Ancestral Veneration. Family vs Ancestral Traditions.
I don’t make a practice of explaining my choices but there are so many myths about spirituality that hurt and separate Black and Brown people from their ancestral roots.
We have so many familial traditions that are ancestral. Traditions that started before the enslaved were introduced to Christianity and so many that were adopted thereafter to be sure they didn’t forget who they were and from where they’re strength and protection came.
And so if you or a family member has an area in the home that is dedicated to your family member(s) that have passed on then you indeed have the beginnings of an ancestral altar . And if it decorated with fabric, flowers, candles or items that remind you of them you are well on your way.
This is something we find in many homes of Black and Indigenous people and for Black Americans we make this space because our grandmothers and family elders displayed it in their homes and it is in our mind tradition. I want to say there is a thin line between family tradition and ancestral work and the biggest difference is intention and acknowledgement of what is. If you feel or dream about your deceased then perhaps they mean to connect with you. Perhaps they are your guardian angels and what better way to acknowledge and honor them than to create space for them to dwell in your home.
For those who believe in God we know s(he) has helpers or angels and they don’t have to be so far removed they can be called in and integrated into your daily life. And this is one of the differences between religion and spirituality, taking an active part in your practice vs sitting on your laurels and allowing life to happen to you. Altar work is a way to stand in your power and the powerful the Almighty and the power of your guardian angels and ancestors to create a world where you and your beloveds can thrive.
Ancestral Feast cover image credit: Corrina Wainwright