How To Connect With Your Ancestors in 10 EFFECTIVE Ways
Your ancestors are here. They’ve always been and always will be. When you breathe, you use DNA given to you by your maternal ancestors. When you cry or laugh, you cry and laugh with your ancestors’ DNA. I have spent the past five years connecting with my ancestors in various ways. There aren’t many books out there to guide you in your efforts. This I had to learn on my own. Now I wish to share my experiences with you to help you connect with your ancestors on a deeper level and hopefully they become a pillar of your spiritual practice.
Cultural Ties and Ancestors
In cultures all over the world, ancestor worship has been part of spiritual practice for thousands of years. With the introduction of Abrahamic religions, ancestor worship has all but died out. This religious change has led us to forget our ancestors and therefore we’ve forgotten where we come from. It’s an unfortunate move in the wrong direction. In losing touch with our ancestors we lose touch with our roots…with the blood that courses through our veins. The cultures around the world who honor their ancestors include the Chinese, Native Americans, ancient Egyptians, ancient Romans, various African tribes, Indians, and many more. Why have we strayed from ancestor worship? How do we re-connect with the ancestors we’ve nearly forgotten?
Preliminary Ways to Connect With Your Ancestors
- framing pictures
The first way to connect with your ancestors is get to know them. Sounds difficult seeing as how they are dead, right? Wrong! It’s tedious work, but it’s well worth it. Start a family tree online, on a Word Doc, or manually on a poster board. For me, I went with the online family tree via ancestry.com. The cool thing about ancestry.com is that it searches a huge archive of files and documents for information. If you enter your parents’ names first, the website will notify you of document matches almost immediately. For instance, you’ll find your father’s war documentation or your mother in a newspaper article. These are just minor examples.
More on Family Trees
The point to setting up a family tree is to get to know who your ancestors were as far as their names, time periods in which they lived, their occupations, where they lived, and where they were originally from. If you live in the United States and not Native American, this means your ancestors came from somewhere else (obviously). Do you know anything about their original mother-land? Do you know the traditions, religions, and history of your ancestors’ land? These are all ways to dive into your ancestry and get to know your ancestors.
DNA and Ancient Ancestors
I know some people are hesitant about having their DNA analyzed. I’ve had mine done and it’s helped me connect to my ancestors in many ways…but it has also had its drawbacks. So be aware of the potential negatives that can occur after doing your DNA. However, once your DNA is analyzed, you may be surprised of your ancestral connections. In addition to having your DNA done through Ancestry or 23andMe, upload your results into MyTrueAncestry to discover your ancient and Medieval ancestors! For example, my initial DNA results told me I am half English…but MyTrueAncestry took that back even further and told me I’m part Saxon, Celt, and Danish Viking!
Once you’ve established a family tree either, create a scrapbook of your ancestors. This is another very time-consuming project; however, you’ll grow closer to your ancestors by focusing on their lives in this manner. Get a large scrapbook from a craft store and gather stickers, craft papers and media, and whatever other tidbits you might like to add. Designate this book to your ancestors only. From there, start by separating your ancestors one-by-one or by family name, whatever you feel is best. Then add photos of your ancestors, their names, dates of birth and death, occupations, etc. Anything that you feel is important and relevant to your connection with your ancestors can go in the book.
If you’re not big into crafting, use Shutterfly.com to put together a scrapbook for you. I’ve used this service multiple times to build pretty photo albums of family vacations and holidays. More recently, I put together an entire album of my grandmother’s ancestry and gave it to her as a gift. Following, I knew my ancestors were honored and pleased. It costs anywhere from thirty to sixty dollars depending on how many photos you want in your album. But it cuts out the physical work for you!
In addition to ancestor scrapbooking, if you have any older photos of your ancestors (especially originals) it’s time to frame them. The time that you put into framing these photos and hanging them is time spent with your ancestors. Think of them and of the lives they lived, and think of the blood that courses through your veins and how it also ran through theirs. Hang these photographs in one place to honor your ancestors, or hang them around the house to show reverence and invoke protection over your home.
Ways to Spiritually Connect With Your Ancestors
3. Set Up Ancestor Altars
You’ve spent time getting to know about your ancestors’ lives, now it’s time to spiritually connect with your ancestors. Set up an ancestor altar or shrine. The altar can be inside or outside. It can be a corner of the hallway or an entire wall in your living room. Basic items to include on your ancestor altar: candles, pictures, mementos/heirlooms, flowers, herbs and stones, incense.
4. Ancestor Offerings
Once your ancestor altar is set up, begin honoring them with an offering. When you decide on an offering, be sure it’s something your ancestors like. If you’re honoring ancestors from ancient times, take an educated guess. They will let you know if you are off…trust me. Examples of ancestor offerings include: spring water, wine/mead/beer, fruits of various kinds (apples and citrus will keep nicely on an altar for days), cakes and breads, cigars and tobacco. Change them out as necessary.
Our ancestors will come to us in dreams. How do you talk and connect with your ancestors easily? Ask your ancestors to visit you in your dreams. You will be surprised how quickly they show up. I had one particular ancestor visit me in my dreams and I remembered her name. This was before I even realized she was my ancestor, until I started doing research on my family tree! I had missed one letter in her name originally, but she made it abundantly clear later on! Again, all you have to do is to ask them to show up and they will. In the morning, record your ancestor dreams so you can refer to them later.
Incorporate your ancestors into your rituals and meditations. Call on your ancestors to protect your circle and workings and invite them to be present. My suggestion is to invite them to your sacred space first, then ask for favors later. You can create an entire ritual with the simple intention to connect with your ancestors. Some people have an easy time writing their own rituals, but if you are not one of those people…here’s one of mine.
7. Ancestor Prayer
When I pray, I don’t typically pray to God or Goddess…I pray to my ancestors. Talk to them as though they’re right next to you, listening to every word you say. I do this in my head or out loud, depending on who’s around. You can pray to your ancestors, too. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or rhyme. You don’t have to bow or get on your knees. They are your family and want to hear your voice. Just pray. Another big piece to the ancestral puzzle is healing generational curses. Though this is something that takes many years. Prayer is the start.
An effective way to learn how to connect with your ancestors is to do what your ancestors did. Did your grandmother like to crochet? Time to pick up the crochet needle! Was your great uncle an expert fly fisherman? Consider taking up his pasttime. Or take it back to the older days and learn a skill your ancient ancestors might have known: survival skills like building a fire, hunting, weaving, etc.
A fun way to connect, especially if you love food, is to cook meals in honor of your ancestors. Make your grandmother’s bread pudding recipe or your aunt’s gingerbread. Pull out the old family cookbooks and choose a recipe to recreate. OR research your ancestors’ foods from their ancestral homeland. For example, if your ancestors are Irish – Dublin coddle, soda bread or colcannon. If they are Nigerian – pepper soup, gari, or egusi soup. Set a place at the table for your ancestors and/or leave part of the meal on their altar.
Meditation is helpful in so many ways, and it can also be used to communicate with your ancestors. Find a guided meditation on YouTube. Wait until you have a quiet moment alone. Turn off your electronics and dim the lights. Ask your ancestors to be present with you and for your ancestral guide to come through during your meditation. Then let them speak to you in that quiet space.
You’re struggling to connect with your ancestors. Have you tried pathworking to meet and talk to them? Pathworking is a clever, fancy name for guided meditation. Here I give you one of my ancestor guided meditations. You’ll just need to have someone read it to you, or record it to play for yourself. Pathworking is a great way to practice your meditation skills PLUS reach out to your ancestors on a more personal, experiential level.
A Guided Underworld Meditation: Conversation With An Ancestor
- Start by finding a quiet place where you’ll be alone and undisturbed.
- Close your eyes and slow your breathing.
- Focus on the air moving in and out of your lungs. One breath at a time. (pause for 15-20 seconds)
- Continue to breathe in this way until you’re fully relaxed. From head to toe. (pause for 15-30 seconds)
- With your eyes still closed, you’ll begin to see a tree in the distance. Walk towards the tree. As you get closer and closer, you notice the tree is very large. It’s great limbs stretch into the heavens, and it’s roots jut out all around it and then penetrate into the earth. The trunk of the tree is glowing.
- Slowly walk towards it. Don’t be afraid of it. (pause 15 seconds)
- The light from the trunk grows brighter and brighter until it envelopes you completely.
- You feel yourself being gently pulled down into the tree by the light. This feeling is comforting and warm. You give in to where the tree’s light wants to take you.
- Down. Down. Gliding down the roots of the tree and through the earth your soul travels.
- The earth breaks apart and you’re now standing in an open cave. Someone also enveloped in a bright, white light is walking towards you. You smile when you realize, it is one of your ancestors.
- Your ancestor approaches you slowly and when his or her face comes into view, you notice he or she is smiling. His/her eyes are bright and full of love for you. (pause 15 seconds)
- Speak with your ancestor for a few minutes or as long as it takes. Ask them their name and what message they have for you. What guidance they have for your life. Ask your ancestor to agree on a particular sign they will send you when you ask for one, sort of like a secret handshake. Also ask them how best you may honor them in your spiritual practice. (pause 2-5 minutes)
- When the conversation is over, thank them and turn to go back up the tree’s roots.
- The divine light from the tree pulls you up, up, up and back to middle earth. Your feet are planted firmly on the ground and you turn to leave the glowing tree behind you. (pause 15 seconds)