The Pagan Experience asks –
Who are your ancestors? How do you honor them? What will you leave as your legacy as you become the Ancestor?
Sadly I know very little about my ancestors and what I do know I cannot share here. Sufficed to say mostly we’re a pretty boring family with strong Yorkshire roots but every now and again something interesting crops up.
I honour my ancestors which are near to me in time by remembering them and by talking to my children as often as I can. Even those the children never had a chance to meet are talked about regularly. Late autumn and the winter months are particularly important to my family, with key ancestors being referred to. I hope to one day honour my more distant ancestors by researching further and including them in specific practices however for now my references are broad and general.
As a parent I hope to level a strong legacy to my child and any descendants I may have. What form will it take? Who knows. At the very least I hope that are left with memories of a happy childhood (or association with me) and an abiding sense of wonder and curiosity. I think the one thing we all want is to be remembered, and remembered well, and this is something I hope for.
As I have said, one of the ways I honour my ancestors is to talk about them to my children. Often this means I am talking about people they have never met or have little memory of.
I created a little process for them to help them process communicating with departed loved ones involving writing letters. I have expanded on this for adults to aid communication with departed loved ones which covers three possibilities in terms of being able to visit burial sites.
In this ritual such visits are acts of remembrance meant to reinforce the loving memories of that person in life. This is not to suggest that the spirit remains tethered to the mortal remains.
If it is not possible, appropriate or preferable to visit a burial site then this can be discarded totally or adapted to incorporate another location which reinforces the memory of your loved one in life.
Letters to Loved Ones
Write at the top of the letter: “To (name/relationship), receive this letter, a sign that I will always remember and miss you”.
Continue your letter below. You can write about anything they want to share with your departed loved ones; feelings, news, memories, love etc. and when done sign it with love.
When you have finished your letter fold three times and place into an envelope. Write the persons full name in the centre and in the top right hand corner the date of the loved ones passing in place of the stamp.
If your loved one is buried then you can take the letter whole, or in the form of ashes (see below) to the grave site and bury it near the headstone. As you leave it say “This letter is for (name) my (relationship). May it carry my message to their sleeping hand for all time”.
If your loved was cremated, or you don’t know where they rest or ashes would be more discreet then you can burn the letter ahead of time. Below is an example process you may want to follow.
Choose some incense, rose scents are ideal for this ritual but any blend which is associated with communicating with the spirit world is appropriate to your purpose. You will also need a white candle and a heatproof dish and sand if appropriate.
Set these items out alongside the letter. As you light the incense and candle concentrate on your loved one and call them clearly to mind.
Set the letter to the flames as you hold on to those thoughts and feelings. Allow the letter to be reduced completely to ash, you might want to grind it in a pestle and mortar to ensure the process is complete.
If you know the location that your loved one was scattered then take the ashes there, either burying or scatter them in the same area again saying; “This letter is for (name) my (relationship). May it carry my message to their sleeping hand for all time”.
If you don’t know the location, or cannot visit easily then take the ashes down to flowing water such as a stream or river. As you cast the ashes in say “From river to river until meeting the Styx, this letter is for (name) my (example). May it carry my message to their sleeping hand for all time”.
In all cases, turn and walk away thinking about your loved one and celebrating your love for them.