In Yoruban traditions, Ancestors are of the utmost importance. With support from your ancestors, you can remedy any problem. I believe this wholeheartedly and will add that with so many cultures having similar practices – this cannot be overlooked. Asian, Native American, and Hispanic are among just a few cultures that recognize their ancestors – you don’t have to be of Yoruban descent to acknowledge the power of your lineage. (In my course Hands-on-Hoodoo, you can discover why this practice wasn’t popular with Europeans.)
An “Egun” (or ancestor) altar allows you to interact with your ancestors, make offerings to them, and receive their blessings.
“Egun” are the spirits of the departed. Every ancestral line (or soul group) is believed to be made up of a collection of familiar energies. When a person is born, some of this energy incarnates into a physical form. During life, they acquire knowledge and experiences before returning to that collection of energies.
“Egun” means “bones” in the Niger-Congo (Yoruban) language. That said, it is a collective representation of all your ancestors and those in your soul group. They are always present and can help us if we choose to continue (or establish) our relationship with them. The goal is to leave the cycle of reincarnation, so ancestor reverence provides the power for us (and them) to do that.
Similar to life, in death, a person’s character determines how they are treated – so I suggest only petitioning the ancestors you consider “honorable.”
Your altar can be simple or elaborate, and every tradition has its own way of creating a sacred space – find yours based on your culture and/or beliefs. The suggestions offered here are only that, and there is no “one way” to honor your lineage.
Below is a simple way to create your Ancestor Altar:
1. Select a space: Pick an area that will be hard to ignore and only used for this purpose. You do not want your ancestors to be neglected, and you don’t want your altar to “double” as a coffee table or place to rest your keys.
2.Clear the space: This space is traditionally cleansed by burning herbs from your tradition or chosen intuitively. (Need to develop your intuition? I suggest the Effortless Intuition online program). Tip: Rosemary is an excellent option because it clears energy by calling your ancestors! When your ancestors come, everything else leaves!
Pray over your herbs, specifying how you would like their help. Identify yourself and your lineage as follows:
“I pay homage to the ancestor spirits.
I am [state your name] child of [state your lineage, beginning with your parents – going as far back as you know – on your mother’s side].
I pay homage to the spirit of these leaves.
The goodness of peacefulness,
The goodness of stability,
The goodness of wisdom.
I thank you, leaves. So be it.”
3. Cleanse the space with the smoke from the herbs, then cleanse yourself in the same way. Open windows to have the smoke exit the home.
4. Seal the Space: Take a bowl of fresh, clean water and add a tiny amount of Florida Water or your favorite personal fragrance. Pray over the water just as you did over the herbs.
5. Set a table or other elevated surface in your prepared sacred space. Cover it with a white cloth or special fabric from your family.
6. Add a white candle. Adorn your altar with images of ancestors, both blood and spiritual.
7. Every day, replace the glass of water with a fresh one and talk to your ancestors. When you make food, set some aside for them.
8. Cleanse the space regularly. So that it is free of dust, dirt, and ashes. Dirt can attract malevolent forces.
Your Ancestor Altar becomes the sacred space and portal through which your Ancestors enter and exit. Over time and with attention, the space will have its own palpable energy separate from the rest of your house!
It’s important to open the space to welcome them and close the space, saying goodbye. Your altar attracts the spirits of your ancestors, allows you to connect with your lineage of spiritual energy, petition for help, and make offerings to appease – strengthening both their spirits and yours.
Your sacred space can be simple or elaborate.
The important thing is that you use it regularly.