They run through your veins. Live through you. You may not even think twice about them. Or perhaps you think of them always. Their past affects you. Pieces of them slip through like rain through an open window.
Many studies have proven that the we carry our ancestors in our DNA. Not just genetically, we carry their traumas. And that which we do not carry in our DNA we carry in artifacts, pictures, stories and myths. We are our roots. And through our roots we can heal the past and the future.
Honoring your ancestors can be therapeutic, magical, fun and even become a family tradition. Often times in life we feel disconnected, lost and searching for something. Reconnecting to our roots can help ease this and recreate a feeling of connection not only to ourselves but others. Furthermore, it can provide a deeper understand of who you are.
1. Explore your ancestry. Tell the story of your family. Where does your family come from? How did you get to be here? How did they get here? What were their successes, struggles and sacrifices? Any special traditions, folklore, myths, customs or food? If you are adopted, explore your birth culture, as well as, that of your adoptive family. How have the two affected you? Where do you see yourself?
2. Stories. Ask your parents, grandparents and other family members if they have any memorable family stories. Tell stories that you remembering hearing from your childhood. You can even write them out or create a fun family story scrapbook. If you don’t know any stories, start by researching stories, myths, beliefs and tales from the countries of your ancestors.
3. Pictures. Look through old family pictures and albums. Take your time, look at the people and places. Try connecting to what was going on. What were they feeling, doing? No pictures. Do not worry. You can find old pictures from where your ancestors came from. Do you relate to the pictures? Feel a connection? Or feel nothing?
1. Create a celebration. Often times on the anniversary of the loved one’s death and their birthdays, we grieve the loss of someone we loved. This is a wonderful time to celebrate their life. Cook their favorite dinner. Invite family and friends. And during dinner tell stories of the loved one. You can place their picture in the center of the table and decorate the table with flowers, candles and old personal effects of the person. Celebrate them!
2. Create a day that you honor your deceased family members. Just like the dinner above, create a meal that honors all of your family (is there a particular traditional meal you can make, did your grandma always make gumbo? What was the food your ancestors ate? Have an old family recipe? explore your heritage and family linage through food). Again decorate the table, invite friends and family, tell stories. Look up myths and folklore related to your heritage and share these stories. Celebrate the amazing-ness of your family.
3. Celebrate the holidays of your ancestors. For example, we celebrated Robert Burn’s Day growing up because my father’s family was from Scotland.
Create an ancestral alter- a place in your home that celebrates and honors your ancestors.
1. Set aside a table or space that you can dedicate to your ancestors. Some traditions require a table covered with a white cloth. Go with your gut here. If you have a beautiful heirloom table cloth you want to use. Then use it!
2. Place pictures of deceased family members on the table. This is a table dedicated your ancestors. A celebration of you being here today.
3. Decorate the table with candles, fresh flowers, and family mementos.
4. Some traditions believe that the table needs a fresh glass of water for the ancestral spirits to travel through. If you leave a glass of water, change it regularly.
5. Many traditions leave offerings for their ancestors. Plates of food, alcohol. Other drinks and foods their family members enjoyed in life. Remember if you leave food or drink, don’t let it spoil. You can also leave personal mementos. Such as if your grandma smoked you can leave her cigarettes, toys for children, a favorite book.
Your ancestor altar can be a place of peace and retreat. You might find yourself talking to them about your life or problems. Or cooking a special meal to share with them. You might just sit and mediate in front of your altar. Allow this space to be what it needs to be for you.
Have fun and enjoy!
Give yourself permission to honor and celebrate your family’s history and all the wonderful people who made it possible that you could be here today!