As we cross through the darkest days of this year we remember that this is traditionally the time of year during which human beings take time to honor and connect back with those members of our families and communities who are no longer physically with us.
Although some of us may be more involved than others in specific daily Spiritual practices we can all relate to the need to honor those who brought us into being by coming before us. When we set aside a small portion of our most prized morsels of food, drink and incense before partaking this is a way to show our Ancestors how we remember that their bite comes first.
Favorable times for making offerings to our Ancestors are during the sunset hours, waning/ dark phases of the moon as well as the "waning" time of year (Fall turning into Winter).
Different specific practices are incorporated into making Ancestor offerings depending on the traditions of that area of Earth. When putting out a 'Spirit plate' a wide range of foods typical to that region are offered in a small sized yet full portion of food served on ceramic, wood or leaf.
There are many many variations of foods, drinks and other offerings according to the tradition. However, most Indigenous traditions seem to stay in keeping with the belief that it is always most effective to offer goods that were particular favorites of your Ancestors. If Grandma Clara always had butterscotch candies in her purse perhaps she would enjoy another taste now. If Aunt Mary loved her coffee black then serve her up a tiny cup. Even including that after meal smoke for John- Marc could be thoughtful.
This offering is always placed on the ground and preferably at the base of a special tree or place designated for your offerings. When you have placed the Ancestor plate ( or leaf ) on the ground take a moment to pray for those benevolent Ancestors who came before you. Even our younger friends, children, and siblings who have passed on before us become our Ancestors and stand by our side. Pray in whatever ways work best for you: chanting, singing, words, silence, tears, laughter.....all prayers are heard when they are born of gratitude. Children can particularly enjoy laying down the offering. As our Children and Elders are generally closer to the world of the Ancestors it is appropriate for them to be the messengers.
The practice of setting aside an offering for your Ancestors is an integratable yet powerful prayer to share with your loved ones (and self) during this season. Human beings have been experiencing this way to feel tangibly in touch with their relatives who have recently passed on for at least thousands of years.
And, after all... if we forget to pray for our Ancestors they may very well forget to pray for us.
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