A few years back, white folks started exploring African Traditional Religions, and the Diaspora. I’m sure this was happening before it all came to the fore, but sooner or later, various non-secret practices of the Diaspora came to light within our communities.
Which is fine – every spiritual path deserves exploration.
But, all of a sudden, it’s like every Neo/Pagan in the whole freaking world decided they just had to work with their Ancestors.
And that’s cool. I understand why. Ancestors are powerful entities. They have a vested interest in your survival, and even your prosperity. Even your most recent dead have that same interest (albeit for more selfish reasons, as they’ve not evolved beyond their earthly bullshit yet – your most recent dead are not Ancestors yet).
The problem is: everyone decided it was okay to steal the typical Vodoun-style of Ancestor veneration.
Suddenly, you’ve got white folks (Wiccans, mainly) putting together “Ancestor Tables,” which, in their minds, is just a table covered in a white cloth. They set up pictures of their dead peeps, and some representations of folks who influenced them spiritually, and threw a white 7-day candle and a glass of water on that baby.
I’m not bad-mouthing Wiccans. Hell, I’m a Wiccan. But still …
This has been one more round of the Spirit-of-the-Month Club. Period.
Because a decade ago, you didn’t hear jack about white folks and their Ancestors, except in a very few specific paths.
I have a specific way of honoring, and working with, my Ancestors.
If we’re just talking about honoring the Ancestors, there’s one particular night each year when the Ancestors are given a feast. That’s the Samhain Sabbat. My great grandmother called it “Hamenight,” because you set lights in the windows to guide your dead hame (meaning home). Most people call this feast a “Dumb Supper,” and the reasoning behind the name is, typically, that the dead don’t talk. (Not in my experience, but whatever floats your boat.)
If we’re talking about working with Ancestors for magickal results, there’s a very specific way in which they’re petitioned.
Hint: It’s not on a table covered in white cloth with a white 7-day candle, and a glass of water, surrounded by their pictures and/or keepsakes. That’s Vodoun, and African Diaspora, not Wicca, not Indigenous Tribal North American, not Mountain, and not Irish.
I’m not going to tell you how I work with and/or petition my Ancestors. Because it’s a private practice, and it’s not even part of the Feycraft Tradition (which is what my Coven is). It’s Mountain Witch Ways. And if you ever decide to Apprentice with me, and learn what’s on the real-real, you’ll learn how. But not until.
At any rate, the point is, all these white folk suddenly starting to work with their Ancestors a while back picked up a practice from public knowledge about the African Traditional Religions and their Diaspora. And they ran with it. And while it’s honorable that people are working with their Ancestors, you have to understand something: it’s not okay for you to take a practice that doesn’t belong to you, and adapt it to suit your whims, because you want to be on the popular kids bus.
I don’t give a fuck how fashionable it is.
If you want to pick up a practice (such as Ancestor veneration) because it feels right, and because you think you (and your Ancestors) can benefit from it, fine. But do yourself a favor, and do some research. Google is your friend. So is the public library. And Amazon. Do some historical research about how your own Ancestry honored and worked with their recent- and long-dead kin.
The Irish didn’t set up white tables for them. Neither did the Cherokee or the Shawnee. Neither did the Mountain Witches, or the Victorian Healers and Spiritists.
If you practice anything except Vodoun, you should not be cramming Vodoun-based Ancestor veneration into whatever style of ritual or practice you have. Ever. Period.
And I can hear people out there now going, “Well, what about you and Ganesha?!” The difference with me is: I do traditional Puja for Ganesha. I’m not Hindi by religious conversion or birth, but I’m not ignorant about what Puja is, and how it’s done. Also, I don’t try plopping a Puja into the middle of a Wiccan ritual, and I don’t do a Wiccan ritual with Ganesha on the altar. (Also, Ganesha’s the Universal Hindu deity, not an Ancestor. Stick with the context, people.)
If you’re going to adopt a new practice for good reasons, do some research, and do it the way it should be done, according to your Ancestry. Don’t lift someone else’s practice because it’s this year’s fashionable trend.