Upon the altar I set up for my ancestors are photos. My father, my maternal grandmother and grandfather (I was very close with them), my uncle Danny (really only because he was in one of the pictures of my dad when he was little and it's not that I don't care about uncle Danny, I certainly do, but I probably wouldn't have thought to include him as a central focus had he not been in the photo.....some people are just like that.). Also on my altar is a photo of my paternal grandmother. Not the one I grew up knowing as my grandmother, but my real grandmother. She died far before I was born....my dad was only 7 and my uncle Danny only 10. She died by suicide and back then you didn't talk about those things, so we never really knew much about her.....except as a child I was told "She died because she was very afraid and she didn't know what she was afraid of."......(and HOLY SHIT>...is THAT not a stupid thing to tell a child. Probably part of the reason I spent a lot of time naming and focusing on my fears......cuz ya know......the message that I took from that all was "if you dont know what you are afraid of you will just die like your grandmother." We do all sorts of weird shit to kids thinking it's in their best interest....and it's not that it's mean, it's just not that well thought out.......) . I include her here to remember her. I dont think anyone else does. As far as I know she is just a grave in a military cemetery in California and maybe my brother also has a picture of her. I imagine there are pictures of her in antique stores someplace, in a box that you can purchase for $1 each and maybe someone will pick one up someday and bring her home and envision the story that they think was hers. Maybe. She really feels like one of the forgotten, and so I always remember to include her.
Also upon my altar is a death candle or rather a candle to honor the dead (that sounds far less grim......although probably also pales into comparison to the words I just shared about my grandmother.....) and a candle of Our Lady of Guadalupe (I found it at the dollar store and it reminded me of my Catholic childhood and my grandmother, so I bought it home and upon my altar it now sits..
Also upon my altar are marigold flowers because they are the flower that is included in Day of the Dead remembrances....and they are pretty and bright and feel like a bunch of little suns scattered amongst the dead people, and I imagine that they might like that.
I have cedar for help with processing and holding grief. I have a piece of lungwort lichen to help support the breath of stories being passed through generations. I also have some pine cones that I gathered at the cemetery behind my house. They remind me that while it sometimes may seem like there are no seeds to plant, often we just have to look underneath something or tip it at just the right angle and out it falls!
And then I have something new. Something I really didn't think would go on my altar. I have a beautiful shell necklace that my mother gifted me. She brought it back from Maui. Now you might immediately think that this is quite lovely and a remembrance of the Maui people. And it is that. And it is also a bit mixed and jumbled and confusing. You see my mother took a trip to Maui immediately after the fires that devastated and continue to devastate the communities there. This caused a chasm between us. She wanted her vacation she had so been looking forward to. I felt it was a poor choice given the circumstances. We saw things differently. She brought back this necklace which she purchased from a woman, who was selling them (she had made them too), to help bring money back into their communities. My mom feels that she was contributing to helping them in her own way. AND....while I understand that and we all have different perspectives.....we all have different perspectives....and so this feels a bit weird and tangled to me. When I opened it, it immediately went on my altar....and it felt both of a remembrance and also an asking of forgiveness. And there it sits.
I lit the candles today and will relight them over the next two days. Honoring. Remembering. Feeling.
What rituals do you do to honor your ancestors? What is on your altar?