Category Archives: Spirit Guides

Ancestor Oil- a few ancestral workings and a prayer

Ancestor Oil

Ancestor Oil

Today I am going to talk to you a bit about my ancestor oil and a bit about ancestor veneration since they are connected.  This oil was crafted to be a tool in ancestral veneration. This oil was created to be used as an offering to your ancestors.  Its a perfect daily offering.

The herbs that create this mixture all have associations with the underworld, the dead, and or funeral rites.   Funeral rites and working with the dead is a powerful spiritual practice that crosses many cultures.  There were a lot of herbs and oils with those associations. It was hard to make my choice on which oils and herbs I could have used.  I personally couldn’t make the choice of which herbs to use.  I didn’t bother fighting it either.

I simply asked my ancestors and the ancestral spirits what they wanted to have in the oil.  It was meant for them so they should have choice in what goes into the blend.  So in essence I was simply the vessel for this ancestral working.  The spirits guided me to make this oil, from the herbs chosen to the prayer used and the way it was charged.  All of the creation of this oil was directed by the ancestral spirits.

This oil like all of my oils can also be worn as a perfume.  I use it when I want to feel close to my ancestors.  Its literally a way you can honor your ancestors in daily life with out a lot of ceremony.   As you inhale the scent you are inhaling blessings of ancestral spirits.  If you apply it with a prayer you have  This oil was charged on my ancestral altar for a month before it was bottled.  So for this reason its a perfect oil for daily workings.

Ancestral veneration is a major part of my spiritual paths and practices.  Ancestral veneration is the practice of honoring your dead.  Your ancestors are those who have gone before you the recent dead and the long lost dead.   In essence ancestral veneration is working with the dead, but it is also the most basic and earliest form of spiritual practice known to man.

In many cultures the dead are not really gone from this life.  They are still present in a spirit form.  The practice of ancestral veneration in some cultures keeps them here.  In some of these cultures there really is no difference between the world of the physical and the world of the spirit, so its easy for spirits to be both in their world and in our own world.  By offering them water, and food from our plates we provide them nourishment and the energy that they need to keep us protected and to watch over us.

In death like in life our family is always there for us.  We give them offerings and gifts and they help us out.  The relationships we had in life do not end at death.  They simply change forms and require a bit of a different approach.  It is for this reason that the first spirits many paths teach you to work with are your own ancestors.  They will help you out when no other spirit will.  The powers and ties of the blood and heart are that strong.

Ancestral prayers are a very simple way to have a daily practice.  This practice not only builds your own connection to the spirits and the spirit world but will also help you start to develop a sense of your own power and energy.  The more you pray the more energy you build up.  The more you will be able to reach spirits and the easier it will be to sense when they are there.  Its a very simple thing to pray to your ancestors.

Daily practice helps us become more aware spiritually and helps us to become our true selves and be full of our own power.  Daily prayers to our ancestors help us deal with the losses we face when loved ones die and it helps us to remember that they are still here still with us even if we can’t see them.

Here is a simple ancestor prayer that you can use in your daily practice.

Ancestor Prayer

Blessed ancestors

Those who have gone before

I welcome you this day

May you guide me, protect me and may your love be free

May you open the roads before me and may your wisdom guide me

Blessed ancestors

I welcome you this day

Simple ancestor working:

Working with ancestors does not have to be complicated.  You do not need to set up a formal ritual circle and invoke gods or spirits.  The prayer mentioned above is really all you need to start working with your ancestors.  If you have space an altar and candles with that prayer is all you need.  It does not need to be formal.  No head bowing, no feelings of unworthiness.  Just you, the altar, your ancestors.  That’s all you need.

Here is a simple ritual for working with your ancestors:
Materials:
White candle
Bowl of water
Ancestor Oil

Ritual:
Take the ancestor oil and dab a drop or two on the candle.
Rub the oil from the bottom to the top thinking about your ancestors
Light the candle
State the prayer from above
Fill the bowl with a bit of water offering them a cool drink
Sit there and feel the love and power of the ancestors
After a few minutes extinguish the candle
Either keep the water in the bowl so your ancestors have fresh drink or pour it into the earth as an offering to the earth our central ancestor

You can get your ancestor oil here:

Ancestor Oil by Mystic Echoes

Book Review: Candle and the Crossroads by Orion Foxwood

The Candle and the Crossroads:

A book of Appalachian Conjure And Southern Rootwork

Candle and the Crossroads

This is one of the most powerful books I have read in recent history on spirituality in general.  While yes the book focuses on Rootwork and Conjure as the author knows them, the book is highly spiritually focused.  For me even if I don’t put all of the information into practice, the components of the book that made me question spirituality and what it means were well worth the investment.

So to begin my review I have to say that even if you don’t follow any magical spiritual path as a guide for spirituality any one of any path can get something out of it.  I would even recommend this book to Christians who are looking to deepen their personal spirituality and connection to their religion.  Everyone on any path in life can get something out of this book.  The connection to your own spirit that this book teaches us to develop is important for everyone and everything.

If you are looking for a book on spells you wont find them in this book.  There are several workings discussed but actual spell work for money, wealth, love, etc are not really seen in this book.  There are magical techniques for baths and creating mojos as well as connecting to spirits in this book.    So there is magic with in the book but not necessarily spells for luck, love or mney drawing as most people are familiar with.

The focus on this book is the spiritual component of Hoodoo and Conjure rather than the spells.  Too often people want to jump into the spells and workings of magic without the spirit component and thus they miss a huge part of the Southern Conjure traditions.  This book provides that spiritual information.  It is that focus which sets this book aside from others.

This is one book I am going to be referencing again and again.  There are several exercises, meditations, and self questions that I am going to be looking at periodically.  There are many things in this book that made me think and start to evaluate my personal path and practices.  For this reason I am going to be using this as a reference and guide to develop my own connection to my spirituality and my own personal spirit.

The first chapter in the book is all about the foundation of this practice.  Here we learn the authors experiences and his history with the practice as he knows it.  This is where we see how his experiences and lessons in life and explains the reasons why he wrote this book.  He mentions what the foundations of his personal magical practice are.  By knowing this information you can better understand the worldview and practices presented in the rest of the book.

The second chapter is about the starting of finding your paths to the spirit that is you.  The core teaching of this book is that humans are spirits as well.  We are spirits having a physical existence as humans.  In the teachings of this book and worldview if you start to realize this you will not only come into your own power but also start be be more whole yourself.    This chapter starts a basic discussion on types of spirits that walk with us as well as types of spiritual paths.  After talking about the paths there are also descriptions on how we are called to find our paths including symptoms of the different calls.

The third chapter is short but very important.  Here is where we get into the history of the actual practices that formed Southern Conjure as the author knows it.  The author mentions slavery and African traditions and their importance in the tradition.  Here we see what Conjure really is about and how it survives over the years.  There are warnings in this chapter about working with the spirits of Conjure and how powerful they are.  There is a quote that illustrates the power and spirirt of Conjure work very well that I am going to share with you here.:

“If you are not willing to cry for, be angry for, pray for, and ask help of its spirits, then stay away from this work.  These spirits went through hell when they first came to America in boats of flesh.  No one can change this root, and why would we want to?

If you want to find the root that cannot be bound, then then root spirit of conjure is for you.  If you want to grow your spirit from a place of truth and spirit power then conjure is for you.  If you want to reach deep and pray high, then welcome to this deep well of spirit and spiritual nuturance.

But come through the door blessing and praying for the ancestors that suffered.  This builds a bridge of grace to the spirit world and begins to establish the essence and flavor of the spirits that come when you conjure.”-Orion Foxwood Conjure and the Crossroads

The rest of the chapter focused on what the Root of conjure and the cultural mixtures that made up his conjure.  The author mentions honoring his own Roots and how he works with them.  After mentioning the spirits of African, Native American, and European folk practices who settled in that area he goes into the roles that Conjure played in that culture and still continues to play to this day.

The fourth chapter is about the Nature and Power of conjure.  Here the author gets into the fact that Conjure does have ties to Christian spirituality and Christian religions.  He addresses that many conjures use words like God and Creator and occasionally Maker.  Here we see the power in conjure comes from the source of creation and the power to create which resides in our own personal spirit.  The author gets into a few types of spirits that are connected to this power.  One of them being the God of Christianity and divine beings.  The author is specific in that for the reader and seeker that it doesn’t have to be the God of Christianity but it is the Source of all creation and all essence which is a spirit of sorts.

This is where we first start to actually get introduced into some of the techniques in this practice.  The author goes into several different ways that conjure works with spirit.  These include prayer, baths, blessings, healing, and cleansing.  After starting the basics on techniques we are introduced to a few of the different types of spirits that are worked with in conjure.

Chapter five was probably my favorite chapter in the book.  Its for me really the most important chapter in the book.  This is the chapter that focuses on growing our spirit.  The author had previously mentioned that working with ones own spirit and knowing ones own spirit was the most important thing in conjure.  Here we finally learn to address the spirit and work with our spirit.

The best part of this chapter was the checklist on the attumement to our spirit.   Not only does the author give a list of questions and symptoms of disconnect with our spirit but he provides remedies to help fix the situation.   For me this was really the way for me to start to see how connected I am to my own spirit and what I can do to fix it.  The author does mention that some of those ailments are actual symptoms of health issues (depression, anxiety and other mental health issues) and if you answered yes to many of them that you should seek professional help.  For me that disclaimer and statement shows the connection between the mind, the body, and the spirit and how mental health can effect spiritual health.

This section provided me with the most enlightenment.  It gave me tools to adjust and start working on my own personal spiritual path and development. One of the reasons I had started to explore Conjure and Rootwork was for a spiritual connection and a way to deepen and develop my spirituality beyond the basic 101 books.  Here I have tools to find what I was missing and develop my path.  The chapter ends with providing you with the steps to growing in your spirit which is what you need to do after you start the work of attuning to your own spirit.

Chapter six is about maintain spiritual health.  The main focus on this chapter is spiritual cleansing and cleaning.  The author explains how important is is to cleanse ourselves from the different forces in our lives that can cause spiritual clutter.  He told a story of a client that his mother had to illustrate the issue.  The author ends with a working for spiritual cleansing.   This provides the start of our practical conjure spirit workings.

Chapter seven is about fixing or attracting good spirits to you.  Here we learn how actions we take and the way we live our life sends signals to spirit.  One of the first lessons in this chapter is that often we focus on our lack of something when we want something then more often than not we are going to be stuck with more of what we do not have.  The author then begins to go into how we send images and messages to spirit so we can attract what we actually want.

The author then starts getting information on working on attracting the right spirits.  The first real focus is on a prosperity spirit.  The author provides a recipe or a ritual working outline to attract a prosperous spirit.  One thing this working outlines is that in Conjure everything is spirit and everything has spirit.  If you can accept that view and work with it then you are going to work conjure.

After the pot the author talks about maintain the spirit and provides steps and techniques to keep spirit alive.  The first part of this practice is the establishment of an altar.  The author continues with a ritual working for the altar set up and the consecration of the altar, yourself, and your home.  While the workings are not exact they provide you an outline to make the conjure your own.  In the end you must be the one to do the work.

Chapter eight was probably my second favorite chapter in the book.  One thing I have personally been interested in for years has been working with graveyards and various forms of graveyard magic.  This book is the first book I have seen that addresses this practice.  Its considered Taboo in many modern magical traditions yet many acknowledge that there is strong power in the graveyard.  Finding this chapter thrilled me to the core.  It started to lift the veil on these workings.

There is so much in this chapter that covering the techniques and information would be a review in itself.  I will say the author provides information on the power of the graveyard works and why we should work with graveyards.  He provides information on working with graveyard spirits as well as how to gather graveyard dirt and work with graveyard dirt.  The author spends the other half of the chapter talking about working with our ancestors and providing ways to honor them and work with them in our home and life.

Chapter nine is an interesting chapter.  It covers ways to enter into the spirit world as well as working with a spirit unique to his tradition and practice.  The technique discussed I found most interesting and will most likely try myself was the concept of tapping or knocking.  Its essentially like you are knocking on the door to the spirit world like you would a regular door.    After tapping and knocking he covers river magic as well as fire and candle access to the spirit world.  Here there is a working for river magic specifically outlined.

The last part of the chapter includes a ritual and a poem I am likely to work into ritual work.  Here is where the author teaches us about the Dark Ridder and gives us a way to introduce ourselves to him and work with him.  The spirit known as the dark rider had been mentioned earlier in the book as a traditional spirit but not much was told about him until now.  The author does make it clear that what he shows us is not the full formula for encountering this spirit.  The working he provides is an introduction to the spirit and nothing more.

Chapter ten is the final chapter in the book.  In some ways it works very much like a conclusion focusing on working the Root or working the spirit which is the force of Conjure and Root work. This is how the chapter starts anyway.  It is here we see the final outline of the techniques and practices covered in the book to develop and connect with our spirit.  The chapter ends with talking about a few specific plant spirits and with a formula for making a spirit bag.

This book provides several powerful tools for any spiritual tradition.  In the end this book illustrates not only the power of Conjure and Southern Rootwork but also the power of working from your own spirit.  The author provides an excellent introduction to the spiritual components of Rootwork and Conjure while also providing a few practical workings in the magical sense.

 

 

 

 

 

Realizing teachings from spirits

So here is something interesting I thought of recently. I started making my own incense for different workings 10 years ago. At the time I had no recipes. I had no books to guide me other than Cunningham’s herbal encyclopedia and magical herbalism.

I had a mortar and pestal and I had some herbs on hand for different workings (but I was mostly clueless at the time). I realize now that really the ones who taught me how to make incense were not the books. They were in fact the spirits of the plants. Which is why my recipes and practices are as effective and as powerful as they are.

I mention this now because there have been times I have mentioned that the spirits really haven’t taught me all that much. I look back and realize now that the lessons were much more subtle. They actually were more my partners than anything else.

Just like how I’ve always listened to the spirits of the land when it comes to my practice on the sabbats. I’ve always worked and done them really when it felt more energetically appropriate for me and the land that I live on.

The apartment I currently live in was gifted by the spirits of this land. After we left our viewing I said a simple prayer to those spirits asking them that the apartment go to the ones who need it the most, and the right people for the land. The next morning I get a call saying we have the apartment. If that is not spirits working for me and with me, guiding me I dont know what is.

Starting Ancestral work

Starting Ancestral Work

Introduction:

What is Ancestral Veneration and Ancestral Work

Ancestral Veneration is one of the most ancient religious and spiritual practices. The respect and belief in an afterlife as well as honoring ancestors can be traced back to paleolithic mankind. It is believed that honoring our ancestors was the first religious and spiritual form of ritual work. From ways the dead were buried to views of the afterlife ancestors and the dead were never far from the mind of our paleolithic ancestors, and for some this truth remains today.

Ancestral veneration is not worshiping our ancestors, at least not in the common sense of worship. Ancestral veneration is more like honoring the dead in a respectful way. Its a belief that they are still with us in a spirit form. That they can hear us and can effect our lives from the other side. Its a belief that our ancestors like other spirits can help us become the best person we can be and to live the life that we really want and desire.

There are exchanges of offerings and gifts. This isn’t worship. In some ways I think of it like when I put a flower on my ancestors grave. Its giving something to them to signify that you remember them and care for them. These gifts can be basically anything. Though some cultures do have rules against some items being given to different spirits.
In some cultures flowers are only for the dead and it’s ok to leave offerings to the dead till they rot as this signifies they have taken everything. In other cultures and practices only water is offered to the dead. Even Christianity has mention of the value of prayer for the dead. Working with and honoring our ancestors is a powerful spiritual path and there are many ways to go about it.

The act of the gift and the offering is the important thing though. Its through these exchanges that relationships with our ancestors can develop and grow. Its believed that a gift will ensure a gift. Its also believed that because the dead and our ancestors are beyond the veil they have access to energy and powers of the universe that we don’t so by asking them to help us in our work and our lives they can tap into those energies for us. Granted they dont help us unless we help ourselves. So the gifts symbolize our part to do our work.

Many religions and traditions have celebrations and days of the dead. Halloween, All saints and All Souls day, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos(Mexican Day of the dead), The Bon Festival (Japan), and Pitru Paksha (Fortnight of the Ancestors-Hindu) are different festivals in different cultures. They have one thing in common. They are all festivals to honor the dead and the ancestors. These are only a handful of celebrations that exist to celebrate ancestors and the dead. The point is that the concept of honoring the dead is still alive and well in this world today.

The practice of honoring the dead is starting to become more common in Pagan practices today as well. Part of that is that many of us are reclaiming this practice. It was a part of ancient pagan traditions, so the practice was largely destroyed in the west. For many reclaiming ancestral veneration as a part of our practice not only connects us to our more recent ancestors and keeps our passed loved ones in our lives, but it also allows us to reach the deepest ancestors we have which can be powerful guides for those starting down pagan paths.

Personal Development of Ancestor work

One of the reasons I am writing this post today is in honor of a new ancestor. A loved one of mine has just crossed the veil. It is this passing that has once again made me think about working with my ancestors and how is really always been a central part of my practice. I haven’t always considered the contact with my ancestors and the shrines to my past loved ones ancestral veneration. I thought it was simply remembering them and keeping them alive.

Ancestor veneration is a large part of my practice and spiritual work. My ancestors have a lot to teach me. I have an ancestor altar that I pray at everyday. While it is a strong part of my practice these days, ancestral veneration and honoring has not always been a large part of my path. In fact it was at one point something I really only did on the festival of the dead (Samhain) as that was the focus. I thought that was really all that was needed, and at the time maybe that was for my best.

When I started to practice witchcraft I had recently lost my Grandmother. Many of the psychics and readings I had done at the time confirmed that she was staying close to me as a spirit guide (I was having dreams of her). So I started working with my ancestors through a single ancestor as a spirit guide. That was 17 years ago. Now I have an altar to all my ancestors as I have learned that any of our ancestors can be our guides and guardians.

Originally I didn’t offer any prayers, or much to my ancestors. I would simply say hello to them when I needed to feel their presence. I had a place of memory for them where I could see them and keep them in my life. Then when I started to explore traditional witchcraft as a religious and spiritual practice I heard of the concept of giving them offerings and having shrines and altars to them. So I created one and started an ancestral prayer working.

The practice with ancestral veneration got even deeper when I started to explore Germanic paganism and found I had Germanic ancestry. When I read how they honored their ancestors and the powers of wyrd and Oorlog I decided that I had to develop my relationship even further. So I started to work them into Germanic rites and rituals through the phrases “The Alfar and the Disir”

There was a time when I stopped practicing basically everything. Then I started to explore Hoodoo. My interest and desires to understand magic and witchcraft returned. Through this I found more focus on ancestors and honoring your culture. I found that ancestors will be powerful allies in spells as well as in meditations and trance work. So through Hoodoo my work with my ancestors started to develop further and I learned new prayers to use for my ancestors.

Now today I have a prayer I say to them every morning and I have a prayer I say every evening to my ancestors. I give them offerings when I perform rituals and I invite them into my ritual circles. They have a part of my day to day life and my spiritual life. I couldn’t imagine my spiritual work without my ancestors at all. They are always there for me and they always will be. I may not be able to physically hold them and see them, but when I need them I can feel them and I know they are always there for me.

The types of ancestors:

Being adopted my ancestors actually come in different forms and types. Not all of my ancestors are of the blood. Some are of the spirit and some are of the heart. I have legal blood ancestors and blood ancestors. I have ancestors in all of my families that I don’t know but are my allies through the bonds of the heart and the spirit. I even have ancestors that are not really in my family at all but are in my spiritual family. All of these ancestors have roles to play in my life and I honor them all.

I dont consider ancestors limited to just the blood and the heart though.This post is going to discuss the different ancestors I have through my adoption and my spiritual practices and how I can honor and work with each of them. For the longest time I didn’t engage in ancestral veneration because of my adoption. I wasn’t sure if I should honor my ancestors of my adoption, my foster family, or my biological family. Thinking about this also was painful so while I wanted to honor my ancestors I didn’t go about it until I had answered my confusion.
How I came to see the types of Ancestors

That was how I came to see the different ancestral lines. One year I went to the local Pagan Pride day. I typically attend a few of the workshops that go on. This year there was one about ancestral work and contacting your ancestors. The key component of that workshop was a meditation on ancestral lines. During this meditation I saw three lines of ancestral blood flowing from my body. There was a fourth that was some what gray at the time and today its now clear.

It was then I knew that I was to honor all of my ancestors. Those of my foster family, my blood or biological family, and my adoptive family. It was through this work that I came to see that there are many different types of ancestors and that not everyone will have access to blood ancestors. Through these meditations and concepts I came to see that there are
four primary types of ancestral allies: You have your ancestors of the Blood, your ancestors of the heart, and the ancestors of the spirit. Adoptive ancestors are actually a mixture of two types which I will get into in the next sections as well as being their own type of ancestor.

Ancestors of The Blood

Every one is familiar with the concept of blood ancestors. These are those of your family or blood line that goes back generations. These are the strongest allies that one can have. These are the ancestors that everyone thinks about when they think of ancestors. Ancestors of the blood also include ancestors gained through marriage and long term committed relationships. When I got engaged to my fiance his ancestors joined mine and mine his. We are a family unit. These ancestors go back generations on each side. So the lines of blood ancestors are very long.

These are the strongest allies that you can have as a spirit. They are the ones that have your best interest at heart. Through the strands of Fate, and the workings of Wyrd we are always directly connected to our ancestors. Our actions reflect them as much as their actions reflect on us. So we need to honor them in our lives and we need to keep them close to us. Before any other spirit is petitioned the ancestors will work stronger for you and faster for you. There is little that is stronger than the power of the blood.

Adoptive Ancestors

For me I also have my adoptive ancestors, These are the ancestors of my adoptive family. They are the family that raised me and that belongs to me. In ancient cultures at times the roles of the blood ancestors would be replaced by the foster and or adoptive family. In my case I never considered them to replace the blood ancestors at all. I considered them additional ancestors that I was blessed to have.

We have no physical blood that ties us. However to all of the world and all legal meanings they are my flesh and blood. That is how I feel about them as well. In all honesty at times they are more my family than my blood and biological family simply because I have minimal contact and my relationship with that family is in its infancy (until recently was non existent). Which is why they are both ancestors of the blood and of the heart. The time that they spent raising me and being involved in my life can not be undone.

They gave their blood, sweat, and tears to me. They are for my my most powerful allies. They have been there for me more than the blood ancestors. They were the first ancestors I have contacted and they were the first ones to make themselves known to me. This is the ancestral line that has been the strongest for me. My blood ancestral work is focused on more ancient pagan ancestor while my adoptive ancestral work is more with Saint and angel work (Hoodoo influences as well).

It is because my adoptive Ancestors gave so much of their blood, sweat, and tears into my life and that they took me in they are also ancestors of the heart. They are of the blood because of the family ties and concepts but of the heart because there is no physical blood. Its a spiritual and memory based blood love. The bond of the heart here shows how even just being in a family for a short while can create strong family bonds.

Ancestors of the Heart

Those of the heart are the family that has passed that are not connected through marriage or blood or even legal adoption. In my case this is where my foster family lies. They did not adopt me but are still my family. I have lost several members of that family and they were all close to me. They are now my ancestors and they watch over me. Our bond is somewhat stronger than blood or law.

These ancestors are some of my more recent ancestors. It was my Uncle Cleve’s passing which made me think about ancestors. He was my foster uncle and is an ancestor of my heart. His two brothers are also my ancestors here. I have a Grandfather here as well. To them and to me the fact that I did not live with them, and was not legally a part of the family after my adoption never mattered. I never stopped being their family. That is what the ancestors of the heart are all about.

The ancestors of the heart are those that have passed on we considered family even if there was no blood between you. These can be friends you thought of as brothers and sisters, close friends and even those who you would consider “father”or “mother” figures. If you feel that they were and are apart of your family in your heart than they are your family and are your ancestors. Never let anyone else tell you any different.

Ancestors of the Spirit:

Finally there are ancestors of the spirit. For me I consider any Occultist, Witch, and Magician who worked hard to preserve the magical and spiritual arts are my spiritual ancestors. Even though I dont agree with all of their teachings and philosophies people like Gerald Gardner, Aliester Crowley, Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, and many others put a lot of work into making magical spirituality acceptable and part of our day to day lives again. Those are a few of my spiritual ancestors as a witch based on the practices I have taken into my practice.

As I explore Hoodoo and other magical systems other spiritual ancestors will come into my practice. For example Marie Laveau is a famous Hoodoo worker in New Orleans. In some respects I could consider her a spiritual ancestor. Other ancestors in the case of Hoodoo would in general be any one who struggled to keep African American spiritual heritage alive through Hoodoo and Rootwork. When a teacher passes I would add them to the spiritual ancestors as well.

You can also have ancestors of the spirit when you are spiritually adopted into a tradition. There are many religions and paths where they are only open to people of a specific culture. Occasionally through the practice of spiritual adoption outsiders are initiated and welcome into that spiritual family. The ancestors of your initiator in these situations become your ancestors and guides as well. It is a spiritual family you have entered into and like all families they will help you and work with you if you honor them as taught.

Working with your ancestors

Now that we have covered the types of ancestors out there and I have mentioned the importance of working with your ancestors its time to actually start thinking about how we can work with them. Why do we work with them, and what the best ways of working with them are.

There are three primary ways aside from meditation and spirit travel work that a person can work with their ancestors. These three forms are the altar, prayers, and offerings. They work well together and serve as a starting point for building power with your ancestral allies. Unless one is experienced in astral travel and spirit communication using those tools right away to work with your ancestors is not the best of ideas. Prayers and altar work are all you really need.

The altar

Really when it comes to working with your ancestors the only real must do I have found is having an altar of some sort where you can offer prayers and other items to them as you get to know them. These altars can evolve and change over time. The point of the altar is to serve as a focal point in your work. The altar is a place for you to offer your prayers and your gifts to them.

Your altar doesn’t need to be fancy. Many people start off not knowing any of their ancestors. In which case a candle, a cup for water, and a plate for offerings is all you would need to contact them. If you know your passed on loved ones and you have photos of them you can and should add those photos to the altar.

The altar also serves as a place of remembrance of the dead. So its a place to put items that make you think of your ancestors as well as their photos. You want it to look nice and appealing. This is going to be their home for you in your house and their place in your life. So its also important to keep the altar neat looking.

Here are some examples of my own ancestral altars and how its changed over time:
Ancestor altar alpha

Ancestor Altar 2

Ancestor altar

As you can see by looking at these altars they have changed over time. As they have changed so has my relationship with my ancestors evolved. The reason I wanted to show you the evolution of the altar is that I want you all to know that you can let your altar change over time. Its not meant to be a static thing! Its meant to be something that evolves with you and with your relationship with the spirits!

There are no limits on your ancestral altar. Let their spirits come through. There are reasons for the symbols I have placed on my altars. They grew as my focus and my relationships grew. One thing has always been common though-the focus has been on remembering them and keeping their memories alive in my life.

Ancestral Prayers

The best way to work with your ancestors even before starting an altar is simply to pray to them. Prayers to your ancestors aren’t really any different than prayers for gods and spirit guides. You are simply having a conversation with your ancestors. Prayers are how we can communicate with them directly and its our best way to communicate with them. They can communicate with us in different ways (dreams, scents, meditations, sudden insights etc) but we can really only speak to them through prayers.

The easiest prayer is simply:
“Blessed Ancestors I welcome you into my life. May you bless and guide me and may you teach me what you yourself can”

That’s all your prayers to your ancestors need to be. You dont need to praise them. You don’t need to have a fancy invocation. You simply can address them as your ancestors and they will listen to you. You dont even really need to ask for a blessing. You could simply say something along the lines of:
“Good Morning Ancestors. I welcome you this day”.

All you are doing with your prayers is acknowledging that they exist and that they are apart of your world. By giving them a simple welcome everyday you will start to feel their presence build up. You will begin to know them and feel them like you do can with other spirits and beings that you work with. The more attention you give them the more you will notice them.

Prayers can be more complex and verbose. My personal prayers evolved from a simple Hello and welcome to a full blessing and daily petition for them to be here. There is a bit of praise and there is a bit of thanks. These prayers are offered twice daily. I feel that they flowed from me into the written form when I was channeling spirits and writing prayers for them. My ancestors let me know what they wanted.

Offerings and Gifts

The final way that we can work with our ancestors is in offerings and gifts. These gifts are ways that we say thank you and show our appreciation to them. There are many ways types of gifts that can be given to our ancestors. You can give your ancestor basically anything you would give yourself or a person. They are still family and they are still people.

For myself I consider flowers on graves a gift to them. I also place flowers on the altars every so often as remembrances of them. I try and give them their favorite flowers. I also try and give them their favorite things. For my grandmother I will think of her when I go bowling and send her some of that energy as play and a memory of our times together.

On holidays I will set aside a portion of the food on my plate for my ancestors. I will let it sit till the end and eat that last. They eat the essence of that portion while I eat my meal. When I have finished the portion for me they will have had their fill and I can take nourishment from the food. Other cultures burn food offerings to ancestors and spirits. Some burry the food in the yard. Other throw it into the woods for animals to eat.

There are some taboos in various cultures about what can and can’t be given to ancestors and the dead. If you belong to a specific culture, religion, and or tradition I suggest that you look into ways that they honor the dead. By honoring the traditions of your culture, your religion and your tradition you are honoring your ancestors in that way as well. These traditions after all were ancestral in many cases.

Conclusion:

This post has covered my own discovery into the importance of ancestral veneration. It has covered the types of ancestors and a few of the ways that we can work with our ancestors. Your ancestors are part of who you are. They are powerful allies that can teach you things you wouldn’t imagine and who can be there for you in ways none else can. Your ancestors are still here in this life and in this world just in a different form.

There are many ways to work with them. Once you start working with them you will find that there are many more ways and reasons to work with them. I’ve been working with my ancestors actively for several years and my relationships with them continue to grow and develop. I am constantly learning new reasons to honor them and new ways of working with them. The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn.

These allies seem to be the ones that develop the most as I develop spiritually. The more I understand spiritual and magical practices the stronger they seem to become and the more things we seem to be able to so together. Its my hope that any one who has read this will start to develop their own relationships with their ancestors and start to find the power and comfort in ancestral grace and guidance.

Ancestral Veneration: What it is, types of ancestors, and working with them

Ancestors:
What Types there are and How to work with them

Introduction:

What is Ancestral Veneration

Ancestral Veneration is one of the most ancient religious and spiritual practices.  The respect and belief in an afterlife as well as honoring ancestors can be traced back to paleolithic mankind.   It is believed that honoring our ancestors was the first religious and spiritual form of ritual work.  From ways the dead were buried to views of the afterlife ancestors and the dead were never far from the mind of our paleolithic ancestors, and for some this truth remains today.

Ancestral veneration is not worshiping our ancestors, at least not in the common sense of worship. Ancestral veneration is more like honoring the dead in a respectful way.  Its a belief that they are still with us in a spirit form.  That they can hear us and can effect our lives from the other side.  Its a belief that our ancestors like other spirits can help us become the best person we can be and to live the life that we really want and desire.

There are exchanges of offerings and gifts.  This isn’t worship.  In some ways I think of it like when I put a flower on my ancestors grave.  Its giving something to them to signify that you remember them and care for them.  These gifts can be basically anything.  Though some cultures do have rules against some items being given to different spirits.
In some cultures flowers are only for the dead and it’s ok to leave offerings to the dead till they rot as this signifies they have taken everything.  In other cultures and practices only water is offered to the dead.   Even Christianity has mention of the value of prayer for the dead.  Working with and honoring our ancestors is a powerful spiritual path and there are many ways to go about it.

The act of the gift and the offering is the important thing though.  Its through these exchanges that relationships with our ancestors can develop and grow.  Its believed that a gift will ensure a gift.  Its also believed that because the dead and our ancestors are beyond the veil they have access to energy and powers of the universe that we don’t so by asking them to help us in our work and our lives they can tap into those energies for us.  Granted they dont help us unless we help ourselves.  So the gifts symbolize our part to do our work.

Many religions and traditions have celebrations and days of the dead.  Halloween, All saints and All Souls day,  Samhain, Dia de los Muertos(Mexican Day of the dead), The Bon Festival (Japan), and Pitru Paksha (Fortnight of the Ancestors-Hindu) are different festivals in different cultures.  They have one thing in common.  They are all festivals to honor the dead and the ancestors.  These are only a handful of celebrations that exist to celebrate ancestors and the dead.  The point is that the concept of honoring the dead is still alive and well in this world today.

The practice of honoring the dead is starting to become more common in Pagan practices today as well.  Part of that is that many of us are reclaiming this practice.  It was a part of ancient pagan traditions, so the practice was largely destroyed in the west.  For many reclaiming ancestral veneration as a part of our practice not only connects us to our more recent ancestors and keeps our passed loved ones in our lives, but it also allows us to reach the deepest ancestors we have which can be powerful guides for those starting down pagan paths.

Personal Development of Ancestor work

One of the reasons I am writing this post today is in honor of a new ancestor.  A loved one of mine has just crossed the veil.  It is this passing that has once again made me think about working with my ancestors and how is really always been a central part of my practice.  I haven’t always considered the contact with my ancestors and the shrines to my past loved ones ancestral veneration.  I thought it was simply remembering them and keeping them alive.

Ancestor veneration is a large part of my practice and spiritual work.  My ancestors have a lot to teach me.   I have an ancestor altar that I pray at everyday. While it is a strong part of my practice these days, ancestral veneration and honoring has not always been a large part of my path.  In fact it was at one point something I really only did on the festival of the dead (Samhain) as that was the focus.  I thought that was really all that was needed, and at the time maybe that was for my best.

When I started to practice witchcraft I had recently lost my Grandmother.  Many of the psychics and readings I had done at the time confirmed that she was staying close to me as a spirit guide (I was having dreams of her).  So I started working with my ancestors through a single ancestor as a spirit guide.  That was 17 years ago.  Now I have an altar to all my ancestors as I have learned that any of our ancestors can be our guides and guardians.

Originally I didn’t offer any prayers, or much to my ancestors.  I would simply say hello to them when I needed to feel their presence.  I had a place of memory for them where I could see them and keep them in my life.  Then when I started to explore traditional witchcraft as a religious and spiritual practice I heard of the concept of giving them offerings and having shrines and altars to them.  So I created one and started an ancestral prayer working.

The practice with ancestral veneration got even deeper when I started to explore Germanic paganism and found I had Germanic ancestry.  When I read how they honored their ancestors and the powers of wyrd and Oorlog I decided that I had to develop my relationship even further.  So I started to work them into Germanic rites and rituals through the phrases “The Alfar and the Disir”

There was a time when I stopped practicing basically everything.  Then I started to explore Hoodoo.  My interest and desires to understand magic and witchcraft returned.  Through this I found more focus on ancestors and honoring your culture.  I found that ancestors will be powerful allies in spells as well as in meditations and trance work.  So through Hoodoo my work with my ancestors started to develop further and I learned new prayers to use for my ancestors.

Now today I have a prayer I say to them every morning and I have a prayer I say every evening to my ancestors.  I give them offerings when I perform rituals and I invite them into my ritual circles.  They have a part of my day to day life and my spiritual life. I couldn’t imagine my spiritual work without my ancestors at all.  They are always there for me and they always will be.  I may not be able to physically hold them and see them, but when I need them I can feel them and I know they are always there for me.

The types of ancestors:

Being adopted my ancestors actually come in different forms and types.  Not all of my ancestors are of the blood.  Some are of the spirit and some are of the heart.  I have legal blood ancestors and blood ancestors.  I have ancestors in all of my families that I don’t know but are my allies through the bonds of the heart and the spirit.  I even have ancestors that are not really in my family at all but are in my spiritual family.  All of these ancestors have roles to play in my life and I honor them all.

I dont consider ancestors limited to just the blood and the heart though.This post is going to discuss the different ancestors I have through my adoption and my spiritual practices and how I can honor and work with each of them.  For the longest time I didn’t engage in ancestral veneration because of my adoption.  I wasn’t sure if I should honor my ancestors of my adoption, my foster family, or my biological family.  Thinking about this also was painful so while I wanted to honor my ancestors I didn’t go about it until I had answered my confusion.

How I came to see the types of Ancestors

That was how I came to see the different ancestral lines.  One year I went to the local Pagan Pride day.  I typically attend a few of the workshops that go on.  This year there was one about ancestral work and contacting your ancestors.  The key component of that workshop was a meditation on ancestral lines.  During this meditation I saw three lines of ancestral blood flowing from my body.  There was a fourth that was some what gray at the time and today its now clear.

It was then I knew that I was to honor all of my ancestors.  Those of my foster family, my blood or biological family, and my adoptive family.  It was through this work that I came to see that there are many different types of ancestors and that not everyone will have access to blood ancestors.  Through these meditations and concepts I came to see that there are
four primary types of ancestral allies: You have your ancestors of the Blood, your ancestors of the heart, and the ancestors of the spirit.  Adoptive ancestors are actually a mixture of two types which I will get into in the next sections as well as being their own type of ancestor.

Ancestors of The Blood

Every one is familiar with the concept of blood ancestors.  These are those of your family or blood line that goes back generations.  These are the strongest allies that one can have.  These are the ancestors that everyone thinks about when they think of ancestors.  Ancestors of the blood also include ancestors gained through marriage and long term committed relationships.  When I got engaged to my fiance his ancestors joined mine and mine his.  We are a family unit.  These ancestors go back generations on each side.  So the lines of blood ancestors are very long.

These are the strongest allies that you can have as a spirit.  They are the ones that have your best interest at heart.  Through the strands of Fate, and the workings of Wyrd we are always directly connected to our ancestors.  Our actions reflect them as much as their actions reflect on us.  So we need to honor them in our lives and we need to keep them close to us.  Before any other spirit is petitioned the ancestors will work stronger for you and faster for you.  There is little that is stronger than the power of the blood.

Adoptive Ancestors

For me I also have my adoptive ancestors,  These are the ancestors of my adoptive family.  They are the family that raised me and that belongs to me.  In ancient cultures at times the roles of the blood ancestors would be replaced by the foster and or adoptive family.  In my case I never considered them to replace the blood ancestors at all.  I considered them additional ancestors that I was blessed to have.

We have no physical blood that ties us.  However to all of the world and all legal meanings they are my flesh and blood.  That is how I feel about them as well.  In all honesty at times they are more my family than my blood and biological family simply because I have minimal contact and my relationship with that family is in its infancy (until recently was non existent).  Which is why they are both ancestors of the blood and of the heart.  The time that they spent raising me and being involved in my life can not be undone.

They gave their blood, sweat, and tears to me.  They are for my my most powerful allies.  They have been there for me more than the blood ancestors.  They were the first ancestors I have contacted and they were the first ones to make themselves known to me.  This is the ancestral line that has been the strongest for me.  My blood ancestral work is focused on more ancient pagan ancestor while my adoptive ancestral work is more with Saint and angel work (Hoodoo influences as well).

It is because my adoptive Ancestors gave so much of their blood, sweat, and tears into my life and that they took me in they are also ancestors of the heart.  They are of the blood because of the family ties and concepts but of the heart because there is no physical blood.  Its a spiritual and memory based blood love.  The bond of the heart here shows how even just being in a family for a short while can create strong family bonds.

Ancestors of the Heart

Those of the heart are the family that has passed that are not connected through marriage or blood or even legal adoption.  In my case this is where my foster family lies.  They did not adopt me but are still my family.  I have lost several members of that family and they were all close to me.  They are now my ancestors and they watch over me.  Our bond is somewhat stronger than blood or law.

These ancestors are some of my more recent ancestors.  It was my Uncle Cleve’s passing which made me think about ancestors.  He was my foster uncle and is an ancestor of my heart.  His two brothers are also my ancestors here.  I have a Grandfather here as well.  To them and to me the fact that I did not live with them, and was not legally a part of the family after my adoption never mattered.  I never stopped being their family.  That is what the ancestors of the heart are all about.

The ancestors of the heart are those that have passed on we considered family even if there was no blood between you.  These can be friends you thought of as brothers and sisters, close friends and even those who you would consider “father”or “mother” figures.  If you feel that they were and are apart of your family in your heart than they are your family and are your ancestors.  Never let anyone else tell you any different.

Ancestors of the Spirit:

Finally there are ancestors of the spirit. For me I consider any Occultist, Witch, and Magician who worked hard to preserve the magical and spiritual arts are my spiritual ancestors.  Even though I dont agree with all of their teachings and philosophies people like Gerald Gardner, Aliester Crowley, Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, and many others put a lot of work into making magical spirituality acceptable and part of our day to day lives again.  Those are a few of my spiritual ancestors as a witch based on the practices I have taken into my practice.

As I explore Hoodoo and other magical systems other spiritual ancestors will come into my practice.  For example Marie Laveau is a famous Hoodoo worker in New Orleans.  In some respects I could consider her a spiritual ancestor.  Other ancestors in the case of Hoodoo would in general be any one who struggled to keep African American spiritual heritage alive through Hoodoo and Rootwork.  When a teacher passes I would add them to the spiritual ancestors as well.

You can also have ancestors of the spirit when you are spiritually adopted into a tradition.  There are many religions and paths where they are only open to people of a specific culture.  Occasionally through the practice of spiritual adoption outsiders are initiated and welcome into that spiritual family.  The ancestors of your initiator in these situations become your ancestors and guides as well.  It is a spiritual family you have entered into and like all families they will help you and work with you if you honor them as taught.

 

Working with your ancestors

Now that we have covered the types of ancestors out there and I have mentioned the importance of working with your ancestors its time to actually start thinking about how we can work with them.  Why do we work with them, and what the best ways of working with them are.

There are two primary ways aside from meditation and spirit travel work that a person can work with their ancestors.  These two forms are the altar and prayers.  They work well together and serve as a starting point for building power with your ancestral allies.  Unless one is experienced in astral travel and spirit communication using those tools right away to work with your ancestors is not the best of ideas.  Prayers and altar work are all you really need.

The altar

Really when it comes to working with your ancestors the only real must do I have found is having an altar of some sort where you can offer prayers and other items to them as you get to know them.  These altars can evolve and change over time. The point of the altar is to serve as a focal point in your work.  The altar is a place for you to offer your prayers and your gifts to them.

Your altar doesn’t need to be fancy.  Many people start off not knowing any of their ancestors. In which case a candle, a cup for water, and a plate for offerings is all you would need to contact them.  If you know your passed on loved ones and you have photos of them you can and should add those photos to the altar.

The altar also serves as a place of remembrance of the dead.  So its a place to put items that make you think of your ancestors as well as their photos.  You want it to look nice and appealing.  This is going to be their home for you in your house and their place in your life.  So its also important to keep the altar neat looking.

Here are some examples of my own ancestral altars and how its changed over time:

First ancestral altar

First ancestral altar

Second Ancestral Altar

Second Ancestral Altar

Ancestor Altar 3

As you can see by looking at these altars they have changed over time.  As they have changed so has my relationship with my ancestors evolved.  The reason I wanted to show you the evolution of the altar is that I want you all to know that you can let your altar change over time. Its not meant to be a static thing!  Its meant to be something that evolves with you and with your relationship with the spirits!

There are no limits on your ancestral altar.  Let their spirits come through.  There are reasons for the symbols I have placed on my altars.  They grew as my focus and my relationships grew.  One thing has always been common though-the focus has been on remembering them and keeping their memories alive in my life.

 

Ancestral Prayers

The best way to work with your ancestors even before starting an altar is simply to pray to them.  Prayers to your ancestors aren’t really any different than prayers for gods and spirit guides.  You are simply having a conversation with your ancestors.  Prayers are how we can communicate with them directly and its our best way to communicate with them.  They can communicate with us in different ways (dreams, scents, meditations, sudden insights etc) but we can really only speak to them through prayers.

The easiest prayer is simply:
“Blessed Ancestors I welcome you into my life.  May you bless and guide me and may you teach me what you yourself can”

That’s all your prayers to your ancestors need to be.  You dont need to praise them.  You don’t need to have a fancy invocation.  You simply can address them as your ancestors and they will listen to you.  You dont even really need to ask for a blessing.  You could simply say something along the lines of:
“Good Morning Ancestors.  I welcome you this day”.

All you are doing with your prayers is acknowledging that they exist and that they are apart of your world.  By giving them a simple welcome everyday you will start to feel their presence build up.  You will begin to know them and feel them like you do can with other spirits and beings that you work with.  The more attention you give them the more you will notice them.

Prayers can be more complex and verbose.  My personal prayers evolved from a simple Hello and welcome to a full blessing and daily petition for them to be here.  There is a bit of praise and there is a bit of thanks.  These prayers are offered twice daily.  I feel that they flowed from me into the written form when I was channeling spirits and writing prayers for them.  My ancestors let me know what they wanted.

Offerings and Gifts

The final way that we can work with our ancestors is in offerings and gifts.  These gifts are ways that we say thank you and show our appreciation to them.  There are many ways types of gifts that can be given to our ancestors.   You can give your ancestor basically anything you would give yourself or a person.  They are still family and they are still people.

For myself I consider flowers on graves a gift to them.  I also place flowers on the altars every so often as remembrances of them.  I try and give them their favorite flowers.  I also try and give them their favorite things.  For my grandmother I will think of her when I go bowling and send her some of that energy as play and a memory of our times together.

On holidays I will set aside a portion of the food on my plate for my ancestors.  I will let it sit till the end and eat that last.  They eat the essence of that portion while I eat my meal.  When I have finished the portion for me they will have had their fill and I can take nourishment from the food.  Other cultures burn food offerings to ancestors and spirits.  Some burry the food in the yard.  Other throw it into the woods for animals to eat.

There are some taboos in various cultures about what can and can’t be given to ancestors and the dead.  If you belong to a specific culture, religion, and or tradition I suggest that you look into ways that they honor the dead.  By honoring the traditions of your culture, your religion and your tradition you are honoring your ancestors in that way as well.  These traditions after all were ancestral in many cases.

Conclusion:

This post has covered my own discovery into the importance of ancestral veneration.  It has covered the types of ancestors and a few of the ways that we can work with our ancestors.  Your ancestors are part of who you are.  They are powerful allies that can teach you things you wouldn’t imagine and who can be there for you in ways none else can.  Your ancestors are still here in this life and in this world just in a different form.

There are many ways to work with them.  Once you start working with them you will find that there are many more ways and reasons to work with them.  I’ve been working with my ancestors actively for several years and my relationships with them continue to grow and develop.  I am constantly learning new reasons to honor them and new ways of working with them.  The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn.

These allies seem to be the ones that develop the most as I develop spiritually.  The more I understand spiritual and magical practices the stronger they seem to become and the more things we seem to be able to so together.  Its my hope that any one who has read this will start to develop their own relationships with their ancestors and start to find the power and comfort in ancestral grace and guidance.

 

Ancestral Veneration

Ancestors:
What Types there are and How to work with them
Introduction:
What is Ancestral Veneration

Ancestral Veneration is one of the most ancient religious and spiritual practices. The respect and belief in an afterlife as well as honoring ancestors can be traced back to paleolithic mankind. It is believed that honoring our ancestors was the first religious and spiritual form of ritual work. From ways the dead were buried to views of the afterlife ancestors and the dead were never far from the mind of our paleolithic ancestors, and for some this truth remains today.

Ancestral veneration is not worshiping our ancestors, at least not in the common sense of worship. Ancestral veneration is more like honoring the dead in a respectful way. Its a belief that they are still with us in a spirit form. That they can hear us and can effect our lives from the other side. Its a belief that our ancestors like other spirits can help us become the best person we can be and to live the life that we really want and desire.

There are exchanges of offerings and gifts. This isn’t worship. In some ways I think of it like when I put a flower on my ancestors grave. Its giving something to them to signify that you remember them and care for them. These gifts can be basically anything. Though some cultures do have rules against some items being given to different spirits.
In some cultures flowers are only for the dead and it’s ok to leave offerings to the dead till they rot as this signifies they have taken everything. In other cultures and practices only water is offered to the dead. Even Christianity has mention of the value of prayer for the dead. Working with and honoring our ancestors is a powerful spiritual path and there are many ways to go about it.

The act of the gift and the offering is the important thing though. Its through these exchanges that relationships with our ancestors can develop and grow. Its believed that a gift will ensure a gift. Its also believed that because the dead and our ancestors are beyond the veil they have access to energy and powers of the universe that we don’t so by asking them to help us in our work and our lives they can tap into those energies for us. Granted they dont help us unless we help ourselves. So the gifts symbolize our part to do our work.

Many religions and traditions have celebrations and days of the dead. Halloween, All saints and All Souls day, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos(Mexican Day of the dead), The Bon Festival (Japan), and Pitru Paksha (Fortnight of the Ancestors-Hindu) are different festivals in different cultures. They have one thing in common. They are all festivals to honor the dead and the ancestors. These are only a handful of celebrations that exist to celebrate ancestors and the dead. The point is that the concept of honoring the dead is still alive and well in this world today.

The practice of honoring the dead is starting to become more common in Pagan practices today as well. Part of that is that many of us are reclaiming this practice. It was a part of ancient pagan traditions, so the practice was largely destroyed in the west. For many reclaiming ancestral veneration as a part of our practice not only connects us to our more recent ancestors and keeps our passed loved ones in our lives, but it also allows us to reach the deepest ancestors we have which can be powerful guides for those starting down pagan paths.
Personal Development of Ancestor work

One of the reasons I am writing this post today is in honor of a new ancestor. A loved one of mine has just crossed the veil. It is this passing that has once again made me think about working with my ancestors and how is really always been a central part of my practice. I haven’t always considered the contact with my ancestors and the shrines to my past loved ones ancestral veneration. I thought it was simply remembering them and keeping them alive.

Ancestor veneration is a large part of my practice and spiritual work. My ancestors have a lot to teach me. I have an ancestor altar that I pray at everyday. While it is a strong part of my practice these days, ancestral veneration and honoring has not always been a large part of my path. In fact it was at one point something I really only did on the festival of the dead (Samhain) as that was the focus. I thought that was really all that was needed, and at the time maybe that was for my best.

When I started to practice witchcraft I had recently lost my Grandmother. Many of the psychics and readings I had done at the time confirmed that she was staying close to me as a spirit guide (I was having dreams of her). So I started working with my ancestors through a single ancestor as a spirit guide. That was 17 years ago. Now I have an altar to all my ancestors as I have learned that any of our ancestors can be our guides and guardians.

Originally I didn’t offer any prayers, or much to my ancestors. I would simply say hello to them when I needed to feel their presence. I had a place of memory for them where I could see them and keep them in my life. Then when I started to explore traditional witchcraft as a religious and spiritual practice I heard of the concept of giving them offerings and having shrines and altars to them. So I created one and started an ancestral prayer working.

The practice with ancestral veneration got even deeper when I started to explore Germanic paganism and found I had Germanic ancestry. When I read how they honored their ancestors and the powers of wyrd and Oorlog I decided that I had to develop my relationship even further. So I started to work them into Germanic rites and rituals through the phrases “The Alfar and the Disir”

There was a time when I stopped practicing basically everything. Then I started to explore Hoodoo. My interest and desires to understand magic and witchcraft returned. Through this I found more focus on ancestors and honoring your culture. I found that ancestors will be powerful allies in spells as well as in meditations and trance work. So through Hoodoo my work with my ancestors started to develop further and I learned new prayers to use for my ancestors.

Now today I have a prayer I say to them every morning and I have a prayer I say every evening to my ancestors. I give them offerings when I perform rituals and I invite them into my ritual circles. They have a part of my day to day life and my spiritual life. I couldn’t imagine my spiritual work without my ancestors at all. They are always there for me and they always will be. I may not be able to physically hold them and see them, but when I need them I can feel them and I know they are always there for me.
The types of ancestors:

Being adopted my ancestors actually come in different forms and types. Not all of my ancestors are of the blood. Some are of the spirit and some are of the heart. I have legal blood ancestors and blood ancestors. I have ancestors in all of my families that I don’t know but are my allies through the bonds of the heart and the spirit. I even have ancestors that are not really in my family at all but are in my spiritual family. All of these ancestors have roles to play in my life and I honor them all.

I dont consider ancestors limited to just the blood and the heart though.This post is going to discuss the different ancestors I have through my adoption and my spiritual practices and how I can honor and work with each of them. For the longest time I didn’t engage in ancestral veneration because of my adoption. I wasn’t sure if I should honor my ancestors of my adoption, my foster family, or my biological family. Thinking about this also was painful so while I wanted to honor my ancestors I didn’t go about it until I had answered my confusion.
How I came to see the types of Ancestors

That was how I came to see the different ancestral lines. One year I went to the local Pagan Pride day. I typically attend a few of the workshops that go on. This year there was one about ancestral work and contacting your ancestors. The key component of that workshop was a meditation on ancestral lines. During this meditation I saw three lines of ancestral blood flowing from my body. There was a fourth that was some what gray at the time and today its now clear.

It was then I knew that I was to honor all of my ancestors. Those of my foster family, my blood or biological family, and my adoptive family. It was through this work that I came to see that there are many different types of ancestors and that not everyone will have access to blood ancestors. Through these meditations and concepts I came to see that there are
four primary types of ancestral allies: You have your ancestors of the Blood, your ancestors of the heart, and the ancestors of the spirit. Adoptive ancestors are actually a mixture of two types which I will get into in the next sections as well as being their own type of ancestor.
Ancestors of The Blood

Every one is familiar with the concept of blood ancestors. These are those of your family or blood line that goes back generations. These are the strongest allies that one can have. These are the ancestors that everyone thinks about when they think of ancestors. Ancestors of the blood also include ancestors gained through marriage and long term committed relationships. When I got engaged to my fiance his ancestors joined mine and mine his. We are a family unit. These ancestors go back generations on each side. So the lines of blood ancestors are very long.

These are the strongest allies that you can have as a spirit. They are the ones that have your best interest at heart. Through the strands of Fate, and the workings of Wyrd we are always directly connected to our ancestors. Our actions reflect them as much as their actions reflect on us. So we need to honor them in our lives and we need to keep them close to us. Before any other spirit is petitioned the ancestors will work stronger for you and faster for you. There is little that is stronger than the power of the blood.
Adoptive Ancestors

For me I also have my adoptive ancestors, These are the ancestors of my adoptive family. They are the family that raised me and that belongs to me. In ancient cultures at times the roles of the blood ancestors would be replaced by the foster and or adoptive family. In my case I never considered them to replace the blood ancestors at all. I considered them additional ancestors that I was blessed to have.

We have no physical blood that ties us. However to all of the world and all legal meanings they are my flesh and blood. That is how I feel about them as well. In all honesty at times they are more my family than my blood and biological family simply because I have minimal contact and my relationship with that family is in its infancy (until recently was non existent). Which is why they are both ancestors of the blood and of the heart. The time that they spent raising me and being involved in my life can not be undone.

They gave their blood, sweat, and tears to me. They are for my my most powerful allies. They have been there for me more than the blood ancestors. They were the first ancestors I have contacted and they were the first ones to make themselves known to me. This is the ancestral line that has been the strongest for me. My blood ancestral work is focused on more ancient pagan ancestor while my adoptive ancestral work is more with Saint and angel work (Hoodoo influences as well).

It is because my adoptive Ancestors gave so much of their blood, sweat, and tears into my life and that they took me in they are also ancestors of the heart. They are of the blood because of the family ties and concepts but of the heart because there is no physical blood. Its a spiritual and memory based blood love. The bond of the heart here shows how even just being in a family for a short while can create strong family bonds.
Ancestors of the Heart

Those of the heart are the family that has passed that are not connected through marriage or blood or even legal adoption. In my case this is where my foster family lies. They did not adopt me but are still my family. I have lost several members of that family and they were all close to me. They are now my ancestors and they watch over me. Our bond is somewhat stronger than blood or law.

These ancestors are some of my more recent ancestors. It was my Uncle Cleve’s passing which made me think about ancestors. He was my foster uncle and is an ancestor of my heart. His two brothers are also my ancestors here. I have a Grandfather here as well. To them and to me the fact that I did not live with them, and was not legally a part of the family after my adoption never mattered. I never stopped being their family. That is what the ancestors of the heart are all about.

The ancestors of the heart are those that have passed on we considered family even if there was no blood between you. These can be friends you thought of as brothers and sisters, close friends and even those who you would consider “father”or “mother” figures. If you feel that they were and are apart of your family in your heart than they are your family and are your ancestors. Never let anyone else tell you any different.
Ancestors of the Spirit:

Finally there are ancestors of the spirit. For me I consider any Occultist, Witch, and Magician who worked hard to preserve the magical and spiritual arts are my spiritual ancestors. Even though I dont agree with all of their teachings and philosophies people like Gerald Gardner, Aliester Crowley, Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, and many others put a lot of work into making magical spirituality acceptable and part of our day to day lives again. Those are a few of my spiritual ancestors as a witch based on the practices I have taken into my practice.

As I explore Hoodoo and other magical systems other spiritual ancestors will come into my practice. For example Marie Laveau is a famous Hoodoo worker in New Orleans. In some respects I could consider her a spiritual ancestor. Other ancestors in the case of Hoodoo would in general be any one who struggled to keep African American spiritual heritage alive through Hoodoo and Rootwork. When a teacher passes I would add them to the spiritual ancestors as well.

You can also have ancestors of the spirit when you are spiritually adopted into a tradition. There are many religions and paths where they are only open to people of a specific culture. Occasionally through the practice of spiritual adoption outsiders are initiated and welcome into that spiritual family. The ancestors of your initiator in these situations become your ancestors and guides as well. It is a spiritual family you have entered into and like all families they will help you and work with you if you honor them as taught.

Working with your ancestors

Now that we have covered the types of ancestors out there and I have mentioned the importance of working with your ancestors its time to actually start thinking about how we can work with them. Why do we work with them, and what the best ways of working with them are.

There are two primary ways aside from meditation and spirit travel work that a person can work with their ancestors. These two forms are the altar and prayers. They work well together and serve as a starting point for building power with your ancestral allies. Unless one is experienced in astral travel and spirit communication using those tools right away to work with your ancestors is not the best of ideas. Prayers and altar work are all you really need.
The altar

Really when it comes to working with your ancestors the only real must do I have found is having an altar of some sort where you can offer prayers and other items to them as you get to know them. These altars can evolve and change over time. The point of the altar is to serve as a focal point in your work. The altar is a place for you to offer your prayers and your gifts to them.

Your altar doesn’t need to be fancy. Many people start off not knowing any of their ancestors. In which case a candle, a cup for water, and a plate for offerings is all you would need to contact them. If you know your passed on loved ones and you have photos of them you can and should add those photos to the altar.

The altar also serves as a place of remembrance of the dead. So its a place to put items that make you think of your ancestors as well as their photos. You want it to look nice and appealing. This is going to be their home for you in your house and their place in your life. So its also important to keep the altar neat looking.

Here are some examples of my own ancestral altars and how its changed over time:

First ancestral altar
First ancestral altar

Second Ancestral Altar
Second Ancestral Altar

Ancestor Altar 3

As you can see by looking at these altars they have changed over time. As they have changed so has my relationship with my ancestors evolved. The reason I wanted to show you the evolution of the altar is that I want you all to know that you can let your altar change over time. Its not meant to be a static thing! Its meant to be something that evolves with you and with your relationship with the spirits!

There are no limits on your ancestral altar. Let their spirits come through. There are reasons for the symbols I have placed on my altars. They grew as my focus and my relationships grew. One thing has always been common though-the focus has been on remembering them and keeping their memories alive in my life.

Ancestral Prayers

The best way to work with your ancestors even before starting an altar is simply to pray to them. Prayers to your ancestors aren’t really any different than prayers for gods and spirit guides. You are simply having a conversation with your ancestors. Prayers are how we can communicate with them directly and its our best way to communicate with them. They can communicate with us in different ways (dreams, scents, meditations, sudden insights etc) but we can really only speak to them through prayers.

The easiest prayer is simply:
“Blessed Ancestors I welcome you into my life. May you bless and guide me and may you teach me what you yourself can”

That’s all your prayers to your ancestors need to be. You dont need to praise them. You don’t need to have a fancy invocation. You simply can address them as your ancestors and they will listen to you. You dont even really need to ask for a blessing. You could simply say something along the lines of:
“Good Morning Ancestors. I welcome you this day”.

All you are doing with your prayers is acknowledging that they exist and that they are apart of your world. By giving them a simple welcome everyday you will start to feel their presence build up. You will begin to know them and feel them like you do can with other spirits and beings that you work with. The more attention you give them the more you will notice them.

Prayers can be more complex and verbose. My personal prayers evolved from a simple Hello and welcome to a full blessing and daily petition for them to be here. There is a bit of praise and there is a bit of thanks. These prayers are offered twice daily. I feel that they flowed from me into the written form when I was channeling spirits and writing prayers for them. My ancestors let me know what they wanted.
Offerings and Gifts

The final way that we can work with our ancestors is in offerings and gifts. These gifts are ways that we say thank you and show our appreciation to them. There are many ways types of gifts that can be given to our ancestors. You can give your ancestor basically anything you would give yourself or a person. They are still family and they are still people.

For myself I consider flowers on graves a gift to them. I also place flowers on the altars every so often as remembrances of them. I try and give them their favorite flowers. I also try and give them their favorite things. For my grandmother I will think of her when I go bowling and send her some of that energy as play and a memory of our times together.

On holidays I will set aside a portion of the food on my plate for my ancestors. I will let it sit till the end and eat that last. They eat the essence of that portion while I eat my meal. When I have finished the portion for me they will have had their fill and I can take nourishment from the food. Other cultures burn food offerings to ancestors and spirits. Some burry the food in the yard. Other throw it into the woods for animals to eat.

There are some taboos in various cultures about what can and can’t be given to ancestors and the dead. If you belong to a specific culture, religion, and or tradition I suggest that you look into ways that they honor the dead. By honoring the traditions of your culture, your religion and your tradition you are honoring your ancestors in that way as well. These traditions after all were ancestral in many cases.
Conclusion:

This post has covered my own discovery into the importance of ancestral veneration. It has covered the types of ancestors and a few of the ways that we can work with our ancestors. Your ancestors are part of who you are. They are powerful allies that can teach you things you wouldn’t imagine and who can be there for you in ways none else can. Your ancestors are still here in this life and in this world just in a different form.

There are many ways to work with them. Once you start working with them you will find that there are many more ways and reasons to work with them. I’ve been working with my ancestors actively for several years and my relationships with them continue to grow and develop. I am constantly learning new reasons to honor them and new ways of working with them. The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn.

These allies seem to be the ones that develop the most as I develop spiritually. The more I understand spiritual and magical practices the stronger they seem to become and the more things we seem to be able to so together. Its my hope that any one who has read this will start to develop their own relationships with their ancestors and start to find the power and comfort in ancestral grace and guidance.

Pagan Blog Project: B- To begin

Beginning your path

Over the last few weeks I have given you a lot of information about researching and answering questions related to your path.  I gave you advice on how to choose your directions and even some concepts on divinity to start with.  These are all great things to know and have as an idea before you actually begin your path.  However once you know where you are going, what your views on deity are and the cultures you are basing your practices off of how do you actually start to begin your practice and path?  This is the question we are going to focus on and answer for you today.

There are many different ways that you can actually begin your path.  The important thing is to try and spend as much time doing research and reading about new beliefs and practices you want to explore as it is to actually spend the time doing the work.  If all you do is read and research and reflect on what you read and research you will have a lot of book knowledge and some great opinions.   You just wont have any experience and you wont actually “know” the processes, the spirits, the Gods, or even the effects of the practices you have been dedicating your time to.

Ways to begin your practice

I remember when I took my first steps on my path as a witch I was very nervous.  I was afraid of doing things wrong.  I was afraid that the Gods and the spirits wouldn’t listen to me.  I had no formal teachers or training.  I was simply stumbling in the dark.  So I remember the anxiety.  It was both a positive anxiety as well as a negative or hesitant type of anxiety.  I had the same feelings when I started to practice Germanic Paganism.  The important thing is that you work through the anxiety and the sensations and start on the path.

So what can you do to start on your path?  You can build an altar.  You can start a magical journal or spiritual record of your practices.  You can start a meditative practice.  If you are very confident in your connection to your path you can perform a rite of dedication and direction.  Finally the most important thing you can do is try the exercises you encounter in the books and websites you use as  tools and references in your studies.

There are as I said many different things that you can do to start walking your path.  You may not be able to do as much as you would like right away and that is ok.  You may miss sabbats and opportunities for rituals and worship as you learn the important dates and times in your chosen spiritual path.  The Gods know you are human and you are learning.  So long as your heart is in your path and you work hard you will be amazed at the path you will create for yourself.

Altar creation

One of the things you can do to begin your path is start an altar.  Altars are a wonderful way to express your spirituality.  By creating an altar you are creating a sacred space in which you can focus on performing your spiritual work and practices.  Altars can be very simple or they can be very elaborate.  There are many different things that you can put on an altar and there are many different ways that an altar can be set up.

My basic altars when I am working with a new spirit or starting to work with new Gods are very simple.  They typically include a candle that I light when I am praying to that spirit.  I also light the candle as an offering to them.  I also if I have them have an incense burner for burning incense as offerings to the Gods and spirits and to help as a focus when I work on meditation.  I also typically have a cup or bowl for any liquid offerings I may give the spirits.

No two altars are going to be the same.  If you do decide to set up an altar let it be a reflection of your relationship with the spirits you are working with.  Your altar is for you and your practice alone.  It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what you have on it at this point in time.  Its just there as a focal point and expression of your relationships with the spirits you work with.

A lot more can be said about altar creation.  I have written two entries elsewhere on this blog that deal with altar creation.  If you decide to start with the creation of an altar I would recommend you look at the articles. They contain several examples and some exercises for you to use as you build your altar.

Altars part 1: 6 exercises and points for altar building

Altars part 2: Specifics for paths and practices

Magical and spiritual record keeping

The second thing I mentioned you could do as a formal start of your path is to create a spiritual journal.  This journal may have already been started if you have been following the exercises and advice I have been giving you on this blog.  Some traditions have specific names for the journals that are kept and others are incredibly personal.  In all traditions though the personal spiritual journal is a very powerful sacred personal object.

One thing I mentioned previously is that as you do your research into the various paths out there was take note of things that you agree with and things you disagree with.  I also advised you to write down quotes that gave you something to think about.  I have also given you several different types of questions to answer and reasons for asking those questions.

All of the notes you have taken, the questions you have asked, and the answers you have given yourself are the start of a very important document.  This document or well book is very important.  This book is going to serve as your record of spiritual growth.  This book will have a lot of information in it as time goes on.  It is also one of the most personal spiritual items and tools you will ever make.

You may be asking why a journal of your spiritual experiences, thoughts, and beliefs is important.  The answer is simple.  This book and journal will show how you have grown and developed spiritually.  This book will contain things you agree with and things you disagree with.  You will basically put anything in here that you feel is important information about your path.  There really isn’t anything you can’t put in this journal.

The act of working on this spiritual journal is also a way to connect your mind and emotions with your actual soul and spirit feelings.  By writing out your thoughts and reflections to ideas and concepts you are processing how your spirit feels about these things.  This allows your mind to understand what drives you and allows your mind to spend time finding ways to include those thoughts, beliefs, and practices in everything that you do.

Writing in a journal is a very therapeutic thing.  It helps you process the day and it helps you really sort out how you really feel and think about many concepts and ideas.  In many different spiritual paths one of the key concepts or ideas to strive for is to know yourself.  Writing in a journal is one of the best ways to know yourself as you are truly honest to yourself about how you feel and what is on your mind.  By knowing yourself you also know what your real needs, wants, and desires are.  In spirituality this can also mean knowing exactly the type of connection you are actually seeking with the Spirits and the universe.

These books will also serve as your references for your personal experiences.  In them you should include exercises you have done (the steps of the exercise and your experiences), prayers you have said and or rituals you have done.  It can also include prayers and spells you have found inspiring from other sources.  If there is poetry or myths you find inspiring and directly related to your path you can put that in there.  Its your guide to your experiences and your development as a spiritual person.

In witchcraft most often there are two terms for these spiritual journals.  One of them is occasionally called a mirror book.  That book is full of your reflections and ideas.  Its where your theories and beliefs are recorded.  Its a reflection of your innerself and your soul.    This is a very personal book and is often not shared.

The other book is often called the Book of Shadows.  The book of shadows is a book containing spells and rituals.  It also has the lore of the practice.  In solitary practice this book is your sacred text basically.  It forms a workbook for formulating spells and rituals.  Its your tool in your acts of priesthood.  This book can be shared with people if a solitary chooses to share their work.  Typically if it is handed down it will be to children or very specific family members interested in the practice all at the individuals discretion.

In covens and in specific traditions there is a Book of Shadows that is specific to that coven or tradition.  Members are expected to hand copy or make themselves an exact copy of the book for their own use.  Like the individual book this also contains all the materials needed to form the rituals and practices of the coven.  It may also contain coven history and tradition history.  These books are also used as teaching materials to preserve the practice and and ensure that all members have the same information to go from.   Ceremonial Magic has a similar practice called Grimoires, and some witches elect to call their ritual and theory books Grimoires as well.

Meditative practice

One element that is common among spiritual paths is some sort of meditation practice.  This practice is a way for you to go within yourself and reflect on things.  It can also be a way for you to communicate with spirits and Gods.  Meditation is a very powerful tool for spiritual development and daily spiritual practice.  This is one tool that comes in many different forms and has different uses.

One use for meditation techniques is to understand different philosophic principles.  By working with different powers of the mind in meditative states you can learn and experience different philosophies which will create spiritual experiences.  Often times these meditative techniques also are building blocks to deeper spiritual techniques and can also be magical techniques as well.

Meditation techniques can also help you learn how to better focus and use the powers of your mind.   Through meditation you can travel to the spirit worlds.  You can meet many different spirits and interact with them.  You can experience the mysteries in the universe.  These mystery experiences will provide you understanding and spiritual growth.  These are things that will also make your spirit and you feel at home and have deeper understandings and connections to the world around you.

Basically meditation can work for psychic development, spiritual development, mental development, and the development of focus skills.  Meditation has many different effects and uses spiritually and practically.  Its worth an entry all of its own.  When you engage in meditation as the starting point or beginning of your practice you will want to explore many different philosophies and types of techniques.  Remember to record and write down what you experience in meditation and what the techniques were.

Dedication ritual

This is often the first real serious step a person takes on their spiritual path and practices.  Dedication rituals are very serious acts and indicate a specific level of commitment.  When you are dedicating yourself to your path you are promising any and all spiritual powers on this path that you are there to serve them and to learn from them.  You will listen to them and you will do all that you can to live your life the way they ask you to.  It also shows that you are ready to make your path an intricate part of all aspects of your day to day life in some manner.  You are ready to not just be a student and exploring of the path.  You are ready to say this is my path.  I will follow you for as long as I can.

If this is what you want to do for your first step on your path than you should go for it.  If this is your choice then you have done enough research and had enough of an emotional connection and response that you know that this is where you want to go for now spiritually.  Taking the step of dedication is a big step and its one that should not be taken lightly.  In some paths a self dedication is the equivalent of an initiation of sorts.  In other paths its a phase of learning before swearing a deeper oath and practice.  For myself dedication is both a learning period and a way of swearing an oath.

I am not going to write any more on dedication here. It is a first step in a path and it is a way to begin your path. I have written an essay on this blog earlier in more depth about dedication and the types of dedication there are. That post even has two different types of dedication rituals.

D:Dedication

Do the Exercises

Many books on spirituality and spiritual paths will have exercises scattered throughout the chapters to illustrate and give you personal experience with the concepts being discussed.  Most of the exercises do have a practical aspect to them.  When it comes to spirituality and magical practices the only way to really understand the concepts of energy and spirit is to have experiences.  The experiences do more to teach you the philosophies and world views than just the books ever could.

Sometimes it may not be easy to see the meaning or reason behind the exercise being placed where it is.  If this is something you experience that is fine.  In this case finish the chapter.  Read the exercises and the rest of the chapter.  Reread it a few times if you have to.  However once you have an idea of what the exercises and the chapter together are teaching you need to do the exercises.  The exercises will actually show you more than any words can.

In spiritual paths the concept of mysteries and how they must be experienced is often brought up.  The exercises including guided meditations and occasionally mini spells or rituals are there to have you gain access to the particular mysteries of that path.  The author of those exercises has used them several times themselves and seen how they worked for their spiritual paths and development.  By publishing those exercises in a book, website, blog, or podcast the author is providing access to the mysteries for others.  They want you to share the experiences they have had.

When you do an exercise be sure to write down the exercise in step by step processes so you can repeat the exercise.  Also write down everything you experience while doing the exercise.  You will find that some of the techniques out there will be more effective for you than others.  That is ok.  By having the experiences and by doing the exercises and the work you are knowing yourself and your spiritual path bringing both into closer harmony.

Conclusion

In this post I have illustrated several different ways that you can start practicing and walking your path.  Each of these first steps has a benefit to them and they also have their down sides to.  Each step also plays its own role in your development spiritually and personally.  These steps are all good ways to start including your path in your life in a more direct and outward way.

My personal suggestion would be to do a mixture of the journal, meditation, and exercises for a while.  Then after you know a bit more about the spirits you are working with and you have gained some experiences I would set up an altar.  Now the altar can be a tool for meditative focus and spiritual development.  I would work with these combinations for a few months before I performed an act of dedication.

I hope that these steps help you find and develop your spiritual path.  As always if you have any questions or comments please let me know.  If you feel that there are other steps out there I could have mentioned also please let me know.

 

~Loona Wynd~

Review: The Conjure workbook by Mama Starr

The Conjure Workbook Volume 1: Working the Root is an excellent tome on Southern Conjure work. When I picked up this tome I knew that it was going to be full of Christian mysticism and biblical references. That is what Hoodoo and conjure is. The Southern Hoodoo and conjure traditions are a mixture of folk beliefs from pre-slave days in Africa and the various Christian faiths in the south. This was how the slaves were able to hold on to a bit of their previous culture and identity.

If those who are looking to learn about Hoodoo and conjure work are expecting information to come from a pagan perspective and are looking at this work they will be disappointed. Mama Starr is very clear about her roots and the roots of Southern Conjure which are in Christian belief systems of the south. While she does say that you can be of any belief system and still work the spells and rituals she provides, unless you respect the Bible and understand that it is filled with lore, spells, and practices you will not get anything out of this book.

The author begins the book by discussing the work of ancestors. Here the author begins explaining one of the core concepts and beliefs across Conjure/Hoodoo/Rootwork traditions. There is an overall belief in an existence of an afterlife and that our ancestors will be there to answer us. The author starts by describing how they help us and work with us and finally ends with setting up an altar to venerate and pray to your ancestors.

I mentioned the importance of respect for the Bible as a sacred text and as a book of power as that is the second topic discussed in the book. As I said early on the author is clear in that this book is a southern conjure book which is going to have referenced to the Bible in there. Most of the references are in the Old Testament but they are still Bible references.

After working with the ancestors is covered, crafting altars and work spaces is discussed, and the Bible is mentioned as an important source the Author gets into the spirits and beings that are often worked with in her practice of Hoodoo. Prior to reading this book I was aware of the work with the archangels and the saints. Here I learned of new spirits and beings also associated with Conjure as well as how we can even work with the prophets in the bible.

Each being mentioned came with several different prayers and ways that you can work with them. These early workings are here to give you an idea about the powers each spirit has. These workings also introduce you to the concepts of repeating works, and how actual effort is put into the work. The author makes it clear that these things are repeated several times for effectiveness.

As the book continues the author mentions and focuses on another core belief in rootworking traditions. That belief and practice is one of divination. Starr provides many different ways of working divination including a very traditional practice of reading the bones. While the actual practice of bone reading is not discussed, the author does include its history of use. The author included a photo of her own bone set.

As the book continues the author continues an easy to follow step by step instruction on workings. The author also continues her straight talk. The author is very serious about their work and their tradition. Throughout the book the author mentions how some of these works are dangerous and are not to be simply played with. She does this not to discourage people from doing these works, but to encourage people to take the work seriously.

The author does speak only of their own tradition and practices. While the author does give you all the information you need to create your own Hoodoo/Conjure practice she does encourage you to find an actual teacher to learn more complex works. As an example the author explains why some packet spells written by other authors aren’t as effective as they could be because of folding the paper of the packet in a different manner than she was taught with an explanation of why the other method may actually backfire.

This book is filled with practical information. With the authors attitude, explanations, and the step by step processes in the book the tome The Conjure Workbook volume 1: Working the Root provides everything you need to know in order to effective start working your own spells and rituals. By working the spells in the book you develop understanding of associations and correspondences which can be useful in creating your own effective spells.

Pagan Blog Project: A is for Angels

What are angels?  This is a question I have found myself asking myself recently.  I once believed that I knew exactly what angels where.  Then I heard conflicting stories of them being servants of only one specific God, the God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and there for bound to only help and work with those who follow Yaweh/Allah/Jehova.  Other people claim that they are simply servants of divine forces and are not limited to a specific set of religions or religious beliefs.

I personally believe angels to be servants of the God Jehova/Allah/Yaweh.  Other Gods do have servants or minor Gods that work as messengers and intermediaries between them and humans but I don’t necessarily believe they are angels.  That being said I believe that so long as there is a connection in your life to those three religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) they will help and work with you.  This connection could be continuing family celebrations, a belief in them, and or a belief in Jesus or that God as a God just not the only God.

I have always held a belief in angels.  Though I have not worked with them since the early years on my path as a witch.  I knew others still worked with them magically through enochian magic, ceremonial magic, and at times Hoodoo.  These three magical traditions are associated with Christianity and angelic magic and angelic work for spiritual practices as well as magical practices.  Now I have started to work with angelic forces again.

If you want to work with angelic forces and angelic spirits you simply need to be open to their force.  The force that angelic spirits are made up is pure unconditional divine love.  If you have any sort of connection in your life to the three paths of Abraham you can work with these spirits.  You just need to open yourself up to working with them.  They will make themselves known to you.

Pagan Blog Project D: Direction, Decisions, & Divination

Crossroads1

 

Direction and Decisions

The last few posts have given you several things to think about as a seeker.  As you have thought about those things and your own beliefs you should have compiled or started to find a list of belief systems or religions that match up to what you are looking for to some extent.  These religions and spiritual paths should have as many things related to your beliefs as possible.  You may find there are a few which only have a few of your major beliefs in them but not all of them.  That is ok.  The point is you have a list of paths and options.  No what do you do?

You need to make some choices.  You need to make some decisions on where you want to go now.  There are options.  Now you need to choose.  So how to choose?

Direction

Right now you may have a list of belief systems you are eager to explore that have things you want to explore.  There may be many parallels in beliefs to what you hold.  This is a good position to be in.  It means you know what you believe you are just looking for more structure and concepts to develop from.  You are looking for direction.   Having a direction in which to focus allows stability and confidence building.  Focusing on one specific direction can and will deepen spirituality.

Choosing that direction can be difficult.  I myself look over all the paths I have studied that have things I believe in and wonder where I should go in my studies. I’m sort of in a cross roads right now myself as well which is part of the reason for writing this post.  Directions can and will change in your studies and as your path and your spirituality grows.  This is also a good sign that you have learned a lot in one area but need to grow in another.  By changing directions and choosing a new direction when you start you already really begin to grow.

So to begin choosing your direction you should look at two of the paths or religions that inspire you the most.  These are good places to start your exploration.  These will be the focus of your deciding factor. You will still want to read about and research the other paths out there that interest you.  There is a reason they are interesting to you.  They have something to offer that you will benefit from.  For now though having one direction or focus is essential.

This direction will for some time be the focus of your studies and growth.  You will use this to establish your foundation if you are new to exploring spiritual options.   Here you will start to establish relationships with specific gods and spirits according to the path you choose to walk.  Here after you do additional study you may want to then do a dedication and deeper studies for a while before exploring elsewhere.  The point is the direction you pick will be the foundation of your spiritual home and your path.

If you have been exploring spirituality your new direction will add a new level to your spirit house and you will have a deeper knowledge base to choose from.  This will expand your spiritual awareness.  You will probably meet new guides and spirits in the new direction you choose to explore.  Your previous understandings will develop and may slightly change.  You are reaching the next level in spirituality and practice as it were.

Making the decisions

Now that I have highlighted the reasons for choosing one direction rather than exploring multiple paths at once it is time to explain and go over how you can make the decision for yourself.  There are many ways you can make the decision about which path to take.   I am going to list them here and then go into each one in a bit more detail.  In the end there are two ways you can really go about making this.  You can do a soul and spiritual searching of it or you can do some practical work.  You can also do a combination.

Spiritual decision making aids

Here are the spiritual and insightful methods. There is a meditation method.  There is the prayer method.  You have divination through cards or even using a pendulum.  You finally have the what does my heart say about what I know about this path right now method.  All of these methods involve working with a spirit or some aspect of the hidden self you have to contact in some form.  Now I will expand on each of those methods.

I am going to start with the meditative method.  The meditative method actually comes in two forms.  The first form involves contact with your own spirit guides and guardians for advice.   The second form of the meditative method is a bit more introspective yet just as effective.  Both are in a meditative state so they are both the meditative method of making your decisions.

The first meditative method to discuss then is the method where you contact your spirit guides and guardians.  Here you can go into a meditative state and contact your spirit guides and guardians for advice.  You can give them an idea of why you are having difficulties with this decision.  You can ask them where they think you should go.  They may give you an idea or they may show you something that you have to think about.    Either way through contacting your spirit guides you have been given their insight on the matter which should prove useful for your own decision making.

The second meditative method is less about spirit guides and more about yourself and your thoughts.  The idea here is that you will get into a meditative state and you will be able to focus on asking yourself the question “which path is mine?”.  You may find symbols appear that relate to one path.  That is your answer.  You may even find yourself brought on some sort of vision quest by your higher self.  That quest there and that experience there.  Either way your answer comes from yourself, your heart, and your spirit.

The prayer method is a method that many people use.  Here you will work on praying to spirits or guides for the answer.  If there are specific Gods and Goddesses in either path that you are interested in more than others you can pray to them.   If there is a specific type of spirit found in each culture you are interested in you can also pray to them. You can also pray to both pantheons in a general reaching out prayer and see who answers.    The same thing applies to the various spirit entities found in the different paths.

When you are working with the prayer method you are leaving the answer to the question up to the Gods and the spirits.  In the end it will be them who make the decision about accepting your worship or working with you or not.  You can not force a deity or spirit to work with you that is not willing to work with you.  For this reason many people recommended prayers above other methods.  All of the methods I am telling you about are useful and worth trying.  I do have to agree that prayer is one of the more powerful ways to connect with willing spirits and Gods.

Divination methods of decision making

Divination is a method that takes many forms.  Here you have tarot cards and oracle cards.  You also have pendulums and scrying.  Channeling is also a form of divination.  In using divination you are spending the time contacting the spirits directly.  From how you connect to the spirits the various forms work to provide the answer.

In the oracle card methods (tarot decks and other decks) the answer comes out through the meaning of the cards pulled. By looking at the order the cards were pulled and where they stand in the reading your answer can be interpreted.  There are thousands of different oracle decks out there.  Tarot cards are one form.  Doreen Virtue has several oracle decks out there as well.  In working with these decks you will find that some card decorations and symbols speak to you more than others.  Those are the decks you want to work with.

On to Pendulums! With the pendulum you will have a movement answer for yes and a different answer for no.  One of the best ways to use a pendulum in this fashion would be to hold the pendulum over the text of the paths you are interested.  Ask it if its for you.  The answer will be in the movement.  Do it over the other text and see the answer.  If you don’t get an answer from either of those you may just need to take more time or try another method.

Now not everyone has a stone pendulum.  That is ok.  I am going to share a secret with you.  Ready?  Every one can make one themselves.  Yes.  You can make a pendulum yourself with objects you have around your house.  If you have string or something to suspend the item with you can make a pendulum.  The best examples are taking a necklace chord unused and put a ring in the center.  Then hold the necklace with the ring suspended.  Ask it for yes and ask it for no.  Presto instant pendulum.

Scrying is the next item on the list.  Scrying is basically starting into a reflective surface and relaxing your gaze.  After some time an image will appear.  There are many methods and ways of accomplishing this methods.  You have the fire method which can include candles, campfires, wood stoves, and much more.  There is the water method.  Here you can use ice, a glass of water, a lake, a pond, or basically any form of water you can think of.  Other methods include using a reflective mirror made for that purpose or through using a crystal ball.  Other people may be able to use incense smoke of fire smoke to scry.  Try it and good luck.

Channeling is the final method that was mentioned as a way of working divination.  In channeling you basically call a spirit into your body or mind for the answer.  You ask them the question and they will be answer.  This is the process that mediums use.  If you are not comfortable speaking you can try the same method with automatic writing using a paper and pen to let the spirit basically write down the answers to the question.

So I have given several different ways you can work divination to get an answer.  The idea behind divination is that you are working with a spirit or your higher self for an answer.  The answer is coming from outside of you.  The only real difference between these styles mentioned is the fact that they all use different techniques.  The philosophy behind their use and why they work though is basically the same.

Spirits and Gods can be powerful allies in answering questions.  They have access to wisdom that we do not have.  They can also be very powerful teachers in our spiritual development.  All of the above methods are ways of contacting these guides and beings for assistance in making the decision about the path you are about to take.  I must be mentioned however the above methods of making a decision with spiritual aids can be used for other situations in life.  Here they are just used as tools in choosing your spiritual paths.

 

Practical decision making tools

I have just spent some time illustrating ways that you can combine looking for a spiritual and religious path with doing active spiritual path work and spiritual development.  While these tools are important to be used in working with spiritual choices there are other options.  You can use your day to day decision making tools as well to work with this. 

What are your day to day decision making tools?  Well there are a few.  You have pros and cons, evaluating available information on the topic at hand, space and time, economic, and you also have emotional aspects to play into this as well.  Anything you would use to make a decision in the rest of your day to day life you can use for spiritual choices as well.

I’m going to start with a basic tool.  The pros and cons tool.  This tool allows you to list all the good things about taking this path.  It also gives you a place to list any issues or problems that could come up because of practicing this path.  You can if you feel the need to make a column for places of thoughts that are not an issue or a great thing but just there, or something you are not sure where it goes.  That would be the column for that.  When you have listed everything you can think of in one page for one path do it for the other path as well.  When you have done both take some time to rest before looking at them and comparing the three lists.

The tool of evaluating the amount of available information on a subject is actually quite important when choosing a path to work with.  There are some paths out there which have a lot more information on them than others.  This may have already been a consideration in the Pros and Cons aspect of the path.  For some people the lack of or overwhelming information of a spiritual paths practices can be a key reason in their interest in pursuing it.  You should consider this as you look at your options for paths.

The factors of space to practice, time to practice, and the economic aspect may actually all fall together under one thing which is can I practice this path where I am now with what I have now?  Some cultures have rituals that require elaborate dances or at least a lot of movement for space to work the spiritual paths.  Other paths may work with herbs that are expensive and exotic or out of your reach.  How much time will it take to perform the ritual?  These are all things to think about.  If you can’t effectively perform the rites where you are with what you have is it worth investing your spiritual energy into spirits and Gods that may not respond for lack of traditional rituals?

Finally one thing we all use in our day to day decisions is our emotional reactions.  Some of us are going to have stronger emotional reactions to the tales and legends of spirits and Gods than others will.  Looking at the emotional reactions we have to thinking about the culture, the myths, and the powers we read about in some cultures may be where we should be looking for answers.  Here is a personal example.  I for one have always been fascinated by Egyptian Gods and myths as well as their culture.  Yet when I read the myths I feel no emotional response.  I had no interest previously in looking at the Germanic Gods.  However when I read the myths and legends I had an emotional response.  This proved to give me insight into my spiritual direction.  I urge you to look at your emotional responses to myths and legends as you read them.

 

Conclusion

In this blog post I have given you several tools to use to make your decisions regarding which paths to study and follow when you are attracted to multiple paths.    You can always go back and explore the other paths after you have done some study and practice of the first path you choose.  I strongly believe that we can all find truths in every path out there.  It is just up to us to find them as individuals.

 

*Photo found on http://www.alanbrookscrossroads.com/*
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