It is no coincidence that lately three cards are coming up in many, many clients’ readings – Iku, Oya-Yansa, and the Ancestros card. With the many tragedies that come with the pandemic we are in at this time, many of us will know of someone who has lost someone to coronavirus. It is even harder to imagine the suffering of the families who cannot say their final goodbyes and pay respects to family and others’ who are part of the community. These newly departed souls are not at rest, and will not be, until their final remains are properly respected, Until then, their souls wander aimlessly, searching for understanding on what to do. The Spirits have expectations as well, for what they are supposed to do, and what they are expected for us to do for them. This year, many may be encountering disembodied spirits once cities open up for the living once again.  There are practices for that, and that is another blog post in the future.

When the Ancestros, or Ancestors card, comes up in a reading, you are receiving the proverbial “cosmic phone call/knock at the door” to come visit and chat awhile.  Your ancestors want to communicate with you. Depending on the placement within the card spread, it may be that they have been “knockin'” for some time and you haven’t heard or responded to the ‘rap at the door’ or you need to go visit them – period. Working with your ancestors could very well be your best line of defense of protection for you and the family than any other protection work.


IV of Fuego card Tarot of the Orishas deck

Ancestor work is a large part of practicing any indigenous spiritual practice or religions. It is because the “old’ ways” respected that the future stood on the shoulders of the ancient ones and their knowledge, and when it was difficult to change an oral language into a written one, it is crucial that you spent time with the Elders of the community to learn how to apply their knowledge proficiently in order to live in the future once they have departed this Earth. “Eggun before Orishas” my God mother always said, and it took me a longtime to realize and accept that since I had developed a difficult outlook regarding one of my parents. Time changed that and I can now look upon them comfortably despite the pain their absence caused me. Some have had parents that had divorced, and the ‘absent’ parent blamed for something that may or nay not be true, and that information may have been imparted to children to formulate their own opinions. We as children may not know the whole story nor the experience that age gives us to understand the circumstance.

Once you have resolved any hurt and anguish that the actions of your parents (when alive) had caused you, you can then look forward to working with them in a peaceful, loving way. The very simplest altar to dedicate to them is a white doily on a table or chest of drawers in a quiet part of the house or a seldom used bedroom. The ancestors’ spirits do not do well in a high traffic, busy area with chatter, children, and commercials floating in the airwaves. The ancestors prefer quiet, and so the suggestion for a little used room. Do not use your bedroom, as you may not rest very well with that energy in your private space.  Also, you do more than sleep in your bedroom, and that is not conducive to a comfortable relationship with your ancestors. It is best to keep this and all your altars out of the bedroom.

Now that you have established a space with a white doily or table covering on it, then add a glass of water, making sure to use a glass that you will not ever drink out of again. I always suggest that odd wine glass that is stuck in the back of the cabinet or go to the dollar store and purchase a stemmed glass to dedicate to your ancestors alone. They will appreciate that. Fill the glass with cool tap water and place in center of table. This is the most simplest of ancestor altars you can create. This is especially effective for those on a budget or have limited space or prying eyes that want to know what you are doing. You may also add a white candle, whether a 7-day “novena” vigil candle in glass, or even a tealight that will burn for 1-2 hours, and and all light is appreciated to illuminate their rise through the seven layers of Heaven.

Each morning, arise early with time to greet your ancestors. Take the glass of water from the day before and pour it into the grass or a planter outside (where you will not walk over it) and refill glass to place on table. Then, greet your ancestors by name (on each side of your family tree) by name, listing them one by one, and then follow with a request for insight, blessing, and protection. So, I will use my greeting as an example for you to crate your greeting:

I greet my ancestors, both known and unknown,

Father J*** E****Ma*****

Mother Ch****D***Ma******St*****

Grandmother Ir** D***H***

Grandfather Je**e Ta******D***

Grandmother on my father’s side (name unknown)

Grandfather on my father’s side (name unknown)

Brother D***M******H****

and all my relatives of both sides of the family, both known and unknown,

I offer you this glass of cool water to refresh you on your journey and ask for your blessings, protection, love, and knowledge as me, your daughter and granddaughter, makes me day.

(If offering a candle as well, say “I offer this light so that the energy of the flame will illuminate your progress in your walk.”)

I thank you in advance for the love and care you have shown me and continue to show me, as I go about my day.

Thank you.

This list should include brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, children, and anyone else who is a blood relative (do not name friends or any other non-blood relatives). I am unsure how would you address adoptive parents and siblings at this time.

A second ‘layer’ to ancestor work might include a bud vase (again, dollar store, thrift store, or florist) with a white flower, usually a carnation or a rose. White is symbolic of peace and sanctity, and the flower will absorb any possible negativity in the home. You may also get a shot glass or tiny aperitif glass and offer rum, whisky, gin, sherry, or any other alcohol that your ancestors might have enjoyed. You might also want to include an unlit cigar, or pack of favorite cigarettes.

A grand demonstration of devotion to your Ancestors might be a full on tabletop or top of dresser drawer or hutch. It might include a glass for each relative, framed photos*(see below), candles for each, flowers on both sides of the back corners of the table, a Bible, incense, candy, perfume bottles, mints or gum, foods, special dishes (like a tea cup or saucer/plate) for each ancestor, liquor, chocolates, cakes, etc. Some serve a cup or cups of coffee (black, no additives) before taking their own first cup. On birthdays, celebrations and holidays, some set a plate**(see below) of food from the dining table with a spoonful of each item on it. Some place whole birthday cakes on their altar for all to enjoy. Just make sure the cake YOU eat is from another cake not given the the ancestors, as once you dedicate a whole cake to the ancestors, it is not a good practice to take a slice of their cake. It is OK, however, to offer only one slice of cake for the ancestors, and leave the remaining cake for the living.

You will find that once you have started with a ritual to connect with your ancestors, they will send you messages, like dreams that you can remember, a “little whispering” in your ear, a clear vision of an event that will take place in your mind’s eye, and movement on their altar. Yes, sometimes ancestors will visit and move an item, tip over or crack a glass, spill drinks and “nibble” on the offerings (and there are no mice or pets in the home to eat the cake crumbles). This is fine, as they are enjoying the feast or the sweet offerings you have given to them. You will find over time that they are smoothing out your paths and breaking through blockages for you so that you can serve as a respectable representative of their legacy. When you achieve something that you have asked their help with, make sure you give a wee bit more in offerings, such as having a Mass said for them, more candles, or a big ole’ potluck for the family to gather around and do a communal prayer service for them. Your ancestros will appreciate it.


* when using photos, make sure there are no living people in the photo. It must be a photo of your deceased relative only. Scan and photo shop out any images of others who are still living.

 ** make sure all plates, cups, and bowls have a crack or chip in them, or are plates that you will NEVER use for feeding someone who is still alive.


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