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Setting up your Ancestor Altar

Welcome

Here is an overview of what we’ll cover in this article.

  • The intention of an ancestor altar
  • Finding the right space
  • Identifying objects to use
  • Journal Questions for clarity
  • What to do at your altar
  • How to feed your altar, how to feed your ancestors, how to do lineage healing work

 

To begin get centered, grounded and connected. Take some deep breaths and remember to enjoy yourself! Trust your gut, you can not do this wrong.

The intention of an ancestor altar is to honor those who have gone before us, those in the spirit world.

Add any special thoughts to this general intention that feel good for you; maybe there’s just one person you want to honor this year, or maybe your altar is a good space for all those who have passed before you including friends, blood relatives, adopted family, ancestors you never knew or archetypical ancestors, pets and more.

Find the right space

Pick a space and clear it, clean it well and put away any items that no longer need to be out. Gather up items to arrange on the space for your ancester altar, explored below.

When feeling for the right space, it might help to pay attention to what direction this space is sitting in in the room and locationally in the house. Take a look at the Medicine Wheel and get a sense for each direction. Don’t overcomplicate it, if this causes you worry or stress, just ignore it and go with what feels right. Ancestors are found in the North on the medicine wheel, but that doesn’t mean your altar has to sit in the North, it’s just a guideline.

You are creating a space that will be an opening to the other side, the altar is a place of communication, it is a portal. It might look like a regular table with some pictures and object arranged on it, but it is a living space and you will be feeding it with your thoughts, intentions, grief, love, incense, offerings of food and drink, reading, singing, sound-making, smoke or anything you feel your ancestors would enjoy receiving from the living world.

 

 

Journey with Julia
Mondays in November

Get Clarity

How to know what to place on your altar

Take some time to journal, meditate or just take a walk about what you want your altar to feel like.

Who do you want to honor? Who do you want to be in touch with? Do you want to invite messages from your loved ones? Do you want to invite them into your dreams? Do you want to simply honor them and not be in intimate contact with them? How feels best to honor them? Do you want to give them offerings? What were their favorite foods? Smells? Activities? What would you wish for them if they were still here? Do you need to do releasing work around your lineage? Behaviors? Specific people or events? What objects or spiritual tools feel most supportive to me for this honoring process? How willing am I to be present in this process? What do I hope to achieve with this process?

If this is overwhelming for you to consider, Samhain is a whole season, not just a day, and the reason I work with the Wheel of the Year is because I get to go deeper each year. This might be something you just graze the surface of this year and go deeper into next year. Don’t disregard your efforts because you think you should be doing more. Start where you are, keep it simple and pay attention.

Theme: Grief and Ancestral Healing
About Mabon / Fall Equinox
Ritual Tools & Allies
Releasing Ritual
A Prayer of Surrender
Grief
Grief Gardens
When the Grief Isn’t Yours
Tending your grief garden
Devotional Gardens
Ancestors & Dreams
In Season ~ A poem by Amy Thomas
Journal Prompts
And more!

A 3-day ritual to honor Samhain.

Preparing
Ritual Tools & Allies
Protection
Ritual Bath
Journal Prompts
Ancestor Meal
Fire Ceremony
Opening & Closing Sacred Space
Prayer & Meditation
Restful Activity
Mala Meditation
Dream Journaling
After the 3-Day Ritual: Going Forward

 Items to Gather 

  • Images and objects of your loved ones
  • Seasonal Natural Items
  • Items used in feeding the Altar
  • Items used in feeding your Ancestors
  • Spiritual Tools

Images and objects of your loved ones

Do you have items that belonged to those you want to honor? If not, use another object in it’s place if that feels appropriate. If you want to take a trip to the thrift store and purchase an item to hold space for that person, make sure you clean this object before using it for this work. If you would rather, you can also simply use a stone or other kind of object to hold space for that person. If you do not have images of your loved ones, you can do the same thing; make or buy a piece of artwork to represent that person or use an old photo of someone you don’t know to hold the space of that person. 

Seasonal Natural Items

This is a beautiful time to take a walk and ask for some items to offer themselves to you for your altar. As you walk, notice what stands out to you, try to take leaves, for example, that have already fallen, and not disturb the ground too much in your interactions, respect the ecosystem you are engaging with and the items that are giving themselves to you for the work of creating a sacred space in your home. These are not just objects; they are bits of energy that want to come help you create this space and do the work of connecting to your ancestors. It’s bigger than just a simple walk, keep that in mind, but also enjoy yourself and the delightful things you do find on your walk. You may recieve messages right away, or you may get no clarity at all except for one tiny thing. Be grateful for whatever comes that feels right.

Feeding the Altar

Because it is a living space, altars need to be activated and fed regularly. There are many ways to do this that are simple but creative. The most basic and common is lighting a candle while you want to animate your altar. You can go grand and have many candles, offerings of incense, small cups of wine or juice, objects of the elementals – bowls of water, dirt, a feather, more candle or oil lamps for fire. This is simply to activate and feed the space.

Feeding your Ancestors

You’ll also need to have space to leave offerings for your loved ones. More on this below.

Spiritual Tools

Leave some space for any items you may use while you spend time at your altar, this may include herbs for burning and a feather for smudging to clean the space and yourself before spending time with your altar, a rattle, bells, any kind of sound-maker, oils for annointing, water for annointing, charged water or liquids, stones or crystals you may use for any purpose, like creating a grid or asking for guidance, feather or other types of fans, healing bundles you have assembled, medicine bags, the list is endless.

What to do at your altar

  • How often to visit the altar
  • Feed your ancestors
  • Heal your lineage

How often should I be at my altar?

You can choose to do this every day or just once. Go to your altar as often as you are drawn to it or if you have an inspired thought about making it part of your month in November, set up some dates with your altar and do your best to keep them.

Feed your ancestors

How to feed your ancestors and loved ones; Remember them. Drink tea with them. Mourn them. Speak to them.

Offer them some of their favorite things by leaving them on the altar over night or for a few days and ultimately taking the objects outside to be returned to the earth. Do not eat or use these objects, they are for offering only.

Instructions for having a Silent Supper in Honoring Samhain

Heal your lineage

Using your spiritual tools and asking for guidance, having the willingness to trust your intution and inspirations (messages from spirit), use your tools to do clearing and releasing work in whatever way you are guided. If you are willing to do this work it can be very intense, make sure you ask that it’s clear, simple, healing and gentle and for the highest good of all.

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Ancestral Healing

It is your birthright to make beauty of the mess of life. Chaos is strong right now – move with it and make something beautiful anyway. 

Things are a little intense you could say. Maybe you’re feeling it? The winds are starting. I always watch for 3 big ones in Spring and Fall.

Sometimes they’re dangerous and the call is to get inside, sometimes they’re clearing and it’s an invitation to let go. We are beings of nature despite all our efforts to live in a culture that isn’t connected in this way. But as the churning and turning is happening at this seasonal transition, in ways we can’t see, so it is happening within us, in ways we can feel.

We are dying to become new people for this new season. It’s okay, death is a part of life, but it’s true, this is a time people do often slip the bonds of this earth as well.

Spring and fall, and there sure seems to be a lot of stirring and some tragedy going on. Take care of yourselves. I recommend extra meditation and quiet time if possible.

What does it mean to take exquisite care of yourself at this time? This is always a question for me, comes from Pixie Lighthorse when starting Soulodge courses of past years.

We’re different people in different seasons.. and transitions are always difficult. Knowing all this I try to be very gentle and not overdo it at this time. Which can definitely challenge my feelings of self-worth attached to productivity and ‘shoulding’ on myself.

At least I know all this… knowing and doing are very different worlds.. and I’m grateful to at least try and be softer with myself. How can you be softer with yourself during this deep transition?

“Ancestral Healing” in Honoring Mabon E-Zine

Many of you have expressed interest in ancestral healing, I want to let you know I put a lot of what I know about it in the Honoring Mabon E-Zine!

I talk about when the grief isn’t yours but your ancestors, how to do a releasing ritual, a prayer for surrender and how to work in our dreams and connect with our ancestors.

There’s plenty more beyond that; grief, grief gardens, devotional gardens, ritual tools & allies for the season, journal prompts and a poem inspired by the transitional season by Amy Thomas and an article about shadow losses by Cole Imperi.

“A Shadowloss is a loss in life, not of life.”


A potent moment at Red River Gorge in 2012
This is a time to remember ancestors, to walk between the worlds a little deeper, a time to spend with rocks and trees, more places exist than you can see..

An Excerpt from Honoring Mabon
All of us have learned behaviors from our family of origin, for better or worse. But sometimes we, sensitive ones, may feel the brunt of many generations expressing through or at us. If this is the case, it’s time to do some strong boundary work, if not healing work as well. The hardest person to set boundaries with is often ourselves, by committing to stopping behaviors or patterns of thought that we inherited, we begin this process.

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Dreamwork

How to Work with Your Dreams

What messages are coming through your dreams? I am really enjoying doing the lightning technique from Robert Moss with my dreams to mine the potent energy.

 

We do a version of his technique in Journey classes, it’s a really fantastic way to get a clear picture of your subconscious and deeply held desires, what sparks your zest for life and the stuff that might be in the way.

I was afraid of my dreams for a long time. Every time I tried to start a dream journal I would come up against some really uncomfortable feelings or situations my subconscious wanted me to see, feel, and move. At the time I wasn’t ready.

Now that I have tools to help myself through trauma without causing more trauma or uncomfortable feelings without shutting down, it’s a really fun process.

Shadow work, dream work and journey work are inexorably connected. There is no separating them, but they are all different paths to ourselves. These are definitely realms I feel proficient at guiding people who want to go deeper and ultimately live more fully into the persons they are and want to be.

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You Always Have a Choice

One of the first things I didn’t know I didn’t know was that I had a choice. That I always had a choice but I felt trapped by the ways I tried to try to control uncontrollable things.

I used to try to “fix” people and even places and cultures when it wasn’t my job at all. It was a way to feel safe, in control and self-important.

By learning how to pray and surrender (just a tiny bit) my life slowly and steadily got better. To trust in something beyond my control whether it has a conscious or not or could be identified as a “human-like being” changed my life.

I had to learn from others, see and hear them pray and find my own relationship with something greater than me. I got lucky and could lean on others’ faith before I found my own. I was led to elders who could teach me.

The first thing I believed in was Beauty. I practiced seeing beauty as often as I could and, what seemed like suddenly, there was Beauty everywhere, even in me.

It’s a process, a practice, not an event. Keep working at it and it will come.

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How are you affected by the Full Moon?

The full moon will be in Scorpio this Saturday. Working on moon  journal prompts now. These are not they but questions around the full  moon cycles in general.

Do you honor the cycles of the moon? How? 

Are you feeling anything peculiar about this energy? 

Are you a Scorpio? Do you feel stronger or more chaotic when the full moon shines in your sign? 

Last year I was gifted with a very strange experience – visions during  the full moon, and no I wasn’t “on” anything but post-yoga and  meditation at the Red River Gorge. 

Since then, I have noticed either a  buzzy feeling, elation feeling, anxious feeling and sometimes I get  access to the doorway that opened when I received those visions. It’s  been a whole new skill set (which I do believe is coming in with age and  the way a woman’s body and intuition is like a fine wine) and no I  don’t have access to it just any time but I do have to pay attention and  if I can create the conditions, I can access that channel. Not only do I  possibly have visions but the synchronicities are uncanny, even still  after all the years of mind-blowing events, it’s hard to believe. This  is connection to Spirit. 

 

I share this for many reasons; I enjoy  sharing my experience and I hear from many women that they are worried  or confused or overwhelmed by their “powers,” not sure what’s happening,  don’t know what to do, don’t know it could be normal, have been called  crazy or too sensitive. This kind of connection CAN be very overwhelming  and the best I can offer is to talk to your guides and the energy and  tell them it’s too much, you need less, ask for help and ask for a  buffer or filter. You do not have to be open to it all at once. 

Practice deep self-care, do your best and keep your negative self-talk out of it, that only makes it worse.

Join me for Moon Journal prompts on theflyingcat. net – more specific content for this Full Moon in Scorpio.

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Spring is Coming

The moon is waning, the sun is waxing. The Wheel of the Year is about following the cycle of the sun in relationship to the Earth and those special points along the way in which the Earth expresses herself differently, in which the light is different, in which the angle of the path of Father Sun is lower or higher. We can really watch closely and see that the dates don’t actually line up with the calendar dates we accept as a culture (and barely know about anyway), for me, it’s about following the season, about learning the first flowers to show, the invasive species that choke them out (lesser celandine is a beautiful carpet of yellow but doesn’t give room for our native beauties to come out), learning about the different types of evergreens that still stand green in a bleak and seemingly desolate landscape, their magic quiet and calm, the Earth is always offering us gifts. Always. We simply need to get out of our own way and see, perceive, experience. There she is, always with an openness to us.

Many of us are stuck inside, many of us are feeling blah, many of us are having a hard time finding joy and may be stuck in cycles of self-sabotage or a narrow mind-set because it’s worked to this point. I’m here to let you know you always have a choice. Open your view, be gentle with yourself and start to make different decisions. Not engaging something is a decision. The most successful way I’ve found to change my habits is by adding healthy options that take the place of the ones I feel stuck in. Little by little, it’s a a choice in each moment.

We can do big ceremonies to shift our energy, and it does do that, but if we aren’t paying attention to what’s happening, what we are choosing day in and day out, the energy can’t shift, even if we have made the decision which in some cases can be harder on us to be saying we want one thing while living something different.

Make some time for yourself to listen, to the Earth, to your heart, to the birds, listen to something other than your own disturbed thoughts, listen to the sound of OM pervading all of creation, shifting your attention shifts your energy.

We are coming to the Equinox, the arc of the path of Father Sun is rising, as the rays become more direct in that path we feel the warmth, we come alive again.

The Earth gives birth to her Son again, this is the cycle, this is the renewal process of paying attention. See the shifts, little by little, take care of yourselves, you are needed, you are bringing in wonderful things into this world even when you don’t feel it. You are. You are. You are precious. You are needed. You are seen.

A’ha
Julia

Read More

 

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Honoring Ancestors

Thursday is “the day” (calenderically) to honor our passed loved ones and relatives. To honor them in any way is good – I recommend a silent meal (Instructions detailed in Honoring Samhain E-course).

One teacher emphasizes working with our benevolent ancestors, another teacher emphasizes clearing the lineage of dense energies.. there’s a lot to be done for ourselves and our ancestors – 7 generations ahead and behind.. and beyond. Bottom line is learn from them and be a good person!

Today I’m invoking the kindness, humor, smile and generosity of a particular gentleman I once knew

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Samhain is a Season

Samhain (Halloween, All Saint’s Day, All Soul’s Day, Day of the Dead) is not just a day, or just a weekend, it’s a season. A season to remember, to clear, to mourn, to feel, to shift, to grieve, we will be different people just a few weeks from now just as the Earth is different. An appointment with the ocean called me away, but the veils were the same. Home again and Samhain will continue to be celebrated in my home. Memories, stories, crafts and food (dead bread and savory soups) will carry on.

Don’t let the “holiday season” knock you off kilter, slow, breathe, yawn, stretch and even find some revelry. Do not get so busy you forget who you are or who and where you’re from and who you want to be.

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Autumn Transition

We are different people in the different seasons, my teachers said to us. They were talking about dating someone; we were in our early 20’s and were looking for love! Know someone through all four seasons before you make a serious commitment. 2 weeks was a long time for us! Moving quickly through different suitors and ultimately finding we had to romance ourselves. Ceremony after ceremony, we sat, and we matured, we grew up in the circle.
The circle had taught me to look at my relatives, my ancestors, to appreciate being “adopted” by others and what that meant. As I learned from the indigenous people in the circle, I heard them introduce themselves by their family clan names, usually their matrilineage, a completely alien concept to someone who grew up in 1990’s American culture. We are lineage orphans, displaced from our ancestors, so far back, most of us don’t know our origins.

As I moved through these growing pains, I learned to embrace the Wheel of the Year. This is my solution today to honor my ancestors and my lineage. Not much is known in our family past having come from Virginia and probably Wales, Germany and England. One day I may be able to track back far enough and find a place to visit, for now I am content to learn to see with the eyes of my ancestors as the Wheel of the Year turns.

 

Honoring Samhain E-Course: A 3-day ritual to honor Samhain

The Wheel of the Year is a solar calendar. Every 6 weeks there is an event on the wheel. Samhain, or Halloween, is considered the New Year on the Celtic Wheel of the Year.
We are in the Autumn transition at this time, 2018. Each year I have learned to watch for “the winds of change.” It sounds like a movie line, but truly, since I have noticed them, they come, each Autumn and each Spring. At those times, the veils are thin, so they say, at those times, like compost, it’s time for us to turn over, to break down, to make fertile ground with our experiences for the next people we are becoming in the next season.

Each year I watch for the goldenrod, around the end of September (my birth month so it feels like a special gift!), this year it came late and was scraggly because the weather patterns were strange; it was very warm past the Equinox and then suddenly cold and rainy. The goldenrod didn’t seem to like that, it never really got a chance to bloom in it’s full glory, some did, some still are blooming, but the field of gold I visit wasn’t there this year.

Hawthorn Berry Mala Prayer Beads included in Samhain Ritual Bundles

The Hawthorn berries ripen at this time. Last year there was a fungus we noticed that affected the trees, it’s not terminal but there it is. The same thing happened to the roses that were carefully planted a couple years ago around the urban garden. Learning over the years that the hawthorn and rose are related to apple, that apple and the hawthorn are archetypically powerful at this time and so I may employ these fruits to grace my seasonal altar, I will “work with them,” physically, energetically, spiritually.
Each year I get to learn from a different teacher and go deeper with an old friend. Goldenrod has been my friend for several years now, though still a mystery to me. I enjoy seeing all of these plants come alive at this time like seeing good friends on the street, spending time with them, considering their nature and qualities, googling about them, yes, but also receiving insights directly as inspiration and understandings.

 

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The High Heart

The High Heart (Christ Consciousness, Divine Love) is having a major activation at this time.

I am seeing it with everyone I work on, imagine a small ball of light with rays with all the colors of an opal but not milky – iridescent.

(looks like layer 6 – the celestial field but small and inside the space between your heart and your throat).

I invite you to connect to it, grow it, sit with it, let the energy grow so much in a few moments that your entire body is full of it and the space all around you is full of it and the space of the entire room your in is full of it, and the building, and the block, and the city, the state, the country, the continent, the pacha mama (planet), the space around the pacha mama, the Milky Way, the galaxy and beyond. Go as far as you can as you feel comfortable.

Shine.