by Raven Grimassi
Originally printed in Raven’s Call Volume 1, Number 1
In this current Age of self-development self-focus we can
sometimes lose sight of the valuable teachings left to us by our
ancestors. In Wicca there is a phrase known as the well-worn
path. This refers to the knowledge that all who came before us
have left behind. They have blazed the trail for us, and we
follow the path to its end, and then blaze our own trail into
the future. It is here on the well-worn path that the New Ways
meet and cross with the Old Ways.
The Old Ways of our ancestors are intimately linked to our
ancestors themselves. We bear within us this ancient connection,
in part because our DNA is derived from those who came before
us. As Occultists, Witches and Pagans we understand that in a
metaphysical sense everything is linked together, one thing
influencing another in an endless repeating cycle. In a magickal
sense time is non-linear and so the past, present, and future
all flow one into the other. In occult philosophy there is no
true separation. Dion Fortune, a famous occultist, taught that
one could be reincarnated in the past as well as one could
reincarnate in the future, that all time periods exist
Remembering and honoring one’s ancestors is an act of
connection to one’s roots. It is a bridge extending into the
past across which may flow the collective consciousness of one’s
ancestors. Through a formal link with the ancestral spirit, one
can draw power and vigor; for it is in knowing where we came
from that we come to understand who we are today. Understanding
who we are prepares us to reap the harvest of what we can become
The ancient Etruscans worshipped their ancestors through an
image known as a Lasa spirit. The ancient Romans called such
spirits Lare, and perceived them as household spirits, guardians
of home and family. Small shrines were set by the hearth or upon
the mantle in remembrance of departed loved ones. On the base of
the shrine was depicted a serpent, symbolizing the Underworld
current connecting the living and the dead. Candles were lighted
before the shrine when a family member was born, wed, gave
birth, or died. In this way the ancestral spirits participated
in the family event, and the momentum of the ancestral current
was kept flowing within the family.
Offerings were also placed at the shrine when a new venture
was undertaken or a dilemma faced the household. This was
performed in a belief that family spirits in the Other World had
power to influence the world of the living. Among the Etruscans
the primary offering was a handful of fava beans and some wine.
The Romans gave offerings of spelt grain along with a bowl
containing equal amounts of wine, milk and honey.
By lighting a candle at the Ancestral Shrine, and simply
reading out loud the myths or legends associated with one’s
heritage, a personal alignment to the Old Ways can be
established. The spoken voice creates vibrations carrying the
passion of one’s blood up into the ether. This creates a ripple
within the Astral Plane connecting one with times long
forgotten. To strengthen this connection one can place symbols
or icons associated with one’s nationality in or around the
shrine. It is also useful to take on a personal name that may
have been used in ancient times among one’s ancestors. This
helps to further connect oneself with the energies of antiquity.
Reading books and viewing movies that reflect cultural heroes is
also an excellent aid to alignment. These tales often transmit
the link to the Collective Conscious of the ancient peoples who
created them. Therefore, by incorporating them into one’s own
consciousness one can become a part of the spiritual heritage of
Preparation of an Ancestral Shrine
Select a suitable shrine structure to reflect the ancestral
memory. In effect this will be the home of your house spirit, so
make it attractive and inviting. Place it upon a wall or on a
mantle. An alignment of the shrine within your home to the West
or East connects the shrine symbolically to the rising and
setting of the sun and moon. In this way you create a connection
to the cycles of life, death and rebirth. Set an image in the
shrine to represent the indwelling spirit.
Place a small offering bowl or vase in front of the shrine.
Offerings of grain, milk or flowers are good to set at your
shrine. To "activate" the shrine, light some incense of either
pine, sandalwood, or a similar "earthy" scent. Pass the smoke
beneath the shrine so that the smoke rises up through and around
the shrine. While doing this say:
"Spirits of the ether, awaken, gather the ancient ones here,
who were of old known to my Clan. I bless this shrine in the
names of (give your deity names.) As it was in the time of the
beginning, so is it now, so shall it be."
At this point the shrine has been blessed and consecrated.
Sit quietly before the shrine and visualize a small soft blue
light around the figurine or statue in your shrine. In time you
will actually see this light come and go within the shrine. This
is assuming that you provide an offering at each full moon and
all family occasions such as birthdays, marriages and so forth.
Light a candle each time you sit before the shrine. Ask requests
or assistance in personal matters and work towards establishing
a good rapport with your household spirit.