Ancestors are the dead people of our bloodlines whose souls are not currently incarnated in a physical body. Does this creep you out or excite you? You don’t need to be a psychic to build a relationship with your ancestors. In fact, mediumship or intuitive perception is part of our innate nature, anyone has this capacity with some practice. You might be scared of engaging with your ancestors because of the images your hold, like haunting ghosts. Let me also share with you that they are not all scary and often hold valuable support, guidance, wisdom and love that can nourish the foundation of your day to day living.
Very common in Africa, Asia and certain European countries, ancestor worship was practised long before the expansion of religions. This was part of a desire for global harmony between the dead and the living, humans and other life forms, the physical world and that of the unseen.
As Dr. Daniel Foor mentions in his book Ancestral Medicine Rituals for Personal and Family Healing, “We are bonded with the ancestors as life to death, light to shadow. The choice is not whether or not to be in relationship with them, but whether or not these relationships will be conscious and reciprocal. Ancestor-focused rituals are one way to relate more consciously to the dead and to advocate for our interests and for the well-being of our family and our world.”
And if you think about it, I am sure you have met or heard of people celebrating their dead in different ways.
In the northern hemisphere for example, the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced “SAH-win”) was first mentioned in the texts of Iron Age Western Europe and is seeing a revival among the pagan communities of European ancestry.
Samhain is the celebration of the end of the harvest, the mid-point between the autumn equinox and winter solstice also known as a time where the veil between the physical world and the spirit world is thinner. A time traditionally associated, in many cultures, with the remembrance of the dead.
Celebrated on the night of October 31, Samhain is associated with many other names and celebrated in many countries around the same time. Halloween in the U.S, All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day (big in France, where I come from), All Souls’ Day in the christians communities, the Day of the Dead in Mexico (Día de los Muertos) and the Fèt Gede in the Voodoo community of Haiti.
At other times during the year the Awuru Odo Festival is also celebrated among the Igbo people of Nigeria and the Hungry Ghost Festival held in China aligned celebrations across South East Asia featuring similar motifs.
Most traditional cultures and people (present and long gone), pagans, animists, believers and now even scientists seem to agree that consciousness continues after physical death. For some, the ancestors are among us and their spirits can either haunt us or help us. The movie Coco is a very great illustration of this.
If these festivals are here for us to remember our loved ones, pay respect, soothe wandering spirits and “feed” them as not all dead are equally well once on the other side, we don’t have to wait for these festivals to celebrate our deceased.
Indeed, everyday we can find ways to honour them and if we “feed” them enough by thinking and speaking well of them or through heartfelt offerings (food, drink, etc.) they are likely to feel pleasure, satisfaction and to be our allies rather than our enemies. And every step done in order to heal intergenerational patterns and live as ethically as we can with each other on Earth is supporting them to feel joy.
The deceased stuck on the terrestrial plane for whatever reasons can emotionally, psychologically and physically affect the living (curses, entities, legacies of illnesses, depression, addiction, abuse, poverty, bad luck). The living may also cause disruption for the dead when desecrating places important to them, such as sacred sites, burial places, ancestor shrines or simply a place they loved when they were physically incarnated.
Bringing our ancestors back to life within ourselves will not only support them but can also encourage curiosity, introspection and greater clarity about life purposes. Getting to know and love my own ancestors brought me a greater sense of belonging, support, satisfaction, self-confidence, creativity and moreover allowed me to know where I stand in the world as well as to honour my roots and culture of origin.
And consider this, if you sometimes feel lonely or in need of guidance, developing a relationship with the dead (or any nature spirits) can allow you to hang out with whoever you want, whenever you want!
If you wish to know more about ancestors I highly recommend Ancestral Medicine Rituals for Personal and Family Healing, by my teacher Dr. Daniel Foor.