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Author Topic: Ancestor offerings; a couple of questions  (Read 222 times)

Mimsy

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Ancestor offerings; a couple of questions
« on: October 03, 2017, 08:20:06 pm »
So, with Samhain just a few weeks away I've stumbled upon an issue that I feel I need advice on. I have a handful of close relatives buried in a local cemetery and would like to take them offerings on Samhain. The issue is, the cemetery they're buried in picks up and throws away everything that's not in one of the grave vases. I also have other relatives who visit the graves on occasion who probably wouldn't be pleased to find anything non-Christian. Any advice on what sort of offerings or small rituals might be acceptable for a public space (especially one in a very conservative and Christian area)/not harmful for the environment? I don't want to leave anything behind that could be carried off by an animal or unaware human.

On a somewhat related note, how do you personally decide which ancestors you make offerings to? Do you avoid relatives that had a not so sterling life or do you include them in your rituals/offerings anyway since they're family?

Megatherium

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Re: Ancestor offerings; a couple of questions
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2017, 08:58:46 pm »
So, with Samhain just a few weeks away I've stumbled upon an issue that I feel I need advice on. I have a handful of close relatives buried in a local cemetery and would like to take them offerings on Samhain. The issue is, the cemetery they're buried in picks up and throws away everything that's not in one of the grave vases. I also have other relatives who visit the graves on occasion who probably wouldn't be pleased to find anything non-Christian. Any advice on what sort of offerings or small rituals might be acceptable for a public space (especially one in a very conservative and Christian area)/not harmful for the environment? I don't want to leave anything behind that could be carried off by an animal or unaware human.

On a somewhat related note, how do you personally decide which ancestors you make offerings to? Do you avoid relatives that had a not so sterling life or do you include them in your rituals/offerings anyway since they're family?

One option is simply to pour out a libation of a particular liquid - it won't be taken away or leave any trace, and if you are concerned with the environmental impact, you can always just offer water. If it is a liquid your relatives imbibed in life, they probably won't mind receiving it now that they are dead.

In terms of ancestors this can be quite a tricky process as you don't have to go too far back in time to find racist/sexist/homophobic ideas that would be major issues today, but were as common in the past. One way to look at this is to differentiate between when you are thanking ancestors for, in a sense, creating you, in which case their moral qualities will be less important, and times when you are looking for moral guidance which is when you may choose to be more discerning about who you offer to.
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Jenett

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Re: Ancestor offerings; a couple of questions
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2017, 09:26:24 pm »
On a somewhat related note, how do you personally decide which ancestors you make offerings to? Do you avoid relatives that had a not so sterling life or do you include them in your rituals/offerings anyway since they're family?

My tradition does a traditional "dumb supper" as part of ritual - not offerings at grave sites, though that might be a thing people could do privately (in part because I think all the people involved in setting up those traditions had beloved dead who were buried in multiple locations, some of them not easily accessible.)

So our offerings are in ritual: normally making or bringing foods that the people we're especially remembering liked, and making up a plate of them (and some other ritual stuff, which is a 'not shared in public' thing.)

In terms of number of people, ancestor work is a regular part of our practice, not just a Samhain thing, so the focus at Samhain is usually beloved dead we particularly want to remember (people we especially miss, people who had a strong connection to things we're thinking about: this year I may well include a several-times-great ancestor we just confirmed we're actually related to who did a lot of things I'm thinking about right now.) There's other times in the year and ritual cycle to remember other ancestors, so it's not an all or nothing shot.

In terms of physical offerings: a small liquid libration is good. (Do tea or coffee work for any of them? Plain pure water is a common offering in many mamy traditions, too.) If you want to do something physical, what about a small sprig of rosemary (easily gotten fresh in a lot of grocery stores these days, will biodegrade, and grows wild, so not a particular risk to wildlife.) You could also collect a suitable number of something like plain river stones, small ones, and charge them on your altar or another suitable location and leave one on each grave as marker of your attention.
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Re: Ancestor offerings; a couple of questions
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2017, 09:29:35 pm »
On a somewhat related note, how do you personally decide which ancestors you make offerings to? Do you avoid relatives that had a not so sterling life or do you include them in your rituals/offerings anyway since they're family?

I primarily work with spiritual ancestors rather than blood ones, but I have done work with my father. He was in no way a perfect man, and I have a lot of reason to be angry at him or even sever contact with him. But that would mean cutting out pieces of myself I'd rather try to approach productively, on a personal level.

I understand the urges some people have to sever ties with people who they find too harmful for them. That's a matter of personal choice, and there's nothing wrong with cutting ties to keep yourself safe and healthy. But I believe everyone has the right to make their own choices about which human beings (or former human beings) are valuable parts of their lives.

(Looking at that last paragraph, I realize it may come across as slightly odd if you don't have the context that I've seen a lot of "purity culture" workings lately that advise people to shun and cut all ties with any human being who transgresses or sins too much.)
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Re: Ancestor offerings; a couple of questions
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2017, 06:02:35 am »
One option is simply to pour out a libation of a particular liquid - it won't be taken away or leave any trace, and if you are concerned with the environmental impact, you can always just offer water. If it is a liquid your relatives imbibed in life, they probably won't mind receiving it now that they are dead.



Very much this - water is vital to life. We take it so much for granted nowadays but in the past clean fresh water would have been a valuable thing for many people.   My own ancestors were teetotal so I don't offer them alcohol but my grandmother in particular is fond of a nice cup of sweet tea. I also crumble one of her favourite biscuits and sprinkle around the grave. It disappears very fast!

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Re: Ancestor offerings; a couple of questions
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2017, 08:21:58 pm »
So, with Samhain just a few weeks away I've stumbled upon an issue that I feel I need advice on. I have a handful of close relatives buried in a local cemetery and would like to take them offerings on Samhain. The issue is, the cemetery they're buried in picks up and throws away everything that's not in one of the grave vases. I also have other relatives who visit the graves on occasion who probably wouldn't be pleased to find anything non-Christian. Any advice on what sort of offerings or small rituals might be acceptable for a public space (especially one in a very conservative and Christian area)/not harmful for the environment? I don't want to leave anything behind that could be carried off by an animal or unaware human.

On a somewhat related note, how do you personally decide which ancestors you make offerings to? Do you avoid relatives that had a not so sterling life or do you include them in your rituals/offerings anyway since they're family?

My tradition does a traditional "dumb supper" as part of ritual - not offerings at grave sites, though that might be a thing people could do privately (in part because I think all the people involved in setting up those traditions had beloved dead who were buried in multiple locations, some of them not easily accessible.)

So our offerings are in ritual: normally making or bringing foods that the people we're especially remembering liked, and making up a plate of them (and some other ritual stuff, which is a 'not shared in public' thing.)

In terms of number of people, ancestor work is a regular part of our practice, not just a Samhain thing, so the focus at Samhain is usually beloved dead we particularly want to remember (people we especially miss, people who had a strong connection to things we're thinking about: this year I may well include a several-times-great ancestor we just confirmed we're actually related to who did a lot of things I'm thinking about right now.) There's other times in the year and ritual cycle to remember other ancestors, so it's not an all or nothing shot.

In terms of physical offerings: a small liquid libration is good. (Do tea or coffee work for any of them? Plain pure water is a common offering in many mamy traditions, too.) If you want to do something physical, what about a small sprig of rosemary (easily gotten fresh in a lot of grocery stores these days, will biodegrade, and grows wild, so not a particular risk to wildlife.) You could also collect a suitable number of something like plain river stones, small ones, and charge them on your altar or another suitable location and leave one on each grave as marker of your attention.

What Jenett said is very appropriate - you could give them a libation of their favorite drink when they were alive. For my grandmother, when I visit her grave, I try to give her Diet Coca Cola, Caffeine-free since it's what I remember her always carrying around when she was alive. As for other offerings - I really liked the idea of floral or plant arrangements, even the stones, to show your loved ones that you were there.

One other thing that I'd like to encourage is - and this may be the Japanese otaku inside coming out -  simply go to their grave site, and have a conversation with them. Update them on what's happened in your life. While yes, it may look strange to others, I have found this practice to be very beneficial in the grieving process (especially if they were someone you were close with).

Lastly, as for Samhain - I'm still exploring and studying (first-ish year and a day of actual reading books and what have you) - I'll echo what Jenett said: Samhain is a holiday for visiting and connecting with those individuals you had a personal and perhaps deep connection with who are no longer here. Decide who you want to connect with, because there are other rituals and times during the year in which you can incorporate them, including in a daily once-a-week kind of thing.
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Re: Ancestor offerings; a couple of questions
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2017, 07:06:02 pm »
(Looking at that last paragraph, I realize it may come across as slightly odd if you don't have the context that I've seen a lot of "purity culture" workings lately that advise people to shun and cut all ties with any human being who transgresses or sins too much.)

Shit, that would mean ignoring at least half my family tree.

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