Your ancestors are your foundation, in Vodou we say that “we are standing on the shoulders of our ancestors” because the foundation they build before us, good and bad, is still part of who you are today. This can be of materialistic value, moral value, cultural value, skills, religion, and faith to mention some things that you might have inherited.
An example is that you inherited a house, which the ones before you had to really sweat blood and tears over to build. It might even go generations further back, where your great great grandfather who was a poor miner had to put pennies aside to pay of a little piece of land that he bought, where he built a cabin.. where now today is seated with big house.
Maybe you didn’t inherit anything materialistic at all, but throughout your line of making the same mistakes over and over again someone finally broke that cycle by conquering the problem and this way elevating your line. Proceeding to fight for that which is good and pass those teachings of good moral to her or his children and eventually, you.
My point is that who your ancestors were, what they did, what they achieved, what they didn’t achieve, their mistakes, the lessons they had to learn, their hard work, their mind, their heart, their actions.. Even if you are your own person, you wouldn’t be the one you are today if it wasn’t for the once before you.
You ancestors are in your blood, in the same way as DNA, and cell memory works, that is stored, re-produced and passed on, throughout generations.
To remember, give respect, and honor the ones before us is a very important part of it all, but it goes deeper than this as well. Because when we serve our ancestors we don’t just serve a memory or image of who they were. We acknowledge their existence back then, and their existence still now, but now present in another form, and that we can call and communicate with that form of existence, that is spirit.
An Important thing about serving your spirits that few people pay attention to that I think is important is the timeframe after someone pass away. It’s one thing to serve your great grandfather who you know passed away for years and it’s another thing to serve your grandmother who just passed away a few months ago. In the spirit world there is no concept of time, but you don’t want to be evoking someone who is dead instead of invoking their spirit.
Now what is the difference between a dead or a spirit? well it’s a term used to define a person that died that still doesn’t know that they are dead, meaning they are still attached to materia in this world, and might not even know that they are dead.. So by calling someone who passed recently you can risk of actually entrap the recently deceased on earth (If the dead even hears you at all) and we don’t want to entrap nobody that is not what a spiritualist does. In Vodou we give the person at least 1 year and 1 day (1:1) before we call on their spirit.
How to serve your ancestors?
There are different ways of doing it, but I am going to give you a basic example. Now based on your background, culture, and religion first gather information about your ancestors. Names, pictures, objects that belonged to them, symbols, religious and/or cultural connections, flags, sword, shields, you personalize it accordingly to what you know they liked in life. If you don’t know anything about your ancestors, maybe you were adopted you can make it as basic as you want, anything you know and also type or you can try to sense your way through. You don’t need to overflow you alter with objects; give it time for the spirits to come to you and speak to you. The most basic is a white alter cloth, a white candle, a bowl of water (the spirits travel through water) and you sit down and you talk to your ancestors as you would talk to any other living person, like they are there, present with you, even if you don’t feel anything.
You light the candle and you can say something like “In the name of my ancestors, you who are in my blood, my roots of who I come from, who watch over me, who guide me, who helps me, I call you to acknowledge your existence, to pay my honor and respect and to let you know that I am ready to serve you. May we connect; speak to me, come into my dreams, let me get to know you more, let me hear you let me see you, sense you, understand you, so I can even serve you better.”
This is the way I would do it, you don't have to go exactly by my words, you can- but the more it comes from your heart, the better.
In Vodou we serve our ancestors on a Monday, the beginning of the week. But you can go talk to them whenever you feel like it. When you in joy, when you in sorrow, when you in pain, when you in a good mood or bad mood. Remember to at least attain contact with your ancestors once a week, so every time you light that candle and speak you feel the connection gets stronger and stronger. Eventually they will respond.
Have a notebook by your bed, pay attention in your life you will see they will give you signs and direct you.
Then after a few times when you feel a little more connected you can start giving offerings, like coffee, drinks (like alcohol vodka, rum – remember alcohol is a fluid as well and spirits travel through fluid – you ever considered why alcohol is called “spirit”? Think about that), food from your culture, share food once in a while from your dinner, this is service. This way you involve them and invite them to take part of the physical world, but you don’t entrap them, they are free to come and go as they please and you will see that your life will improve in many different ways.
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