How You Can Connect With Your Ancestors
Many people talk about their ancestors when they begin researching their genealogy and bloodline. It's almost as if the ancestors didn't exist until we start doing research and realize how many people it took in order to make us flesh and blood, sitting and reading this article here today. I'm here to tell you that your ancestors are here, and they have been here before and will always be here. Whether you realize it now or not.
I have spent the past couple of years trying to connect with my ancestors in various ways. Sometimes it's not always as clear how to connect with them, and there are not many books out there that will guide you in your efforts. This is something that I had to learn on my own, and now I would like to share this information with you in hopes that it will help you connect with your ancestors easily and on a deep level. And as always, let me know if you have any questions in the comments at the end of the article.
Cultural Ties and Ancestors
In cultures all over the world and on pretty much every continent, ancestor worship has been a part of our religions since ancient times. With the introduction of Abrahamic religions, much of the ancestor worship has died out and been replaced with other rituals and traditions...literally leaving us to forget about our ancestors and thereby not showing reverence to where we come from. It is an unfortunate move in the wrong direction, as in losing touch with our ancestors we lose touch with our roots...with our blood.
Some of the cultures around the world who have honored (and some still honor) their ancestors include the Chinese, the Native Americans, the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Romans, various African tribes, Indians, and many more. Why have we strayed from ancestor worship? How can we get back to being connected with the dozens and dozens of individuals who came together to make our very own flesh and blood?
Begin Connecting With Your Ancestors
- framing pictures
The first thing you must do when trying to connect with your ancestors is to get to know them. Sounds difficult seeing as how they are dead, right? Wrong! It is indeed tedious work, but it is well worth it. I would suggest starting a family tree. You can do this online, digitally in a Word or Powerpoint program, or simply create a hand-written family tree on poster board. For me, I went with the online family tree via ancestry.com. The cool thing about ancestry.com is that it searches a huge archive of files and documents for your ancestors' information. So if you enter your parents' names and start from there, the website will automatically turn up with potential document matches on your parents. For instance, you may find your father's war documentation or your mother in a newspaper article of some kind. These are just minor examples.
The point to setting up a family tree is to get to know who your ancestors were as far as their names, time periods in which they lived, their occupations, where they lived, and where they were originally from. If you are in the United States and you are not Native American, this means your ancestors came from somewhere else (obviously)...do you know anything about their original mother-land? Do you know the traditions, religions, and history of your ancestors' land? These are all ways to delve into your ancestry and get to know your ancestors better.
Once you've established a family tree either online or manually, you can move on to creating a scrapbook of your ancestors. This is another very time-consuming project; however, you will find yourself growing closer to your ancestors simply by focusing on their lives in this manner. Get a large scrapbook from a craft store and gather stickers, various craft paper, and whatever other tidbits you might like to add to your scrapbook. Designate this book as only an album dedicated to your ancestors and lineage.
From there, you can build your ancestral scrapbook by separating your ancestors one-by-one or by family name, whatever you feel is right for you. Then add photos of your ancestors, their names, dates of birth and death, occupations, etc. Anything that you feel is important and relevant to your connection with your ancestors you can add to this scrapbook. Once you have finished, you will feel closer to your ancestors than ever before. When you feel down or need to feel that connection, simply open up the book and let your ancestors' memories fill you with joy! Besides, you can always pass this scrapbook down your family line so that your children and children's children have a connection to their heritage just as you do.
In addition to ancestor scrapbooking, if you have any older photos of your ancestors (especially originals) it might be time for you to frame them. The time that you put into framing these photos and hanging them is time spent with your ancestors. Think of them and of the lives they might have lived, and think of the blood that courses through your veins and how it also ran through theirs.
Hang these photographs of your ancestors in one spot to honor your ancestors, or hang them around the house to show reverence and ask for their protection of your home.
Connecting Further With Ancestors
Ancestor Altars / Shrines
You've spent time getting to know who your ancestors were while they were in human form, and now you're ready to spiritually connect with them. Now is the time to set up an ancestor altar or shrine.
You can do this inside of your home or outside, whatever is your preference. It can be a tiny corner of the hallway or a whole wall in your living room. The choice is yours and the options are limitless. Some of the basic items you can use on your ancestor altar include:
- herbs and stones
Once you have your ancestor altar set up, then you can begin by honoring them with an offering of some kind. Some people will leave an offering for their ancestors on the altar for days, and change it out as necessary. While others will change out the offering on a daily basis. The choice is completely up to you. When you decide on an offering, be sure that it is a food or beverage that your ancestors would have liked. If you are honoring ancestors from ancient times, take an educated guess. They will let you know if you are way off...trust me.
Some examples of offerings could include:
- spring water
- wine/mead/beer/ale/whiskey, etc.
- fruits of various kinds (apples and citrus will keep nicely on an altar for days)
- cakes and breads
- cigars and tobacco (if you believe your ancestor(s) might have smoked)
Offerings for ancestors are particularly important when Samhain (Halloween) draws in closer. Samhain is the time when our ancestors can easily visit us from beyond the veil. These offerings were left out by our ancestors for their ancestors and on down the line for thousands of years in order to appease the spirits during their return to earth.
Many times our ancestors will come to us in our dreams. Some people may wonder, how do I make contact with my ancestors? How can I talk to them? Don't stress yourself too badly, simply ask your ancestors to visit you in your dreams. You will be surprised how quickly they show up. Just be on the look out for their appearances, though as sometimes they might pass by you in a dream and you wouldn't notice otherwise.
I had one particular ancestor visit me in my dreams and I remembered her name. This was before I even realized she was my ancestor, until I started doing research on my family tree! I had missed one letter in her name originally, but she made it abundantly clear later on! Again, all you have to do is to ask them to show up in your dreamtime. Then in the morning, write down your dreams so you can remember what they said or what message they were trying to convey.
If you are the type of person who performs rituals on holy-days and during certain cycles of the moon, you may incorporate your ancestor work into your ritual. You can call on your ancestors to protect your circle and workings, or you can simply invite them to be present. My suggestion is to invite them in first, then ask for favors like protection later.
You can also create an entire ritual geared towards connecting with your ancestors. Some people have an easy time writing their own rituals, but if you are not one of those people...look one up online. They are rather easy to find, and you can modify the ritual to fit your needs and style.
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Why is this important? Shouldn't we just forget the past?
So we've gone over many different ways for you to learn how to connect with your ancestors. These ancestors could be recent passed loved ones such as your parents or grandparents, aunts and uncles. Or they could be your more ancient ancestors, great-great-greats and so forth from other countries and time periods unknown. It doesn't matter how far away in the past they lived, you have the ability to connect with them. You have their blood coursing through your veins...and what's that saying? Blood is thicker than water? Blood is binding, and so you will never lose touch with your ancestors because they are an indefinite part of you.
Society has lost touch with the importance of connecting with our lineage, our heritage. Our roots. Our ancestors. All of these things have become almost a dead tradition due to various reasons, some of it due to a dominating religion and mindset. Whether we are taught ancestor work is important or not, you must know that it is. By forgetting the past and brushing our roots to the side, we are denying a deep part of ourselves. I believe this is why we have so many problems these days. We deny our roots and therefore deny ourselves to live to our fullest spiritual potential.
Focus on the history of your family, and you will focus on yourself...inevitably. Whether you ask for your ancestors' protection over your home and family, or whether you just acknowledge their presence, giving a nod to the past will keep your prepared for the present. If anything, we can always learn from our ancestors' mistakes.
Connecting with Passed Beloved Pets
I was planning on writing a whole section on connecting with deceased pets; however, I've decided to dedicate an entire hub to this topic. Please stay tuned for that installment.
Written and copyright © by KittytheDreamer (May Canfield), 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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