As the veil thins, many cultures celebrate those that have passed with altars filled with photos and mementos. We build altars to honor our dead, to seek guidance, to meditate and to remember. Ancestors do NOT have to be blood relations. You can choose who you honor and work with for guidance. In fact you should choose who you invite into your space!
I keep my ancestor altar up all year. It is filled with family, both blood and chosen. I keep photos, keepsakes, items that represent or remind me of them displayed all year on a dedicated bookshelf. For me, this is a way to stay connected to my roots while I grow and evolove in this life.
Items you can use to build your altar.
Honestly, these should be personal so don’t get stuck on following all the “rules”, there is only one you really should adhere to anyway.
Photos- These photos should only be of the deceased, do not use photos with yourself or others still here in them, yes, this is the rule.
Items that were theirs or remind you of them- I have things like playing cards, my dads hunting knife, a lighter that belonged to my grandma, a card from my great grandma
Flowers- Marigolds are classic for ancestor altars but any you like or want are appropriate
Food and drink offering- I keep salt on mine year-round but also add “whiskey” and bread or other foods I know were favorites at different times in the year. These offerings let our ancestors know we care and remember them. Change these out regularly
A bell or chime- I ring the bell to call them and to settle myself when I need support.
Things to represent the elements- (this is purely by choice but as a witch, these are core things for all my altars) Earth- salt and crystals/ Air- feathers, incense/ Water- dish of water, seashell/ Fire- candles or Carnelian
Candles- White candles are kind of universal, but you can use any that feel right to you. I must use fake candles on mine since it’s on a bookshelf, not ideal but they work.
The most important thing about Ancestor Altars is that they mean something to you and allow you to feel connected to your lineage and roots. I want to be clear that if you are not close with your family or are adopted ,you can 100% still have an altar space where you honor those who have touched your life and soul. Blood is not a deciding factor here, honor your family given or chosen.
Photo from the mother house of the Goddess (Pinerest)