Saturday, October 10, 2009

You Never Write, You Never Call

Any other neopagans of Jewish origin, or other folks familiar with borscht belt humor, will recognize that line as 'typical Jewish Mother/Grandmother". In THIS case it's a message from ALL you ancestors. They've notice that not many neopagans here in the US have ancestor altars.

I suppose that they are more common among us Ethnic Traditionalists, Revivalists, and Reconstructionists, but even for us they are not universal.

Sure, it's getting to be Samhain here in the US now, so lots of us are doing SOMETHING this month to note at least one ancestor. But in many cases it might only be a quick offering while on your way out to a Halloween party or after a ritual that is focused on divination.

Back in the day - you know, where all neopagans say that their roots are? - ancestors were acknowledged on a very regular basis. Maybe there were daily prayers and offerings, as Luisah Teish says was/in done in African-Caribbean traditions, but at the very least folks had an ancestors altar going and there was SOME regular schedule of attention. Even totem poles have more to do with family history/ancestors than our modern idea of 'personal totems' (oh, cool, ANOTHER idea for a future blog post!)

I freely admit that the altar set up I have is much influenced by my time in Ar nDraiocht Fein Druid Fellowship ( which I joined around 1992. I have 3 altars 'up' all the time. One is for Nature Spirits/Land, one for Ancestors/Sea (Celtic dead tend to be on islands on/in/of the Western Sea, except when the go to the Top of the World), and one for Gods/Sky I don't leave offerings or work with all parts of the triads daily, although I know I'd make 'better' spiritual progress if I did, but I do work with them all 'regularly'.

The ancestors' altar, an 19 inch square wood top of a stereo speaker plus the wall space around it, is simple. When I had more room the space over it had a LARGE graphic of my family tree, now I just have a few pictures and an African carving on the wall (I work with the ancestor back to Mother Africa), an offering plate, a candlestick and candle. Simplicity means less things to dust.

With this as a permanent set up, I have made it easy for myself to stop by the altar, light the candle, leave an offering, give them an update, and listen for their voices.

Perhaps this is the key to ALL things we do, spiritual, emotional, material, intellectual, etc - make it easy for yourself to do the work. Don't put obstacles in your way YOURSELF. Smooth the path that leads to Best Practices. Yeah, it's a lesson I'm still learning - most obstacles I run into are still self-inflicted. But I covered THAT back in Chaos Theory.

Bottom line: Call your Grandparents. They are waiting eagerly to hear from you, and tell you the stories of your collective past that have shaped your today, and continue to shape the future.

Frondly, Fern


  1. How wise Fern! May I just add, that the Ancestors are not just those related to us by blood. So if your own Grandparents have passed to the western Isles, there are many other Elders in every community, with wonderful stories to share.
    Blessed be.

  2. i do tend to focus more on ancestors around samhain, even now that i'm all greeked out. i really otter set up a permanent shrine.

  3. My grandmother's in Portland ME. She complains quite loudly (to my sibs) that I never call.