Working with your ancestors on a magical or guidance level is a very powerful form of magic and is one that almost every religion, path or culture in the world takes part in some way. Your ancestors give you comfort, guidance, strength and an extra sense of power as it is like working with your own circle of people that are tied to you by blood.
Some people find it hard to get their heads around the concept of working with their ancestors; after all, they are dead right? Yes, but they are not gone forever. The very first hurdle of starting this form of magical practise is to realise that they will never die in our hearts. Our love and memories of them keep them alive and it is this primal feeling inside of us that guides us through working with our ancestors on many levels.
There are two paths of ancestral work: working with your close family blood line, these are called ‘blood ancestors’, or working with ancestors you do not know but are more of a wider general ‘ancestors’ – perhaps, witches that have gone before us or other, more distant, family members. These are called ‘collective ancestors’. We may not have known them but they are still our ancestors, we may not even know their names but it doesn’t make them any less powerful.
Usually when working with ancestors we make a special place in order to call them, work with them and to give them offerings as a mark of respect. This is usually called an Ancestral Altar or Shrine; however it does not need to be so formal. A windowsill with a couple of photos and a tea light candle does the job equally as well as a full shrine set up. However, if you do want to create a permanent altar or shrine for your ancestors then you would place items on it that relate to them, such as photos, pieces of their jewellery or something from your culture if you are going from a wider ancestor perspective. White, black, purple and orange candles are also used for ancestors in many cultures, but a single white candle is just as good. You could have skulls to represent the dead or even an urn of ashes from a cremation. The special place you create is to show them that you are thinking of them, honouring their legacy and also a place where you and they can work together that is safe and protected.
Working with our ancestors allows us to fully understand our past and it is not until we understand, and most importantly, accept our past, that we can feel at ease in our present and move forward to our future. It also allows us to receive any gifts that we may have been passed down in our families such as a sixth sense or the ability to have prophetic dreams, for example.
The main reason I work with my ancestors is out of respect and love. If they had not been alive, I would not be here today. I love my ancestors a great deal, especially my grandparents who were a huge part of my life.
Whilst we can work with our ancestors at any time of the year, there is one special time where this feeling of connection you get with them is at its strongest. This is at Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-wen’, ‘sow-wain’ or ‘sow-in’ – be warned though, there is a mine field of people arguing how it is meant to be pronounced!) also known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween. It is at this time that the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest. A time where communication, whether that be through sight, smell, audio or speech is at its easiest to do. A time to honour our ancestors and remember those who have gone.
There is no right or wrong way to ask your ancestor to come forward as long as it is done with respect. The simplest of ways is just to ask. ‘Ask and it shall be received’ is something that is said a lot these days, it is derived from a quote from the Bible: Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” Who would have thought it, a witch quoting the Bible! However, isn’t this also the basis of most magic? It is simple law of attraction, you put out to the world what you want to happen and it happens. Your intent, your passion, your spirit, your soul asking for something with so much energy and will, that it unfolds in front of you. It just proves that we are all magical and the magic is within us and this is just the same when working with our ancestors. The best way to ask them to come and work with you, to protect you or just to stand by your side, is simply that… just ask.
When you have worked with your ancestors for a period of time, you may feel that you no longer need to ask them to be there as you will be able to feel them around you when you need them the most, and just as in life, each one will have their own different personality and therefore have a very different ‘feel’ when they are around you.
You may find that some ancestors work better for different spells. A blood ancestor will usually be a good source of protection whereas a collective ancestor could be a great source of guidance and wisdom. Each witch works differently with their ancestors but with the common aim that we want our family, whether we knew them or not, to be a part of our lives, even though they may no longer be with us.
Ancestral magic is strong, very strong as it is built through love and respect. It certainly is a wonderful way to work and to feel ‘part of something’ even if you are alone.