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The Beginner's Guide to Ancestor Veneration

The Beginner's Guide to Ancestor Veneration

Shauna Toomer
20.7.2022

Intro

For me, the day started out pretty rough. I won’t go into much detail, but I was tired and uncomfortable. Lost. Feeling a little low then made to feel lower when I was only trying to make it through the day. Gwen was always my comfort. Her smell. Her smile. Her soul. The bold burgundy kaftan that looked like Africa mixed with a little zebra and a whole a lot of cheetah print. Maybe leopard. Like hot grits and cheese eggs with hot bacon and toast at 7 am on a summer morning kind of comfort. She prayed me to sleep many of nights. Thanked God for the birds, the bees, and the trees – fell asleep. Woke up and picked up where she left off. Pressure!

We don’t pray to our ancestors; we speak to them
Common Questions

How do I honor my ancestors?

What if I don’t know who they are?

What if I don’t like one of them?

Why?

 

Gwen was always my comfort. Her smell. Her smile. Her soul.The bold burgundy kaftan that looked like Africa mixed with a little zebra and a whole a lot of cheetah print. Maybe leopard. Like hot grits and cheese eggs with hot bacon and toast at 7 am on a summer morning kind of comfort. She prayed me to sleep many of nights. Thanked God for the birds, the bees, and the trees – fell asleep. Woke up and picked up where she left off. Pressure!

I decided to go see her this day. It was my first time visiting since her funeral and couldn’t remember where she was buried. I roamed and roamed until I finally sat with my grandfather - noticing a woman tending to plots on the other side of the cemetery.

“Hey granddad! Can you tell grandma I need some comfort?” I knew I was supposed to be uncomfortable in my transition so I expressed my desire for love instead, told them all that was going on with me and poured outa can of Pepsi. Not long after, the woman from the other side of the cemetery parked her car in front of me and started walking my way.

She looked at me and said, “God told me you needed some love!”Cue the waterworks.

After that experience I knew ancestor veneration was real. So,I did my research. I read books and articles, kind of how you’re doing now! I joinedFacebook groups and asked questions. One of the first things, I learned is: It really ain’t that complicated and don’t make it that way.

 

What is ancestor veneration?

Ancestor veneration is simply honoring and showing a deep respect and love for your ancestors. Contrary to popular belief, veneration is not worship. It is showing gratitude for their work in both the physical and spiritual realms.

Why?

Because they work in our favor. Nobody can tell me that my ancestors don’t go straight to God like, “Yo! I need you for this one.” So, I thank them for working on my behalf.

How do I honor my ancestors?

By healing, showing gratitude and living your best damn life.By cooking their favorite meals and passing down their recipes. Listening to their favorite artists and telling their stories. By keeping their names and history alive.

How do I set up an altar?

Start with the ones you know and trust. Adopted or biological – they are working in your favor. Find a space that is low in traffic – cleanse it physically and spiritually- and declare it your sacred space and set up your altar.

Start with a white altar cloth, glass of water, a white tea light candle (fire element), incense (air element) and white flowers. Some of your ancestors may not have liked flowers – that’s fine choose something else to represent the earth, like a plant or crystals. If your ancestor had a favorite scent or if you’re drawn to a particular smell – choose that one for your incense. Earthy smells always work for mine.

A photo or photos–WITHOUT LIVING PEOPLE.  In the event you don’t have any photos, write their names on a piece of brown paper bag. If you don’t know their names – that’s fine too.

Once I have everything set up. I light my candle and incense, introduce myself and “I welcome in my ancestors known and unknown that are for my greatest and highest good.” Then I call on the names of the ones I know and trust. I thank God for allowing me to work with them in both the flesh and spiritually and thank them for all their work. If I need anything, I ask. I talk about whatever is on my heart and I end with more gratitude. You can spend time with while journaling, reading, watching cartoons, eating, the options are endless and dependent upon you and your ancestors.

 You don’t have to say what I say. Follow your spirit. If you found an invocation online that speaks to you – use it! I found this one not long ago.

 

Now as you start to go further into your journey, you’ll start to give offerings such as coffee, fresh flowers, cooked food, liquor, tobacco, ancestor money, whatever your people like! If you don’t know what they like – ask.They will show you. Everything placed on the altar should be new (unless the item belonged to them) and new and you can't take them back! 

What if I don’t know my ancestors?

I see this a lot amongst people within the adopted community. Adopted or biological – they are still your family – especially if they were good to you. An adopted grandmother is still your grandmother so honor her if that works for you. If you want to connect deeper into your lineage.Again, “I welcome in my ancestors known and unknown that are for my GREATEST and HIGHEST good.” Then let them you know you’d like to connect.

What if I don’t like one of them?

First and foremost – do your healing work. Ask yourself why you don’t like this person? If they’re the cause of traumatic experiences and you don’t trust them – don’t work with them. If you all had an issue that you can get past – call on them when necessary – or not. The choice is completely up to you. Set your boundaries and speak them out loud.  

As you grow, so will your practices. Don’t rush. Take it slow and learn all you can. Keep a notebook or two and take notes. There is always something to learn. Be open and take what resonates and leave what does not.

 

Check out my mock altar on instagram!