In this dark time of the year, especially after Samhain and close to Transgender Day of Remembrance, my thoughts turn to ancestors. Until a few years ago, I had never done much ancestor work. I wasn’t, to be honest, very interested in ancestors at all.
So what changed my mind? I got a new look at what ancestor work is and why it is important. My ancestors are not only the beloved dead I knew in life. They include all the ancestors of my blood line, all the way back, whether I know their names or not. They also include ancestors of affinity, those who have passed that I admire and want to align myself with. Groundbreaking explorers? Ancient poets? Civil rights leaders? All possible ancestors! Ancestor work can also include unnamed individual or group ancestors. For example, someone might choose to honor or work with all the unnamed dead of World War II, or women explorers of North America. There might be a specific ancestor that comes to you whose name you don’t know. Sometimes, we also work with an ancestor for ritual purposes.
Why is ancestor work so important? Here are some of the reasons that come to mind for me.
Honoring our ancestors Just as we might do something special to show a friend or lover we value them and our relationship, ancestor work shows our ancestors that we respect and value them.
Feeding our ancestors. Some spiritual traditions hold that ancestors draw their energy from our offerings and prayers to them. Lighting incense or preparing a plate of food feeds our ancestors.
Allies. As we navigate life, both in the magical and everyday realms, we inevitably come up against obstacles. It is helpful, then, to have allies, people who have our backs and can provide support. By creating and sustaining relationships with our ancestors, we are in a position to both ask for and give aid.
Receiving wisdom. Ancestors have wide and varied experiences, spanning continents and millennia. The vastness of their held knowledge far eclipses what we could come across in our lifetime. Working with our ancestors gives us access to knowledge we would not otherwise have.
Comfort. We all have fears about death. Working with ancestors can ease those fears. As we come into regular contact with the beloved dead, death no longer seems so frightening.
How about you? Do you do ancestor work? How and why? Share in the comments!