A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tis the Season for Ancestor Work

As All Hallow's Eve, All Saint's Day, and All Soul's Day (also commonly known as the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos) approaches the timing is just right for work with ancestors; those who have passed on, but have left their mark upon our lives and destiny.

Some traditions talk about a thinning of the veil that separates the world of the dead from the world of the living. Perhaps for this reason many cultures around the world remember and honor their dead and celebrate their lives during this time. Or maybe it is for entirely different reasons. In either case it is a great time to focus on the significance of the great equilizer we know as death and remember those who have passed for if they are remembered they are not truly gone.

Ancestor veneration is a central aspect of various tradition-based cultures and the practices blur the lines between the religious and the magical, reminding us of how arbitary that boundary is anyway.

In African-American Conjure and the various African Traditional Religions, the role of the ancestor is of extreme importance for it is the ancestors who act as the ultimate guide, protector, and provider of their descendents. In fact, the ancestors are seen as the first line of defense in many of these magical and religous tradition. For example, for conjurers of old it was more common for them to appeal to their ancestors than to call upon the spirit of a random dead. It was believed that the blood link not only allowed the petition to be conveyed easier, but because of that link the ancestor still had power in this world.

It is intersting to note that in many religions some of the ancestral dead became elevated to great heights becoming powerful forces not only in the lives of their blood descenents, but a spiritual force for all those who may have some resonance with them. Here we find the Heroic Dead of the Hellenic world, some of the gods of Africa who once were mortal men, but rose to heights of deification, as well as Saints who are the ancestral dead of the Church. My own ancestors from the Middle East and North Africa fit into this category. Many of them were sages and magi who went on to become folk saints and legendary figures and joined the greater dead.

In either case, I believe that ancestor work is of great significance for those walking spiritual paths. They can become guides, teachers, protectors, and providers. They remind us that we are but a drop in an endless sea of souls and that for now we may have a corporeal shell, but that we too will soon join them in the ancestral waters.

To that, the simple offering of a candle, some water, or cooking the favorite meal of a beloved ancestor while remembering them can go a long way to keep us connected to that great line of beings who made our lives possible in the first place, who have had our back since time immemorial and to whose embrace we return.

For anyone interested in more regular work with them, which I highly recommend and it is the first thing I teach my conjure students, I suggest setting up a space for them. It can be a mantle piece or on top of a small drawer, but let it be their space. Put up photos of your ancestors, any mementos of them you may have for they are charged relics, and once a week offer them prayers, candles, and fresh water. Simple work, but it goes a long way. Remember them and they will remember you.

No comments: