Column: Honoring My Ancestors without Visiting Their Tombs

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Pagan Perspectives

Today’s column comes to us from international columnist Alan D.D., who writes to us from Venezuela. In addition to writing for The Wild Hunt, Alan is a journalist, blogger, and novelist.

También está disponible en español.

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I find much to admire in my past; it always has something more to say, something more to teach us, something more to be discovered within it. This attraction includes my ancestors, those members of my family that are here no more. I remember them through seeing their photos, recalling the good times at their side and their voices. If I didn’t know them, I imagine what their lives were like. I differ in many things with my family, but I share their respect towards the deceased.

All my ancestors, however, are either in a graveyard that is being assaulted and robbed, and so the air in it is putrid, or they were buried in another country. The cemetery in my hometown has become highly insecure as a result of the frequent presence of thieves, kidnappers and other criminals who threaten the living, while the graves of the dead are violated to steal the organs of the recently deceased and sell them, or to steal their bones and use them in various rituals, which I find highly disrespectful. On the other hand, I don’t have the resources to leave the country and visit other deceased ancestors, and chances are I will not be able to do so for a while.


I talk to their photographs: In my home there are several photos of my ancestors – not all of them, but many of them, and it’s the same in my relatives’ houses. When I feel the need to get near my ancestors, to reconnect with them, maybe to learn something about them, maybe because of yearning for them, I get a photo and directly talk to them. I try not to follow any protocol, so it’s a natural process, a conversation like when they were alive. Although I don’t always get an answer, the connection is very therapeutic.

I offer them candles: Lighting candles is very common in my family: they mark promises, petitions, even house blessings or religious dates. I light them when I feel the need to send light to my ancestors or when I ask for their help. With a lighter, I burn the bottom end of the candle so it doesn’t move from the plate, then I light the wick and think about the face and name of my ancestor. If I need their help, I ask it after that, and if that’s not the case, I simply ask the universe to send them the candle’s light. If, on the contrary, I receive a message without asking, I light the candle as in acknowledgement, following the same process.

I speak their names: When I have the basic information – their whole name, dates of birth and death – of someone I want to honor, I write it on paper, pronounce it in a low voice or repeat the information in my mind. I get comfortable, close my eyes, and use their name and dates as a mantra. I try to work while the place is in silence. I say my goodbyes aloud if I have already spoken; if I wrote something down, I erase or dispose of the paper.

I listen to music: I’m not speaking about the music they listened to, but songs that make me remember my ancestors, tracks that for some reason I have linked with a particular ancestor. I simply put on my headphones, turn up the volume and sing along in my mind with the song, envisioning the face of my relatives. The music I listen to always becomes connected with many feelings, memories, and ideas. Whatever I do, I always do it better with music, and it all becomes an emotional process. I’m not ashamed of saying it makes me cry sometimes.

I cherish their belongings and mementos: I have my paternal grandfather’s glasses and a piece of wood from my dad’s studio. Those are physical reminders, objects that either belonged to my ancestors or remind me of them in some way. Just taking them, seeing them and remembering the energy they keep makes me feel they are with me, that there’s a part of them that remains in this plane by my side. Suddenly, I don’t feel so lonely.

There are more methods, but these five are the ones I tend to use more often, those that connect me with my roots the most. They help me cross the line between life and death, remember my lineage, where I come from, and that one day, which I hope to be very distant, I will be an ancestor for someone else as well. No matter the ups and downs in my relationship with the dead, or even if didn’t get to know them, I have a special place in my heart reserved for those who passed away.

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.