In 2020, COVID-19 forced everyone around the world to lock themselves in their houses and communicate virtually. While being stuck inside presented its challenges, it seemed it caused a shift for many people to realize they weren’t living a fulfilling life. Work, school, Netflix and social media could no longer be used to escape, and it left many people looking for more. There must be more to this life, and I am here to tell you that there is.
Like many people, I found my spiritual calling during the lockdown last year. I was introduced to ancestral veneration through the Twitter accounts of @itsjujubae who has a podcast for Black people looking to get in touch with their spiritual roots and @ehimeora , a Sango Priestess who practices Ifa and is the ancestors’ storyteller. I was already very interested in tarot, astrology and creating an altar to communicate with my elevated ancestors. It just felt like the right thing to do. I never felt very connected to Christianity and have been trying to find my way spiritually for so long.
I was so happy and relieved to find a practice I could resonate with as a Black person. Ancestral veneration helped me feel connected to family members I lost because I am uplifting them instead of avoiding thinking about them and the lives they lived. Communicating with my elevated ancestors has opened the doors for so many blessings in my life and I want to teach others how to do this also. Ancestral veneration is a practice that I believe every Black person should look into— what do you have to lose?
To communicate with your elevated ancestors, it is best to create a sacred place in your home specifically for them only. The traditional place is on a table with a white cloth in the living room. However, not everyone has the privilege to place their altar there and that is okay! I started my altar in my closet and focused on strengthening my connection with them until I felt comfortable enough to have a small table in my room. Your ancestors know where your heart is. Now I will detail what are the usual items placed on an altar based on my learnings:
Any items representing earth can be placed on the altar to represent stability, grounding, nurturing, etc. This includes crystals, stones, seashells, flowers, plants and more. If you decide to use flowers and/or plants, do your best to make sure they do not die on your altar. Keep them fresh!
Water is used to be the bridge between the physical and spiritual realm. The water should be clean and clear so you will have to replace it, sometimes daily. I recommended two glasses of water for your paternal and maternal lineage but using only 1 glass is fine.
Incense can be used for this. “Spirit is formless” (@ehimeora). The way the air moves can show you messages from your ancestors. Also, incense can be used to spiritually cleanse your altar.
The flame of a candle attracts your elevated ancestors to the altar. The color of the candle matters! Even the scent. White is the color most used because it represents cleanliness and divine energy. I find, by doing the research on what each color represents, it allows you to make the decision yourself.
● Items of Your Ancestors-
You should place pictures of the elevated ancestors and things they owned such as jewelry, mirrors, books, etc., on or around your altar. For example, I have my grandfather’s diploma. If you don’t have pictures, you could also just write down the names of your ancestors.
You must keep your ancestors fed in order for them to have the energy to intervene in your life. To receive, you must give. Give with intention. If you need your ancestors to work fast, give them some coffee or coffee grounds. Want them to bring something joyous into your life? Offer them liquor so they have a reason to celebrate! Honey, fruits and candies are good offerings to give when you want them to help you sweeten your life. If you ever crave a certain food and don’t know why, it could be your ancestors trying to communicate with you what they want. Also, if you knew your ancestors when they were alive, you can give them foods and meals that you knew they liked while they were living. There are so many options you have at your disposal when it comes to offerings. Just do what feels right. Every time you give an offering, say a prayer of what you want. Get as specific as possible. To add, don’t allow the food to mold on the altar and it should be disposed of after a day.
Place a mirror on your altar with the intention of any negative and harmful energy and evil eyes be sent back to the sender. It’s like saying “I’m rubber, your glue, whatever you say bounce off me and sticks to you.” The next item you should have is a machete or knife. This is so your ancestors can slay your enemies where they stand so their intent to harm you never succeeds.
Remember your ancestors know your heart. If you can’t have everything, I listed at first, that is okay. You can start off by having a temporary altar such as lighting a candle and placing a glass of water in front of you. Set your intentions that you wish to communicate with your ancestors and go from there. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Your ancestors have been waiting for you to reach out since you were born. You are ready.
I dare each one of you, the skeptics and true believers, to try talking to your ancestors every day for one month even if it’s just a “good morning/night elevated ancestors. Thank you for being in my life, and please make your presence known to me” and watch how your life will change. It takes time to build this connection just like any relationship but it’s worth it.