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Sacred Sundays: Gratitude to Your Ancestors

November 08, 2019 0 Comments

Sacred Sundays: Gratitude to Your Ancestors


Gratitude to Your Ancestors

November 10th, 2019
by Camille Langston


'Tis the season of the harvest, gathering together to share meals, and spending quality time with loved ones via a myriad of cultural traditions. As we all collectively tune into the frequency of gratitude this holiday season, what better way to show gratitude than by giving thanks to those that paved the way for you? Your Honorable Ancestors. Without our ancestors we literally would not be here. Our bodies, gifts, predispositions, and even traumas come from them (I recommend looking up “epigenetics” for more on this, or reading the book Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza). They are our source. We are because they are. Honoring your ancestors is sacred to many ancient cultures all over the world, and much of it is still practiced today. In this months intentional ritual, I will be instructing us on how to make an ancestral altar that anyone can use.

I understand that sometimes Ancestral work brings up fear for many people. We all have ancestors that weren’t kind people when there were alive. We may have even suffered great traumas due to their actions or inactions. However this doesn’t negate the fact that they are still our family. Often times when a spirit passes, they see the cause and affect of their actions and feel painful regret — hoping that someone will be compassionate enough to forgive them after enough time and (hopefully!) therapy has passed. Another blockage people encounter with ancestor work is they think that because they don’t know much about their ancestors, they cannot connect with them. This is also not cause to ignore them all together. Us knowing our entire family tree is not essential to having a connection with our ancestors.

As I said before we are because they are; We share DNA with these souls, an unbreakable bond. Just because we don’t know them doesn’t mean they don’t know us. If you’re reading this article, take it as a confirmation that your loving and honorable ancestors deeply desire a connection with you. A connection that will bring you unfathomable groundedness, blessings, and most importantly, healing. In my personal practice I’ve never made as much progress as quickly as when I started praying to, giving offerings to, and asking for guidance from my Ancestors. The difference was so staggering I knew as soon as I started that I had found a missing link in my spiritual practice. 

When we heal individually, our entire bloodline heals. This is a blessing because this means we don’t have to have our entire family on board to activate miraculous change. Doing your individual work of being brave enough to face your fears, take action, rest when needed, to ask for help when necessary, can create monumental waves of healing in all directions — not just for your family, but for every being you encounter. Each little victory allows us to unravel the ancestral trauma that is and has kept our families down and out. Use this altar as a safe space to connect with those ancestors who are willing and able to do the work with you. When you’re doing this type of work, your intention is everything. As you develop a consistent practice with your ancestors, allow them to speak to you. You might find that they ask you for specific things as your bond strengthens. All in equal exchange.



As previously stated we are setting an intention to work with our elevated ancestors only. If you wish, you may extend a hand to those ancestors who are suffering and need light, nourishment, and love. But keep in mind that you are not required to push yourself beyond your limits. The white candle we use will represent the guiding light and warmth that our honorable ancestors already bring, and that those un-elevated ancestors may need. Please go at your own pace and start simple. If you don’t feel ready to accept certain ancestors, start with the ancient ones whose names you may not know, but to whom we all owe deep gratitude. I suggest having your ancestor altar separate from any other altars, and also ideally have it in a space where people who visit your space can see them (ancestors love to be admired). I do not suggest having this specific altar in your bedroom, but work with what available space you have!

Altar/Decor/Setup & Suggestions: 

What you’ll need:

  • Clean table
  • Clean white cloth
  • Tall white candle (medium to large size, not a tea light)
  • 1-3 small drinking glasses and one small plate that you haven’t used
  • Pleasant smelling incense
  • Pictures of ancestors if available (If you can, place the photos in picture frames)
  • List of the names of as many ancestors as you can remember
  • Cascarilla or efun which can be purchased at a local Botanica or spiritual store.

Clarification: From the tradition that I practice (Ifa/Lucumi), it’s taboo to serve your ancestors food or drink from paper or plastic, and it’s also taboo to serve them from items that you’ve eaten off of. Almost all these supplies can be bought at the dollar store and shouldn’t cost you more than $6-10! This is more or less how to make an altar from my tradition, but you can add whatever you wish to make it your own. I do recommend the essentials always be present no matter what: white candle, cascarilla boundary, names or images of ancestors, and a glass of water.  


Example of a Cascarilla


Simple Steps and Procedures:

  • Clean your table and place it up against a wall or in a corner. Then, place your white cloth over it. If you don’t have a table placing the altar on the floor up against a wall will work. 
  • If you have pictures of your ancestors with folk that are still living in the photo, make a copy of it and cut out the living. The ancestor shrine is ideally a place for your blood relatives, and/or people that raised you that are no longer living (circumstances permitting). Place photos in frames if available.
  • If you don’t have any photos don’t stress! Write down the names of people that you know. And if you don’t know their names simply write down for example “I give thanks to my maternal line from North Carolina, my paternal line from West Africa, my Russian-Jew ancestors, I call upon my people who were European, South East Asian, my people who spoke Farsi, etc.” be as specific as you can.
  • Places white candle and incense next to photos.
  • Take one glass and pour fresh water
  • The second & third glasses are optional but are traditionally coffee w/cream & sugar, and some type of liquor (beer is always a good option). If you know what type of liquor a cherished ancestor liked in particular, then offer that.
  • Take the small plate and place a few bites of food from one of your meals that day. It doesn’t have to be a full plate — whatever you can afford to give. It’s best if it’s a food that you’ve cooked or that your ancestors recognize, but don’t stress about that. What’s most important is that your offering comes from the heart. Even if you’re only able to offer fresh water at this time that will go a long way!
  • Take the cascarilla/ efun and draw a semi circle around your table that connects to the wall surface, then draw 9 evenly spaced lines intersecting the circle line (like you’re drawing a sun). This acts as a protective barrier for both you and your ancestors. Cascarilla is just crushed eggshell so it will clean easily from any surface.
  • After all offerings are placed, blow on your altar three times to infuse it with your energy.
  • Light your candle and incense.
  • Feel free to add whatever other items you feel connect you to your ancestors. Perhaps some tobacco, flowers, bright cloth, sacred plant, or artwork. Simple is always best but it’s ok to have fun decorating this space!
  • Say the prayer given below, or say your own heartfelt prayer (I recommend the latter!)
    Prayer For Your Ancestors
    I call upon the powerful forces of light within me for clarity and protection. I call to this altar my loving, honorable, and elevated ancestors that they might have a home again in my heart and in my space. I call upon [list names here]. I humbly give these offerings and ask for their blessings, healing, and guidance in my life. I give thanks to all those that came before me and I ask that their presence and messages be lovingly felt in my life in ways that I easily understand.  And so it is.


    • Sit here for as long or as short as you wish. Say a prayer of thanks to your ancestors for all that they have given you. Feel this gratitude swirling around you. Sincerely talk to them about what’s on your mind, what’s been bugging you lately, your successes, your failures. Lovingly ask them for help. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t sense anyone. What spirit and ancestors teach us best is trust. So trust that your prayers have been heard.
    • After 2-3 days throw out your old offerings and place new ones. Only give as much as you’re able to in the moment! This altar is meant to bring you peace, not another thing to stress over.



    A few examples of ancestral altars









    Have your own Sacred Sunday ritual? Tag @jsouthernstudio and #sacredsundays in your Instagram post for a chance to be featured!

    Camille Langston is a Reiki Master teacher in Usui Shiki Ryoho technique, psychic medium, tarot reader, musician, and actor living in Los Angeles, California. Read her bio here.


    Read more on astrology, horoscopes, occultism, magick & ritual on our blog, Esoteric Insights!

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