Friday, March 16, 2012

Ancestor Altar

Since the death of  Deputy Pill, death in general has been on my mind. Her funeral was three days ago.

I have had an ancestor altar in my home since my Grand-Father passed away.  I thought I would share a picture of my altar and talk a bit about what an ancestor altar is and what it means to me.

My altar is a old side table that my wonderful Pepere, had by his favorite lazy boy chair until he passed in April 2009. On my altar, are pictures of him and my Memere, who passed almost a year to the day after him, in April 2010. Small urns of their ashes adorn my altar, as well as two silver horses. I choose to have horse symbol, because they raised horses for almost 50 years. There is a candle for each of them, that is lit on their birth days and the anniversary of their passing. I light the candles on April 1st and they stay lit until the end of the month. I use real ones when someone is home and flame-less battery powered tea lights when we can't be home. My Pepere’s old cowboy hat is there too.

My altar is in a corner of my dining room because that is the central gathering spot in my home. The altar is a permanent year round addition to my home but as we get closer to Samhaim, it becomes a place of focus and reflection. I add an offering bowl and put in food that my Grandparents enjoyed. I go to it daily and speak to them as if we are just chatting on the phone. I ask for guidance in the coming year and ask them to watch over my children as they did when they were alive.

On the night of Samhain, my family gathers for dinner and a ritual. We light the altar candles and we leave a chair open for the departed and I recite this prayer;

This is the night when the gateway between
our world and the spirit world is thinnest.
Tonight is a night to call out those who came before us.
Tonight we honor our ancestors.
Spirits of our ancestors, we call to you,
and we welcome you to join us for this night.
We know you watch over us always,
protecting us and guiding us,
and tonight we thank you.
We invite you to join us and share our meal.
(Theses lovely words were written By Patti Wigington)

Then we sit down to eat, making up a plate for the ancestors and talk about our favorite memories of  our departed loved ones.

 An ancestor altar is very personal.  I will be looking for a metal star to place on the altar, in memory of Dep. Pill. She was not a part of my biological family but she was a part of my law enforcement family. A friend of mine has placed photos and toys of a beloved pet who passed, on her altar. There is no right or wrong way to set one up. The only warning I have is to never place a photo of the living on your ancestor altar.

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