Honoring the ancestors
During the month of August, we have been talking a lot about ancestors and the wisdom that's been passed down to us through them. Honoring the ancestors is common in many cultures and spiritual traditions, and is usually seen as very important. Think of your own family, and what traditions and knowledge you have learned and absorbed from them over your lifetime and theirs. This is all very special, and helps to create our diverse cultures and traditions that make up the fabric of human experience.
There are many ways of honoring the ancestors. There is a strong tradition in Latin American culture of setting up ancestor altars that include photos and memorabilia of those passed. Offerings of food and alcohol are often left on or near these altars and believed to be pleasing to the spirits of the individuals they honor. Similar practices exist in Asian cultures as well, and offerings of incense, money, and food are used as well. Some individuals use these ancestral altars as a way to contact the spirits of their loved ones in prayer or meditation.
We like to think of this practice as saying "thank you" to our ancestors. After all, we are a result of everything they did. Their hard work, their passion, their love, and their struggles are what make us who and what we are.
There are, of course, those among us who have troubled families. Some of us don't consider our ancestors to be people we'd like to connect with. If our relatives are problematic in life, they most likely will be the same after death. If this is you, not to worry. We need not only honor blood ancestors. You can honor artists, public figures, or any other person who has inspired you or guided you on your journey.
If an ancestor altar doesn't seem like your thing, that's okay. There are plenty of other ways to connect with and honor your ancestors. You can honor them by doing good deeds in their names. You can remember them on special holidays or birthdays, and celebrate them in their absence. You can open your mind to communicating with them, and listen when they send you messages. Using and passing on their knowledge and wisdom is another great way to honor your ancestors. Ancient wisdom is still relevant in many ways today. Committing to using and passing on this wisdom is one of the best ways to keep alive the memory of your ancestors.