A black female Ancestress stands with a wooden staff in a moody forest with eyes illuminated by a rainbow light

A Guide to Ancestral Work for Beginners

In this day and age, I have found it incredibly easy to become disconnected and thus discontented with oneself. Whether this is feeling like you're stuck in the wrong career, relationship, situation, or just the overall feeling of being on a path that does not feel in alignment with your destiny or true inner calling.

For me an effective way to remove blockages and uncover the direction towards my destiny is to reconnect with my family in the ancestral realm. They hold the guidance and wisdom that encourages me to reveal my innermost aspects of true power so that I may assume the attributes of my highest self.

What is Ancestral Work? 

Simply put, Ancestral work or Ancestral Worship is the practice of showing thanks and giving gratitude to the fortitude and strength of your forebears. They held within them the spark of life that created us and passed their wisdom to each generation that followed. Ancestral work allows us to access that wisdom and receive the guidance of those who came before us. Because your ancestors are a part of you (literally) they have a greater stake and sense of duty in regard to assisting you on your journey.

For this reason, I always recommend to anyone who wants to get into working with inter-dimensional beings like gods, spirits, angels, and even extraterrestrial beings to start working with your ancestors. They are easily accessed as well as responsive once you establish consistent connection.

Ancestral Protectors 

Ancestors can also aid in protection rituals especially if you are trying to communicate with beings higher on the totem. I HIGHLY recommend to be aware of your limits as some beings whether spirit, god, or extraterrestrial can be wily and willful and if you are not strong in your mind, body, and spirit as well as cunning and clear-headed these beings will on the lighter end of things ignore your advances or on the crucial end do you a number.

Magic is a highly reactive science and just as in chemistry where we must be aware to handle harsh or sensitive chemicals the same is said for magic. Please study, strengthen up and remain aware of the fact that when we experiment the experiment becomes conscious and looks back. 

In truth many warnings in magic come after the spell, so please, think before you do or contact anything without reading or going over the fine print of a spell or ritual. Even better you can ask your ancestors if they think a certain ceremony is within your power to control or beyond it.

So, with this warning, understand that magic will bring you results, but whether you get prosperous results or destructive ones will all come down to your will and spiritual savvy.

Why is Ancestral Work Important? 

Regardless of your belief systems or the sect of witchcraft and spirituality you come from, you will discover that certain concepts persist across the board and ancestral worship is one such practice. It is something every person has access to as we all have family members who are currently residing in the ancestral realm. Ancestral work is important because it helps us to access not only our history but also the shared wisdom that spans generations. 

What if Certain Ancestors Fucked Up and Left a Generational Boo-Boo? 

I am also aware that many people come from households where they visibly recognize and feel the failures or cruelty of their ancestors. These are called ancestral curses and they can show up in a lineage in the form of physical/mental abuse, addictions such as drinking or drugs, historically bad health, or an inability to generate generational wealth due to a poor handling of money.

All these things can be passed down as a hereditary prophecy of sickness, abuse, and financial ailments. Those who are now aware they are dealing with the reverberation of an ancestral curse can use Ancestral worship as a means to heal.

while there may be visible rot within the branches of your family tree, that certainly can’t be said for the entirety of your lineage. There will be other members in your ancestry who did live righteously with good morals and values. These are the predecessors we want to give space, reverence, and life to. These particular ancestors can aid us in dealing with the dark deceased who are causing bad generational karma/trauma to persist.

Generational curses also require some work and accountability on your end here in the physical realm as well. Whether that means attending therapy, or going to places that offer energetic healing like Reiki sessions, or simply being aware enough to recognize these toxic patterns and move past them. Regardless of how you go about solving the problem there will be labor required on your end to ensure neither you nor your family members have to suffer due to the fuck ups of the past bleeding through into the present. 

If the issue is too poisonous for you to handle on your own, you can consider seeing a seasoned spiritual practitioner of your choosing who specializes in breaking or reversing curses. My only advice is to PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH because unfortunately there are a lot of scammers in this arena who prey upon people, so use your common sense when choosing a spiritual practitioner to work with. If you are fearful of being scammed or worried that you are in the midst of being scammed, please kindly reference this guide and protect your time, money, and information.

To avoid scamming all together it’s best to place yourself in a community that actively practices or works in the esoteric spiritual arts. Real genuine people who are passionate about the craft can guide you or put you in contact with a practitioner who is reputable and trustworthy. It's also just good to put yourself out there and place yourself in the rooms of similar and like-minded folk who share a love for witchcraft and spirituality. Either way you won't regret putting yourself out there!

Setting up an Ancestral Altar 

This is probably the most important part of this blog post as it will be a crucial place for you to honor and gain ancestral insight. Altars are a huge part of any spiritual craft regardless of who you are or where you come from. Everybody has their version of an altar or spiritual space.

Altars are a whole talking point unto themselves which will eventually get their own dedicated blog post (so stay tuned) but for the sake of this post I’m just going to keep it breezy. An altar is a surface that siphons and focuses our spiritual intent. Altars can be put together for a wide variety of reasons, as a place to heighten our magical gifts, communicate with deities, or to honor our ancestors.

Most good ancestor altars have a few or all of these components to them: 

    • A photo or photographs of a known ancestor or ancestors for example a photo of deceased grandparen
    • An offering bowl or plate for food
    • A place to burn incense or candles
    • Some kind of container to hold within its libations such as liquor or spirits Items that the deceased may have owned in life like a favorite watch, ring, or pair of glasses
    • A bowl or offering plate to place money into such as coins and dollar bills 
    • A bell

    Some of these components are optional but having a photograph, an offering plate/bowl for food, and a container for libations are a must. These elements attract your ancestors and give them a earthly place to house their souls in the safety you’ve made for them.

    Food offerings as well as libations should be tailored to what you ancestors liked to eat. For instance, let's say you had a grandfather who enjoyed drinking scotch in life, you will want to make sure there is glass for him on the altar. Or maybe there was a great aunt who had an affinity for a specific kind of hard candy. Get creative, figure out what your ancestors liked in life and be sure to have their most favored food and drinks present for them to enjoy.

    Pro-Tip: If you are offering your ancestors perishable foods that go bad when left out  be sure to change the food out regularly to avoid spoiling food. I also recommend composting anything given to the ancestors so you can return that matter to the Earth from whence it came.

    Provide your ancestors offerings at the very least one time weekly. You can do more than one time or as you see fit but once at the very, very, least for the sake of consistency and care.

    I encourage you to get in the habit of burning incense every day or every other day. One, incense cleanse the space and two, the smoke acts as a conduit of ancestral communication. The smoke rising up towards the heavens is a gateway to the ancestral realm. Use this incense ritual as a time to give thanks or to send a prayer your ancestors way.

    A bell is also a fine tool to use in ancestral worship. Investing in one is simple, you can find a lot of cool vintage or even antique bells when you go out thrifting. A bell is useful for both spiritual/magical/witchcraft practices and ancestral work.

    Bells are a multifaceted tool in witchcraft as they can cleanse the space due to their loud ringing and ward against negative energy which dislikes loud high-pitched noises. The bell can also be used to gain your ancestors attention and to call them forth from the ancestral realm and to your aid. This is an especially useful form of communication if you have an urgent or pressing matter that you’d like to bring to your ancestors' awareness.

    Where Should I Place My Ancestral Altar? 

    An Ancestral altar should be a focal point. A central place where your whole family can easily access and commune with their disembodied relatives. A good place for an ancestral altar could be in a living room, against a wall in a hallway, or in a dedicated room all to itself, but it should always be built upon a clean surface whether it's a table, dresser, or shelf.

    I also understand if this is not yet possible for you. Witchcraft, spirituality, and nature-based practices are still regarded as taboo in many households. There are ways to create inconspicuous altars and this is a topic I promise we’ll talk about in it's own dedicated blog post!

    Be diligent in keeping your ancestral altar clean. If you see too much incense piling up or if things get dusty just give your altar a little wipe down. Keep your altar tidy and the energy fresh.  

    What Do I Do if I Don’t Know any of my Ancestors Names or Faces? 

    Not all of us have access to our ancestral history. So how do we connect when we don't know the names or faces of our predecessors?

    While this is a trickier place to start from do not fret there is plenty you can do to find a connection. Here are some things you can do to go about joining and strengthening that ancestral bond you’re wanting to cultivate.

    Get a DNA Test 

    This can help you trace your ancestry thanks to the wonderful gift that is genealogy. While you do have to wait to get results back you will be provided with a genetic overview of where your ancestors hail from. Let's say you get your results and discover you have a lot of Northern European ancestry. This could spark a journey into learning about the history, language, and folk traditions of that area, which can help you reconnect with your ancestors.

    Ask your Relatives 

    This is another great way to start figuring out who's who in the ancestral guessing game. If you feel safe or comfortable enough to reach out to known relatives, they can often help you begin piecing together names and information. If you got a DNA test, most places like ancestry.com will show you the living relatives you have who have also gotten the test and you can easily reach out to them from there.

    What Can and Can’t My Ancestors Do for Me? 

    Our ancestors are incredibly powerful in their heightened state beyond the physical realm. They can aid us in performing incredible feats that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do on our own. However, our ancestors are not our personal slaves and similar to deity work it can be quite rude to ask your ancestors to insta-fix everything when you haven’t shown an initiative in nurturing your relationship with them or yourself for that matter. So, here’s a simple list of what your ancestors can help you achieve versus what is a bit beyond their pay grade.

    Ways your Ancestors can help you: 

    • Provide guidance or advice on a pressing matters regarding career, studies, relationships, and finances.
    • Help you take actionable steps towards your goals.
    • Deliver protection or buffer in a stressful situation or in a place where you feel unsafe.
    • Alert you of incoming changes or help bring awareness to something important that you may not see yet.
    • Bestow you with love, support, and stability in times where you feel sad, alone, or disappointed.
    • Ease you through big transitions such as moving, changing jobs, during break-ups, or through the passing of a family member or friend.

    Ways your Ancestors can’t help you: 

    • They can’t fix a problem for you, but they can give guidance for how to navigate through it.
    • Provide you more money, the perfect relationship, or success but they can help show you the steps to take towards your desires.
    • Do your inner or outer work for you, they can only provide guidance and support.

    Note this list applies with deities as well! This is why I recommend to budding witches to start with ancestral work. Firstly it will teach you a lot about properly conducting yourself with deities, and it will show you how to maintain good etiquette with those from the invisible realms. If we want to benefit from these connections and get the most out of them, we must be accountable and consistent in our efforts to communicate and nurture our relationships both in the living and in the realms of the dead as well as the spaces in which the gods still roam.

    Final Thoughts 

    Ancestral work is a rewarding practice. Take the time and care to cultivate a relationship, learn about your ancestry and establish a place and setting for the sacred routine of worship and prayer.

    In my part 1 overview of deity work, I wrote “Our ancestors in many ways are the sacred manifestation of our DNA, something that we harbor within ourselves that carries the blueprint of our past, present, and future within it.” and I feel it summarizes the importance of nourishing these connections with our predecessors as they can act as guides as we work towards fulfilling our unique destiny and purpose in this life.

    Related Posts:

    Your Primer to Breaking those Pesky Generational Curses

    An Intro to Deity Work for Beginners Part: 1

    Connecting to the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion Guan Yin

    Connecting to the Hindu Goddess of Destruction Kali

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