The Ancestral Altar
The Ancestral altar is your first step to making a real connection with the spiritual realms not only with your ancestors but, with the spirits of the dead in general. Once you have made this altar to your ancestors, your altar will become like an antenna for other spirits who will take notice that you venerate and wish to work with spirits. This is a very important step in working with the spirits you start by venerating your ancestors. They were your family that loved and cared for you in their life. Being that spirits of the dead were once alive like you and I, makes them the closest to us on this material plane.
To make an ancestral altar is a simple matter, the first thing you will have to do is find some pictures of your deceased relatives i.e. aunts uncles or grand parents or great grand parents. A word of warning is required here concerning who among your ancestors you choose to place on your altar. Don’t place a relative who you may have had problems with while alive that you never reconciled with, they would only be angry at you and cause great mischief the sort that is unwanted. Make sure that they all had similar religious beliefs meaning if they were Catholic place a crucifix on the ancestor altar, or if they were other form of Christian place a regular cross on the altar. Another thing to keep in mind is that you will not be doing any other rituals on this altar except to honor the ancestors. Making a separate altar from your working altar, this also means that you may construct this altar anywhere such as a dresser top is adequate.
Although the best place for you to have an ancestral altar is your living room since the idea is for you to include your ancestors in your daily life, a closet in a separate room from your bedroom is also a good place to create your ancestor shrine. You must first wash down the table top with a purifying wash (white vinegar is good) then you will place a white table cloth on the altar top, then you will place the religious symbol at the back of the ancestral altar i.e. the cross or crucifix. It is also a good idea to rub blessing oil or sprinkle holy water on the cross or crucifix this will help keep away negative spirits posing as your ancestors.
Now you arrange the pictures of your deceased relatives on the altar, then you place clear glasses of water as many as you have relatives on your altar. It is also a good idea that you keep it to a minimum of nine ancestors on the altar; if you actually have that many pictured ancestors of course. Now you will need a ceramic or glass white plate to have on your altar a smaller bowl also a small espresso cup. You need these to make food offerings to your ancestors; you will also place a vase on the altar to put fresh flowers as an offering. The plate and bowl do not always have to be on the altar just keep them in a separate place than your regular eating plates bowls, what will always be on the altar are the clear glasses of water also the vase. You must change the water weekly as well as any flowers that you have placed on the altar, the best way to do this is to always place the fresh water on Mondays and replace with new water the following Monday. This way you always pray to your ancestors every Monday. What you do is approach the altar, knock three times, and tell them who you are. Then offer them the fresh water and say a prayer to GOD on their behalf, ask to bless them and help them grow in spirit. Talk to them for a while, tell them how you miss them, and have not forgotten them. Ask your ancestors for their blessing in your daily life ask them to help you have good health, love, and prosperity. Then light a white candle for them dressed with blessing oil if you have it and leave it there to burn for them, offer your ancestors the light, heat, and energy of the candle.
To close the ceremony clap three times this is the signal to end the session, in time as you develop a stronger connection with your ancestors you can start to give them food offerings, such as bread fruits and candies. Never salt the food that you offer the dead this makes it nearly impossible for the ancestors to draw energy from the food offerings. Try to offer foods that you knew they favored in life, this keeps them happy.
In time you may be surprised to find that as you develop this positive relationship with your ancestors, that your life will gain a certain tranquility and peace as they will help you in your life to resolve those problems that concern the family.
Notes on the Altar:
Prayers to offer the muertos should come from heart, if they were Catholic or Christian then I recommend three Our Fathers (Lords Prayer) This a general prayer to offer, if they were strictly Catholic then you can add the Ave Maria and Gloria.
If you follow the spirituality of Mexican Brujeria as I do then you can include a picture of La Santa Muerte on your Ancestral Altar and a crystal skull to store the positive energies that grow from your prayer sessions and communication with the dead. This skull will give you strength in times of stress and great need.
If you honor the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) give them sugar skulls with their names on each skull from Oct 31st to Nov 2nd on the second of November take these sugar skulls to the cemetery.
It is customary to take a bite from each skull so a part of your dead lives on through you. Traditional flowers for the muertos are marigold (flor de muerto) chrysanthemum, jasmine flowers (for the spirit of death) and calalilly flowers. Burning copal incense is always recommended on any occasion not limited to Dia de los Muertos.
This is a short essay on the basics of creating your own altar for the veneration of your ancestors, may they be blessed and may you be blessed in your efforts. If you have any further questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org