Sunday, February 14, 2010
My grandmother came to wish me a happy Valentines day. I know this because I smelled the lovely spritz cookies she used to make for me in the shapes of hearts, x's and o's (kisses and hugs). And as I sat in a moment of gratitude, a flock of yellow finches descended into my garden and filled the feeders. Before she passed I told her I would always think of her and feed the finches, it was a joy we shared even in her last days.
Our ancestors are all around us, and though they live outside our dimension of time they are able to come into our world when they choose to. I believe that the spirits of those deceased continue to live in the natural world and have some ability to influence the fate of the living through protection of the family.
"Ancestor Worship" is the one of human history's oldest and most basic religious beliefs although it has no formal doctrines and is ordinarily an aspect of some larger religious system. Ancestor Worship was born of the value placed and the karmic ties that exist between the past, the present and the future.
I invite my ancestors, those known and unknown to me, to be present in my garden, at my medicine wheel, at my altar. Honoring the ancestors is our connection to the past and may be our most direct path to a better future. It is said that the dead live on and are able to influence the lives of later generations who are open to the original family blueprint and purpose. Invocation and offerings are important rituals that can open communication through dreams, meditation, channeling, and even by possession. Many traditions teach that our ancestors reincarnate through their descendants.
In some Asian cultures, the continuity of the family and reverence for the wisdom of the elders seeks to honor the work, memories, and sacrifice of the deceased. Ancestor worship is also practiced in West Africa, Malaysia and Polynesia, and has been traced to the ancient Egyptians and Romans. One of the basis of Ancestor Worship is the belief that those who have gone before have a continual and beneficent interest in the affairs of the living. Also, uneasiness and fear of the dead have inspired practices to placate them. In either case, elaborate altars dedicated to the worship and honor of the ancestors can be found around the globe. Some families assign members to tend to them everyday as a full-time job.
Our attitudes toward the spirits of those passed might range from love, respect, and trust, feelings of reverence and gratitude, to outright fear. But I believe our ancestors compel us, the living, to uphold the ethical standards and original intent of past generations tracing back to the ancient ones. If nothing else, a bit of gratitude to those who paved our ways encourages respect for elders, family harmony and stability.
My grandmother stopped by today to say, "I love you." She brought me cookies. I know that she has maintained contact with me in order to warn me of danger and to give advice and help in my times of greatest need. She is my guardian angel beyond any doubt. But today she only wished to watch me enjoying the finches we both love. My altar, of plastic tubing and Nyger seeds, good enough, holy enough.
May you be blessed!