As we approach Hallow’s Eve we see images of carved pumpkins, black cats, witches, haunted houses, kids in costumes, and bags of goodies. For most it’s a really exciting and fun day but it holds a very deep and spiritual meaning that is often ignored.
This is the time of year where the veil between the worlds is said to be thinnest. It’s a time to pause and honor those who have walked before us. To honor all of their strength, courage, wisdom, struggles, victories, joys and the countless contributions their existence made to the lives we live today. Many traditions throughout the ages have and still do acknowledge this time. The Catholic’s call it All Soul’s Day, the Celtic’s call it Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) and in Mexico, it’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to name a few. Remembering and honoring your ancestors is as holy of an act as any other form of worship. Giving gratitude for their divine presence in your life and calling upon them for guidance and support, is a wonderful way to celebrate them. These could be blood ancestors or other helping ancestors such as teachers, mentors, caregivers, ones you consider close enough to to be kin.
There are many ways you can honor your ancestors this Hallow’s Eve. Creating an ancestral altar as a place of remembrance is a beautiful way to honor them. You can create an altar and keep it set up for a few days, months or even all year round.
Here are a few ideas for you to create your own ancestral altar:
First, find a sacred space to set up your altar. This could be a corner in your home, a special shelf or table, or even outside in your garden. Make sure it isn’t a place where you might set down your mail or even a pen. This is meant to be a special reverent place just for them. Start by smudging this space with sacred plants (sage, palo santo or cedar) to purify this space.
Add pictures of your ancestors, maps of where they come or special items that belonged to them or remind you of them. You can also add pictures of those you have known and loved in your life who have passed, including animal companions. Make sure only the people & animals who have passed are in the pictures. You may choose to honor all of your ancestors or only those who you have a positive connection to.
You can add white candles as they symbolize the connection between the physical world and the spiritual world. These candles are a beacon of your love, attracting your ancestors attention.
Put out a glass of water to hold libations for your ancestors. Water is what we need to stay alive and spirits are attracted to things that remind them of their physical lives. Make sure to tend to your water by keeping it full and adding blessings to it, if you feel called to do so.
Add offerings of flowers as a symbol of celebration, giving your ancestors some physical energy to use in this world. When the flowers start to wilt, give them as offering to Mama Earth on behalf of your ancestors.
You can put out a dish of treats as a symbol of your love and respect. These treats can be items that were your ancestors favourites including candy, tobacco or alcohol. These treats give them the energy to bring blessings into your life.
Share a plate of food with your ancestors. This is a great way to connect to them in the present moment and gives them the energy they need to help you in your life. The next day the plate of food can be given to Mama Earth as an offering of gratitude for the abundance she provided for our ancestors when they walked this earth.
You can also add other spiritual items and share stories, prayers, songs and music with them. Tend to your altar daily. Light your candles and take a moment to call in your ancestors silently or out loud. Just like any other relationship, if we feed our relationships with our ancestors, they can be a source of nourishment, healing, guidance and protection in our lives today. Remember you would not be here without them!
Wishing you a blessed Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos and All Soul’s Day or however you choose to celebrate this time of year.
Photo by: Laurel Ronan from Unfettered Wood