Family and Ancestor Altar
We have talked about many things in this column up to this point. About building traditions, about worshiping and praying together. But family needs a place to gather together. I know that many of you are thinking that is what the Home is for, and you would be right. But inside the Home a Strong and Spiritual family needs a gathering place for their spiritual purposes. And as you saw last Monday, with Janet’s altar post, one of the things that you can use for this purpose is the Family Altar. A small table that acts as the central location of spirituality in your house. The only thing to remember about the Family Altar is that there are no rules for how one of these should be built or look. They should each be as unique as the family is. But here are some suggestions to start with:
- The family Deities should be represented. If you haven’t found who those are then you can just have representations of the Goddess and God on there instead. Look at the end of this chapter on a meditation and tips to help you with this.
- There can also be a representation of the One. The principle that the Goddess and God are the two parts of. If this is not part of your mythos, then of course you can exclude this.
- A spot for the Ancestors and Elders should be reserved as well. You can mark this with a candle or a small lamp and an offering plate. You can also include pictures of some of those that have passed on. Or you can spin this out into an altar only for the Ancestors, see below.
- The family should have something to represent it. In our house we use an oil lamp and light it on Sabbats and in times of sickness, stress and happiness. This is from our family coven being part of FWTI. Now I know that these are an odd combination of events but these are the exact times that we need to be reminded of our connectedness. And in all three cases one can forget that others can share in the burden or want to share in the joy. Now if the idea of an oil lamp makes you cringe, you could also use a symbol that everyone can touch as they pass by to remind them of the fact that they are connected to the rest of the family.
- You may also want to have representations of the four elements as well. Whether you use colored candles or actual physical symbols of them.
- Another suggestion is the Family Book of Shadows. Which should be a compilation of rituals and traditions of the family. Look at the second half of this book on crafting a Family Book of Shadows.
- You can also put photos of each member of the family and photos of different rituals and trips that the family has taken.
- You can also decorate the altar with symbols of each of the seasons and/or Sabbats.
Placement and Tips
Now as you go ahead with the building of your family altar. Just keep a few things in mind;
- Put it where the most traffic is. It does no good if the family is not reminded of it.
- Use it. Build your rituals around it. Pray at it. The more that you do these things, the more “spiritually charged” the Family Altar will become.
- I have always found that simpler is better. The more on it, the easier it is to knock something over and the less “working” room there is.
- Do not worry about getting it “wrong”. If it “feels” right then it is “right”.
Now that you have created an altar to honor the family and for that family to share, you may also want to create a place to honor the Ancestors. My wife did this for our family, she created what we are calling the Ancestor wall. This basically is a place to pay respect and leave offerings for those that have passed on.
Starting your own Ancestor wall is a worthwhile and easy project for you to do. I recommend starting with a family tree and trying to compile photos along the way. But there are other things you can do as well to make your Ancestor altar as unique as your family.
- Go to the living. Talk to your existing family and gather as much information as you can on as much family as they can remember. See it was important to talk to your parents and the rest of your extended family.
- Remember that stories are important, you may even want to compile those stories. Either in written form or in video or audio form.
- Then move on to the physical records. Starting with family bibles, diaries, letters, photograph albums.
- And finally up to non-federal records. By this I mean, local sources like courthouses. For birth and death certificates. Along with marriage documents or deeds.
Where do I go from here?
Now that you have started on this project and have something that you can put up, what do you do next? There are many ways to go. Like we plan to do in the Spring, you could hang up a special shelf for your Ancestors and put up pictures and the family tree. Then regularly clean that area and leave offerings and light candles to honor them. Or you could put that material on your normal family altar and always be reminded of them. The list goes on and on about the way you could honor your Ancestors in this way. Each way is unique to the family being honored.
Yet the more you work on bringing them into your home and into your rituals the more helpful your Ancestors can be. From lending energy for magick to giving you warnings in your dreams of things to come.
And by all means share some of your altars so we can showcase them on our biweekly altar column. Send an email with pictures and descriptions to firstname.lastname@example.org