestor Veneration, online and thought that it would be good to do a blog post about them. While I haven’t talked much about it on here, honoring the ancestors is something very important to me and to my family. I have been meaning to write about it and how it directly pertains to my witchcraft but haven’t made space for it yet and then these questions came so…here we are.
Ancestry, 23andMe, and More
I believe our ancestors are calling out to us. With their veneration nearly obliterated by the spread of monotheism and later by the misguided notion that honoring them is somehow outdated or unclean, the need to reconnect with our lineage elders is necessary if a little difficult for many of us. One of the ways I know they are crying out to us, reaching through time to touch our lives, is the rise in interest in where we come from and the popularity of sites like Ancestry, 23 and Me, and others.
I love that these sites are getting more popular and that more and more people are utilizing their tools like their DNA testing and generating their family trees. This is one of the steps someone can take today to begin honoring their blood relatives, the ancestors of their bones.
When it comes to these sites – there’s quite a bit of magick when it comes to documentation, DNA unlocking, etc. I’ve met witches that combine these mundane practices with magickal. One did their Ancestry DNA and ritualized it, aligning the date when she sent it in with the date she went to a master of the practice of DNA energy unlocking. Another used the information found studying their genealogy to help them cut cords, heal ancestral trauma, and break curses set upon their family.
That all being said, I do want to encourage those of you interested in ancestor veneration to not stop there. Use these sites and their information as a tool, but know that this is not everything. Much like relying on a book for your religion is problematic to the matter of personal connection to the Gods, relying on paperwork that shows your family names alone can limit you in building relationships with your ancestors. Not only that but the ancestors you venerate might not just be blood related. Include family friends, adopted and god parents, and those ancestors of your initiatory and skilled practices like witchcraft, art, crafts, music, etc.
Coffee, tobacco, chocolate, perfume, and MP3’s or CD’s of recorded music. These are all offerings either I or someone I know has offered their ancestors. These are also offerings that our families have only been able to access in the last few generations. My family is Irish and Scandinavian so coffee and chocolate wasn’t exactly a commodity that my distant or ancient ancestors would have enjoyed.
I was asked recently if modern offerings or offerings that are not native to my ancestors are taboo when doing ancestor veneration. For me, no. This might not be the case for everyone or for every ancestor you are honoring. I know, its not the easy answer.
I offer coffee to my ancestors almost daily. (I say almost because there are times when I am not at home to place coffee on my ancestor altar or some issue arises but these often involve extenuating circumstances.) I do this because my grandparents and great grandparents and their families all drank coffee. They all also smoked so I offer them cigarettes or my husband smokes a cigarette, cigar, or pipe for them when the situation requires. I have family members that had a sweet tooth and loved southern chocolate pie so thats included on special occassions. Coffee, chocolate, and tobacco are “New World” commodoties. Sure my distant ancestors didn’t have them or use them but many I knew or have family that was close to, they did and they loved them so I offer them.
Now, I am learning more and more old world skills and offer them when I can. I recently learned to make Kugelhopf – a yeasted cake that pre-dates baking soda and baking powder. Once I got a recipe my husband and I liked, I made an offering to our ancestors that would have eaten this cake. Likewise actions like gardening, canning, and learning more and more how to do things by hand, these actions and their results are also an offering to my ancestors who would have done them as part of their daily lives.
How to learn if an offering is acceptable?
Divination: do a reading or, if you need, get someone who is an expert to do a reading for you. Ask if what you plan to offer is acceptable. Ask what the ancestors what they would like to receive as well as what they do not want. Be prepared to follow their rules because ignorance will no longer be an excuse.
Intuition: sometimes you can just feel if something is wanted and if something is unwelcome. If you get an icky feeling when offering something, remove it and ask for a sign or further information that day or through divination.
They will tell you: sometimes when I am making something they tell me they want that. Today it was the fried potato cakes I was making. I was plating them for the table and I got a nudge like someone looking over my shoulder and licking their lips. So I laughed a little, wrapped some up, and took it to the altar. It was like my Papaw was grinning and ready to dig in.
Basic knowledge: did your grandparent hate something in like or were they allergic to something? Keep it off the altar unless another ancestor is adamant about wanting it. If you would not put it on the table if that person was sitting physically in front of you alive, then don’t do it now that they’ve passed.
Do You Have a Question About Ancestor Veneration?
Feel free to comment or email me at december at StartWitchin dot com. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll hunt one down for you.