Following a path of deep love and respect for all the benevolent other-than-human and unseen forces in this world and beyond, I have always longed to know and understand what is beyond my small experience here in this life. Ancestor work has been an essential part of both my personal and professional life for many years now, and as my work deepened over the past decade, it became clear to me that many of the ongoing challenges, wounds, traumas, and pain that we experience in this life are not directly the result of our lived experiences during this lifetime. I am deeply committed to exploration and transformation through Ancestral Healing and Reverence, and it is a pleasure to support clients in navigating the deep and often unsteady waters of personal and familial healing through invoking healing with the Ancestors.
One key element of my own Ancestral Healing & Reverence practice is making offerings: to Pachamama, to the Land, to the Spirits of the Land, to the Ancestors of the land, as well as to my own Ancestors of blood lineage and spiritual lineage. It is central in my life to create Ancestral Offerings through food, and on major holidays as well as birthdays of family members who now walk as Ancestors, we prepare a feast, offering a beautiful plate of food to the Ancestors ~ or a particular Ancestor, if it’s a birthday ~ first. It’s become a fun and meaningful ritual, and given that many of my own Ancestors ate things I’d not really consider putting in my body now, it’s been really interesting to reinvent family recipes to make them healthier (we eat the meals, too, after all) while still honoring traditions. My Dad always loved biscuits and gravy, and we’ve made the most delicious gluten free, dairy free biscuits and gravy ~ my Dad would have loved it!! We leave these offerings outside on a large stone that we use as an altar, and the deer, raccoons, foxes, and other creatures certainly enjoy the spoils!
Last year, as my Grandmother’s birthday came, I made some time to meditate and connect with her and her lineage (Maternal Grandmother’s line). My Grandmother is the primary guide and voice for this lineage, and she asked me to begin wearing the diamond stud earrings she’d given to me in her will (earrings that are not really my style that I had rarely worn before) and I committed to wear them for a year. In addition to the earrings, I asked if there was any particular offering I could make to this lineage in honor of her birthday. All of a sudden, the unmistakable fragrance of spearmint filled the air (there wasn’t any spearmint around), and I had a flash memory from my childhood: Freedent Gum!!! In the drawer in her kitchen, there was always a wide box with a massive stash of both green and blue packs of the gum, as she was a dentures wearer. I was puzzled and also amused ~ was this truly the offering she desired? Indeed it was!!
I searched online to see if Freedent Gum still existed ~ it does!! ~ and headed out to buy two large packs! They’ve been on the Ancestor Offering Table ever since, and when I pick them up to smell the all-too-familiar scent of spearmint, a big smile spreads across my face. I’m right back in my Grandmother’s kitchen, filled with a sense of care and joy. It’s so clear: Ancestor Offerings don’t need to be complicated, elaborate, or esoteric ~ sometimes it’s as simple as procuring the little joys our people enjoyed during their lives.
This year, as my Grandmother’s birthday came closer, I began to listen for her request for an offering. As I wandered through a shop one day, perusing things for the home and kitchen, I was struck by a display of gold flatware. My Grandmother had a set of gold plated spoons, forks, and knives that we always used as kids while at her house! I can still remember those spoons, and how our little-kid-teeth wore away the gold plating on the back side of them. While the gold spoon that caught my attention was quite different from her style ~ she loved things that were fancy, and this was quite rustic looking ~ I knew that it was a perfect offering for this lineage. I am still not sure what happened to the gold flatware after she died (I was 9 years old when it happened), and honestly hadn’t thought about her gold flatware in years! Inspired and filled with nostalgia and joy, I bought two: one for the Ancestor Offering Table, and one for myself to use, inviting a feeling of closeness and connection with my Grandmother each time I stir my tea or eat some delicious soup.
The next time you find yourself in tender heartspace on the birthday of a beloved Ancestor, make some time to listen. See what kinds of memories float to the surface of your awareness: time you enjoyed together, memories of spaces or places, textures of clothing or furniture or wallpaper, fragrances, voices, music, art, foods, objects from their home? Let yourself settle into a contemplative space, enjoying whatever comes to mind, unhurried. Then, after you feel a palpable connection, open a question in your heart: what kind of offering could I make in honor of your birthday that would bring you joy? See what comes! If you get a clear answer and it’s feasible to follow through, do it! If the answer isn’t entirely clear, but you feel a connection with some of the memories you experienced, choose something that brings you joy and create an offering. It could be a meal, as I often create! Or it could be something simple ~ to bring out an object that you love that’s connected to the person, to wear something that was theirs or given to you by them, or to listen to their favorite song. Simple rituals like this can create a meaningful connection to an Ancestor or lineage, and can feed an ongoing relationship of wellness and respect between you and the well Ancestors on the line. Enjoy!