Welcome to this brief introduction to modern ancestor practices for animists, spiritual workers, pagans, and witches. Suppose you wish to work with an ancestor of your family (an old dear departed) or different ancestors of witchcraft (ancestral spirits or deities).
In that case, this article contains some simple practices and rituals to incorporate into your spiritual journey! You will learn how to organize a sacred space and altars for loved ones and ancestral spirits and how to create a fetish for the dead with the land of the living, how to give formal and informal offerings, as well as simple benevolent necromancy rituals.
Remember that the dead are with us for the whole dark part of the year, from Samhain to Imbolc. Honor them often and perhaps leave your altar until the gate that opens the passage between the living and the dead is closed.
Sacred Spaces and Altars
In most cultures, ancient and modern, which involve work with ancestors, dedicated altars are kept all year round. The home Sacred Space or the altar is where the ancestors listen to all our joys and sorrows.
Where you give offerings, cultures believe that the dead still needs nourishment, which they receive through our libations and by burning food offerings. Altars or Sacred Spaces also ask for help or advice from the ancestors.
In all cases, whatever is asked for or received from the spirits of the dead, you must give something in exchange, which can be anything, from food to certain types of incense.
Sacred Space for the Ancestors
The Sacred Space for the Ancestors can be anything from a small shelf to a small table with photos of loved ones, candles, water, flowers and an offering plate. The drape for the space should be white for devotion and offerings, while the candles can be blue (or white). It is the space of devotion to respecting one’s ancestors – especially those of one’s family.
I recommend a Sacred Space for those who do not want to do a deep devotional practice but still regularly honor ancestors.
These spaces can be used for daily or weekly offers and are a great place to share your joys and pains in life with people who are no longer there. A good daily practice is to share a portion of your dinner before starting your meal.
Alternatively, you can leave their favorite food, alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, flowers, and incense as offerings. It is best to make individual offerings according to what the spirits preferred when they were alive.
Were they greedy? Were they smokers? Take these things into consideration when choosing the right offer.
Altar for the Ancestors
The Altar for the Ancestors is a permanent altar for those who work with the spirits of the dead full time. On it, you’ll find divination tools among other things.
The altar must be large enough to accommodate all your tools and supplies. The cloth for this altar should be black for necromancy work. The candles should also be black – both altar candles and offerings.
Other tools could be the Stang, a Staff or a Wand of ash, blackthorn or yew wood, an incense burner or a cauldron, a cup or bowl for offerings, and finally, one or more abodes for the Spirits.
Placing a cauldron or a clean bowl with fresh water on the altar before each necromancy rite is essential. The altar for ancestors can include a collection of tools and utensils for both outside and inside the home, and on a permanent altar in one’s home.
If you want a discreet altar, you can keep everything you need inside a piece of furniture that can then serve as an altar when you intend to use it.
Tips and Tricks on How to Make an Altar for Ancestors
The altar for ancestors is a link with one’s ancestors but also with all the spirits of the gods in general. The dead are our roots. First of all, to prepare an altar for the ancestors, you need to get some photographs of your deceased loved ones.
Some people also add images of famous Voodoo priests and priestesses. Some do not have photographs of their ancestors, so they insert an image that somehow represents them. In short, there is no fixed rule.
DIY Guide to Make an Altar for Ancestors?
- Get a white tablecloth.
- Once it’s washed, let it dry in the sun.
- Before placing it on the altar, purify the place with sage.
- Place the tablecloth on the altar and sprinkle it with a few drops of Ylang Ylang.
- At the center of the altar, place a chalice filled with water in which you will sprinkle a little perfume.
- Inside the chalice, place a small crucifix.
- Another eight glasses of water should be placed around the chalice, because nine is the number linked to the dead. Water is the link with the abyssal waters where spirits come.
- On the bottom of the altar, you can put images of loved ones or images of saints associated with the cemeteries (for example Sant’Elia
). If you want you can put a ceramic skull or other material that you will take care to fill with cemetery earth and Voodoo Powder by sealing everything with beeswax. Some grease the skull and votive candles for the dead with an oil called Yuza Yuza, which mediums use to summon spirits.
- You can place these offerings (always placed on earthenware plates) to the ancestors:
– Bottles of rum
– Coffee without sugar
– Fresh fruit
– Cigars, cigarettes, and tobacco
– Foods that were loved by your deceased, absolutely without salt
Every week, on Mondays, you must change the water, renew the offerings, and at least one vigil candle must be lit. You will burn some frankincense.
When renewing the offerings, knock on the altar with the right hand three times, and do not forget to pray to loved ones. Once the altar is built, you must take care of it! Leaving it dirty is disrespectful!
These are just tips. Everyone still sets up their altar with what they have and to their liking. They are not mandatory rules.
When do I Know it’s Time for Me to Make an Altar for My Ancestors?
You know it’s time for you to make an altar for your ancestors when you feel it! Maybe you’ve been thinking more about your roots, family, and past. Maybe you want to establish a connection with your ancestors.
Maybe you feel lost, and you need guidance. Those are perfectly good reasons to make an altar for ancestors! Make sure you do this with commitment, dedication, and love to bond with your past and ancestors. They can be the right guide for you, your journey, and your witchy journey!