Spiritual practices to connect with your ancestors
Growing up, my father once said to me: “You have to know where you come from to know where you are going. At the time, I was in high school and just rejected his words. Now this sentence carries a heavy feeling. After my grandmother passed away at the end of my return from Saturn (an astrological transit that occurs in the birth chart between the ages of 27 and 30), this quote was repeated. These words have moved from another quote my Latino father once uttered to an authorization passage allowing me to begin my ancestral reconnection.
You are here because you are curious about how to begin to connect with your ancestors in spirit. You are ready to deepen your work of ancestral worship and develop your personal spiritual practice. You may not know how to run the steps “correctly”. Truth be told, there is no wrong way to start working with your ancestors. The process is entirely up to you by the compass of your intuitive guidance.
However, there are recommendations that can be provided to overcome self-doubt along the journey. Connecting with your ancestors is a healing process in itself. A practice that can help eliminate generational trauma and access generational gifts.
The following is intended to encourage you to start connecting with your ancestors, but also to allow you to release all fear, guilt, and shame as you explore this area of spirituality.
Recognize the past
Whether you are a first generation or fourth generation Latina, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, there is a collective hurdle to overcome when you start connecting with ancestors. That is to say, assimilation. Through assimilation, our families who immigrated to the United States had to survive by conforming to “American culture”. This means speaking less Spanish, practicing American cultural traditions at a higher frequency, etc. Leave access to our past in fragmented pieces.
It can be confusing, isolating and lonely when deciding to discover your ancestry, let alone honor the past of your bloodlines. Sometimes there isn’t much to base yourself on for various reasons when trying to trace your roots. However, don’t dwell on this too much. Acknowledging the past simply means honoring the land you cohabit on and the land your ancestors roamed. From there, you can build your family tree, take a DNA test, and request oral histories to be shared with you.
All you have to do is start letting your family’s past feel recognized. The good the bad and the ugly. As painful as it sounds.
Don’t be afraid to talk to the dead
In order to start connecting with your ancestors, we need to think about decolonizing our state of mind. Fear has been deeply indoctrinated within us as people of color. There are many stigmas attached to the fear of speaking to the dead or of working with the dead.
Maybe you didn’t want to talk to the dead because you didn’t want to be seen as “crazy” because Latinx culture already creates a lot of stigma around mental health. Maybe you grew up in a colonized religious household and working with spirits was considered demonic. Release the fear.
How? ‘Or’ What? Work through the internalized narratives that live within you that flow from colonized religion and macho culture. Talking to the dead is a form of feminine energy. A form of being intuitive, receptive and immobile. Behaviors we have been taught to condemn and ignore in order to further perpetuate patriarchal control and toxic masculinity.
The dead won’t hurt you. Set clear boundaries with Spirit and your higher power to only connect with ancestors who have your best interests in mind. Find a protective guide that you wish to call into your altar room or in your prayers to watch over you in the spiritual realm to ward off low vibrating spirits. It can range from archangels to animal spirit guides. It’s yours.
If we live in fear, we attract low vibrational experience and frequencies. This is especially true in the realm of spirits. Recognize that there is darkness, but know that the light is stronger. Set clear boundaries with the spirit realm aloud.
Take back your traditions
Connecting with your ancestors is a deeply intimate and unique process. Your ancestral practice will differ from others. While developing or strengthening your ancestral practice, consider prioritizing the traditions of your culture and your immediate family. It may be comfortable to implement structures similar to the practice of others like yours, however, be confident that your intuitive guidance and the traditions of your immediate ancestral lineages will make your practice stronger.
Ask living family members if they have their own recipes or rituals they can pass on to you. It is helpful to ask current elders to share oral histories of what they remember their elders did in their personal practices of spiritual and ancestral worship. Allow yourself to adapt them or get rid of them altogether the same way if they don’t resonate with you.
Reclaiming oneself is an act of memory. Sometimes it can be difficult to trace the roots of past generations for several reasons such as assimilation, trauma and more. The fact that you want to reclaim your traditions is an honorable intention and an easy way to appeal to the spirits of your ancestors in gratitude to them.
Research the land of origin of your ancestors and the cultural traditions that flow from your genealogy. At the same time, take note of how your present living elders (future ancestors) are living their lives and the traditions you wish to learn from them in order to pass them on to future generations. It creates a link between the living and the dead and vice versa.
Working with Living Elders
I always ask my students, “Why wait until your family is dead to start working with or worshiping them?” Working with living Elders, who are basically our ancestors, is a proactive way to connect with our ancestors. This intention also helps to strengthen the bonds transferred to the hereafter.
You might wonder if an ancestor you were not close to or have never met will come out in the Spirit. Most of the time, they will. Unless they never crossed over or did not believe in this work. Don’t expect them to throw a welcome party for you when you decide to invite them into your spiritual work.
You don’t have to have a direct relationship with an ancestor for them to want to work with you. But having a past directory with them certainly energetically helps to call them faster.
Working with living ancestors is one way for us to collectively begin intergenerational healing. Ask your living elders to share their stories. Ask them to share their traumas and fond memories. This is how you can begin to help them lift the burden of heavy karma before moving on to the hereafter.
Call on your ancestral lineage in spirit
To start appealing to your ancestors, you’ll want to consider doing so as part of an altar building, prayer, or ritual work effort. You can welcome them into your home by leaving offerings for them.
Offerings can range from their favorite food to a promise you will keep in their honor. Building an altar is an effective method of connecting with them. Build your altar according to the needs of your ancestors. What did they appreciate with their life? What flowers did they like? Did they like coffee or tequila? Leave them aside as offerings to let them know that you are building a spiritual relationship with them.
In addition to prayer, calling your ancestors into meditation is probably the easiest and fastest way to feel their presence. Take the time to sit in meditation for 10-30 minutes and specifically call the ancestor by whatever name you feel most connected with and ask him to speak to you!
Lighting a candle is also a way to appeal to their minds. Designating specific year round candles for your ancestors is something they might appreciate. Go one step further and buy a candle in their favorite color to let them know you are ready to work with them. Celebrating their birthdays by cooking them a special meal or lighting a candle on important birthdays is also very effective in co-creating a dynamic with them.
Finally, ask your intuition to guide you and give you the next steps. You can also ask family members how they personally do this job. It can be as simple as visiting loved ones more often at their burial sites. The connection with your ancestors will be different and similar to others in various ways. Intention is the only thing that matters when working with them. Where do your intentions come from? Are they genuine and loving? Are they only for selfish needs? Either way, enjoy the process!