A: Ancestors and Why Ancestral veneration exists
One of the common theme that anthropologists have found with prehistoric religion as well as with some more of the ancient pagan religions that ancestral veneration and respect was a central theme. There were often rituals done specifically to honor the ancestors and there were often altars specifically designed for ancestral worship. There were also shrines to the spirits of the land which have been connected to ancestral veneration.
So a question I asked myself often was what it actually meant for ancestors to be worshiped. They were dead and gone. While I believed they existed and continued to live in some sort of afterlife I never really figured out why it was important. Then one day I was reading a book about traditional witchcraft which explains why if you are worshiping nature and the land that you really are worshiping your ancestors.
The body when it becomes buried or cremated ultimately becomes a part of the earth. The body contains a part of your spirit and your soul. That part is released into the land once you have passed on. It means they are the earth and as a nature worshiping witch I must be honoring my ancestors as well.
I then started to understand the rituals behind the sacrificed king and the blood into the land. By feeding the ancestors we feed the essence and spirits of the land. By placing the sacred king as a sacrifice and having his blood spill into the land the world was fertile for the next year. The worship of the land and the veneration of the ancestors were essentially the core of the ancient beliefs.
Some people have theorized that the spirits of the land were actually the spirits of the ancestors. Some people believe that the elves in various traditions are based on ancestors and spirits of people being sacrificed at specific locations for religious purposes. The identity of the recent sacrifice would merge with the essences and personalities of the other sacrifices and a spirit built of all of them would be born.
Ancestral veneration was important and for me still is important. In some ways it has helped me deal with the losses of several of my loved ones. It also helped me gain some closure with my adoption and loss of that sense of self. Once I started to accept that I could still see and interact with my ancestors each and every day my path became more meaningful and I started to really understand and explore the true nature of underworld religious traditions.
Pentalism is definitely an underworld tradition at it’s heart. There are all sorts of spirits and world that are traveled to and explored in this path. There is an entire mystery set related to the mysteries of the underworld, the soul, and reincarnation. These were actually some of the very first mysteries I experienced within my training in the Temple tradition. It’s also related to my philosophies of the elements which I will get to in another little while.
Why do I practice an underworld tradition? In essence this tradition and practice has come to accept that the core essence of the universe is that there can be no creation with out destruction, no life with out death. I have come to see that there really is no difference between the two, except for their polarity on the pole of life.
In some ways I really started to understand how my rituals and magic are ways to maintain the balance of the creation/destruction from starting to embrace the underworld aspects of my path and of the religions I have studied. Things have started to fall in place and I began to understand the dynamic polarity that allows for fertility of life (the creation and destruction). I started to see the mysteries of nature.
Once I started to worship my ancestors and pray to them I began to feel more complete. My theology and philosophies were really beginning to meld together and become a cohesive whole. I was starting to see my path form some syncretic aspects which has been important to me. It was nice to see how I really was beginning to understand what it means to be a member of a mystery religion.
I have really started to understand why people took such care of their dead. In some ways I can also see now why so many people in America have an issue dealing with death and the loss of a loved one. Other cultures have no real issues with death. They understand it’s necessity and importance.
From worshiping my ancestors I was able to look at the cycle of life in a new way. When I took my physics class and we went to discuss basic astrophysics regarding the formation of stars and the forces involved I started to see the larger picture. I really started to understand what it means to be alive and in this universe. I can’t explain it any better than this image so I will end my post by saying these images when you apply it to the life cycle on earth you see how earth is a microcosm of the macrocosm which is the universe.
Posted on January 6, 2013, in Ancestral worship, Foundations, Pagan Blog Project, Religion, Religious Practice, soul, Spiritual development, Traditional Wichcraft and tagged Eclectic Witchcraft, Hedge witchcraft, Pagan Blog Project, Polytheism, religious witchcraft, Spiritual development, traditional witchcraft, wicca, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.