The nights are drawing in, the owls are hooting, the moon is waxing, Samhain is nearly here. With all this in the air it is timely that a recent healing client left a treatment with some 'homework' which involved making an altar to honour her ancestors.
The Andean Shaman say that when we die, our bodies return to Mother Earth, our wisdom returns to the mountains, and our essence returns to the stars.
As the veils between the worlds allegedly thin, all around the world there are celebrations in honour of ancestors. The Mexican day of the Dead is perhaps the most famous. Here in Stroud Dawn Morgan is doing a Halloween Retreat....
What lies behind all these celebrations and rituals?
From a Shamanic point of view, one aspect of the altar is to honour our biological ancestors. We create a focus for appreciating all those who came before us, giving thanks for all that they have handed to us. All that is in our DNA. When this is part of a healing ritual we also look at how they live in us for better or worse. We consider any outmoded beliefs or contracts of theirs which we unconsciously hold and which derail us from living the destiny of our choosing.
From a broader perspective we may look at the ancestors of the land in which we live, the cultural holding, historical trauma, stories of courage, times when humanity lived in harmony with the earth as well as times when humanity abused the earth. We call on our lineages of teachers, those who have transcended and are there to guide us in spirit.
So when we make our own altars in celebration we can draw on the bigger picture as well as the tiny detail. We can place ourselves in right relationship with all those who came before and keep them in their rightful place of honouring. In this way we can know where they are in our lives: honoured, understood, no longer in an unconscious place where they can reek havoc in our lives and derail us from dreaming our destiny.
This year I am creating my own Ancestor altar, lighting a fire with my family, and then honouring the next generation by having fun with my daughter trick or treating!
HOW TO SET UP AN ANCESTOR ALTAR
This is clearly a very personal ritual and one to which you bring your own spiritual understanding. From a Shamanic perspective, my experience of this is to create an altar space with stones representing mountains; feathers connecting with spirit; flowers, leaves etc representing aspects of nature; finding ways to represent the elements of earth, water, air, spirit; candles to represent fire. Incense, sweets, meaningful objects feed the energies of the altar. Place photos of your ancestors on the altar (or objects to represent them if you don't have photos) to bring them into a place of honouring. Most of all bring your attention, focus, love, prayers and gratitude.