Ancestral work – Getting started with the spirits. 

I have so much going on right now that it’s hard to stay on top of it all. 

 

I often advise newcomers that their absolute first port of call should be the dead of their family lines. These Beloved Ancestors are the spirits that have the most interest in your well being and continuation because without you there is no more of their bloodline in the end. Which isn’t to say they can’t be complete twats, because they can – especially those who are recently dead. Which is to say that if you’re dad was an asshole in life, or your uncle a racist shit, then they probably still will be in death. Probably. Nothing is 100% set in stone.

Now, I don’t interact with any of my recently dead. I prefer working with the older family spirits to date. In part because none of my actual bloodline had passed until very recently and in part because of that bloodline I didn’t know the one who is gone. I do still honour my Grandfather’s second wife and my Grandmother’s second husband as family, but they’re not Ancestors, they’re Beloved Dead or ‘Ancestor’s of the Heart’ so my feelings of them is a bit different.

Anyhow, this is about getting started working with them. There are a lot of different ways to go about and different paths have different rules. This is just where I started, what I know and what I have experienced. It is not the absolute, one true, and only way. Quite the opposite, this is MY way and one of many. A lot of my practice is mashed together from UPG, reading up on Hellenic Chthonic practices, folklore and traditional witchcraft.

When I started off on this part of my path I did so from a point of necessity. There was a major family drama going down and I was at the point of hot-footing a family member. Before taking what I knew to be very drastic measures I touched base with some peers and asked if anyone had better suggestions to get the issue resolved quickly. One of them, a vodou practitioner, suggested I speak with my Ancestors. At this point I had no dead in my family line and I had no clue. This wonderful person gave me the starting point from a vodou perspective and it’s the one I recommend for everyone as it’s pretty neutral. Do note that in Vodou you do not keep the Ancestral altar in your bedroom unless you can cover it or have it somewhere you can close the door on it (Think of it this way – effectively your relatives can watch you fuck).

Start simple, clean white cloth, a white candle and a glass of fresh water that you change regularly. Sit down, light the candle, say hello and talk to them. You can tell them about your day, your problems, your victories and they seem to like knowing about any family things, good and bad, that are happening. That’s the basis of the whole shebang. Simple and sweet, nothing complex and easy to do even if you’re not ‘out’. You can also add white flowers and photos of your family. 

You can literally stop reading here if you wanted to.

Moving forward to what I have now. I draw on a lot of traditions and I’m going to lay out some odds and ends of praxis that you can take or leave.

il_570xn-545636399_sjr5The Skull

The skull is a spirit house for the Ancestors. For me it is where their candle rests and is elevated on my Ancestral Altar at the hearth of my home (in this case a bookshelf in the lounge room as we spend most our time there). George (naming is optional) looks a little like the plaster of paris one by etsy use ViciousNoodle. You can use a real skull if you want, but ceramic ones tend to be as good, and you can also get stunning theatre prop ones.

Offerings to the ancestors and various props and objects live on the altar which are ‘owned’ by my Ancestors or part of their worship.

The Candle

Candles are important, as we all know. If you can not have an open flame for any reason then don’t, they’ll live. The main aim of the candles is to create light for your spirits to see your working and be warmed. In the case of the Dead they can also act as a guiding light to the spirits.

For my family we have two options for candles. I used to use beeswax candles. The downside is they’re expensive, the up is bees and honey have long held associations with the dead, and they smell amazing. Unfortunately my local supplier for beeswax pillars got in a bunch that literally burnt for 30 minutes and then dissolved into an absolute mess, so we’ve been using tea lights. The advantage of tea lights, as much as they are cheap, is that you can leave them to burn as they have limited burning time and are inexpensive. You can also get them in many colours and scents if you’re so inclined. One of my Dead loves vanilla scented ones.

Offerings

2014-06-21 19.22.43
An adhoc offering made at my beloved’s home before we moved in together. Honey, port and a lit candle for warmth and light.

Speaking of, these are a big deal, for me fresh water
is a must and my Dead insist on alcohol. Whenever asking for anything big from them I put out the good scotch, and wine and port are regular additions. Food isn’t good for us, the cat gets into it, but rice, bread, honey, and olive oil are all traditional offerings, as are foods that your dead liked in their lifetimes. Likewise tobacco is often a fantastic and traditional offering, as is incense. A LOT of spirits like smoke offerings. The reason I have been given is that it make their spirit bodies feel ‘full’ or tangible if you will.

In my praxis anything given to the dead is no longer fit for human consumption. Liquids are poured into the garden, food discarded away from the home (usually given to the ravens) and other offerings either burnt, buried or carefully discarded in the main bins after being wrapped separately. Burying objects for the dead is a great idea as the lands of the Dead are literally beneath the ground in most lore.

 

Feeding any spirit regularly is a good idea. Food is love as the phrase goes, and regular attention and feeding strengthens your bond with your spirits. For the Dead water, olive oil, honey etc is also soothing. Alleviating restlessness and potential anger and resentment directed towards the living.

So next big thing is working with them!

At the end of the day this is as easy as sitting down and talking and then listening. Working with your Ancestors can be a good way to start developing your ability to hear spirits and interpreting their messages. They can communicate with you directly, through divination, dreams and various waking symbols.

For odds and ends tell them what’s happening and what you need/want from them, give them a little extra love for their attention and then again if they do the work (and they won’t if they think it’s bad for you).

For house protections place items that are related to the home and family (hair or symbols of living family members) on the altar permanently. Feed them regularly and let them know you’re trusting the home and household members to them.

 

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D is for Death

And there’s more than one way to die.

I’d say we die thousands of little deaths (and I’m not talking about orgasms thank you kindly) in the form of betrayals, trauma and lost battles. Those deaths, like all deaths, change us. They can break us open or close us up, soften us or sharpen our edges to brittle razors.

Some deaths you recover from quickly and others force you to descend and hold you down there until you actively work to raise yourself up. And some of them are just fucking complicated and follow you around like the smell of an old corpse’s burst guts. I died a complicated death. I paid, I descended and I rose changed, but the fucker that caused it stench follows me like the corpse gut smell.

I’m tired of it.

I’m soon to be, among other things, doing some release work. I’ve talked about this before in a post about unhooking yourself from others. In this case it’s significantly harder than before as we’re dealing with someone who I had sexual relations with, had a very close bond with and who betrayed me utterly. My anger and distress have tied me to this person tighter than I was to start with in many ways and left me chained to them. A slave of my own pain. It’s emotionally fraught work and it signifies a death in and of itself.

Bound – AshtonSunseri

Work like this isn’t easy. You deliberately put yourself through hell in order to heal. It’s a deliberate, carefully considered, self inflicted trauma that I know will drag me back into the underworld.

How to deal with these kinds of works?

It would be easy to dismiss this as underworld work and arm yourself, or advise arming yourself, accordingly. However this is a little different. I’m not going seeking the underworld and my allies that could help me there will have no power to assist me in this. There’s no real way to know where I’ll end up or how long the paths will take to navigate. There is no ferryman to pay, or gates to discard or collect objects from, nor guardians and deities to bribe  *ahem* I mean honour and pay.

In this case your best weapons aren’t on that side. They’re on this side of the veil. Make time for this, make time to scream and weep. Make sure you have someone and somewhere to hide in while you hurt. Make sure you can avoid the person you’re letting go of.

Make sure there’s no unfinished business. If you’re letting go of someone who has seriously harmed you and you have rage then curse the fucker and his blood lines for the next 30 generations or be more constructive and release your anger in rituals… whatever it takes, get it done before you try to untie yourself or you’re leaving yourself open to reattach to them.

And, mostly, make sure you’re ready. It’s been over 12 months since I cut ties with the person I’m unhitching, and it’s time to. I’m ready to be completely done. I no longer feel the need to try and fix things any more than I need to kill him – not that I wouldn’t maim him if I could, but I don’t want to seek him out to hurt him. He’s simply an old festering wound and releasing him is going to cauterize that so I can heal completely and move on. If you’re not ready you’ll be lengthening the process, because as much as you want it done it’s not in your heart and mind and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to let it go.

This isn’t small work, no matter what method you use to achieve it. This is work that tears and rends and destroys parts of you. It hurts. It’s emotionally fraught, if not physically. You, I, am deliberately seeking a death and it’s one of part of yourself that has been trapped.

Death is change, metamorphosis…

Death is often freedom.