Honoring Ancestors

~The power of honoring those who came before~

Halloween is a holiday we associate with ghosts and spirits, trick-or-treating, candy, and costumes. However, what we now call Halloween originated as Samhain. The Celts celebrated the beginning of their new year on November 1. This date marked the end of summer and the beginning of a cold, dark winter, a time of year often associated with human death. The Celts believed that the veil between worlds became very thin on October 31. This thinning of the veil would make it easier for spirits to pass into our world. Therefore, bonfires were built and costumes were worn to ward off these returning spirits from doing harm to people, crops, and animals during Samhain. This tradition was in place for years (and still is in parts of the world). But around the 9th century, Christianity began to take its hold on Celtic lands. It is believed that the church wanted to replace Samhain by creating All Soul’s Day, for which they chose November 2. Instead of the traditional celebrations of Samhain, people were encouraged to honor the dead on All Soul’s Day, a church-sanctioned holiday.

All Soul’s Day is just one way that ancestors are honored today. There are a plethora of other days, celebrations, holidays, and ways to show gratitude and reverence to those who have come before you. Dia de Los Muertos, celebrated on November 1 and 2, honors ancestors and past generations with altars, singing, storytelling, and food. Pchum Ben is a Cambodian festival where monks chant sutras and people make offerings at temples and to deceased relatives. In Japan, Obon is celebrated by hanging lanterns to guide spirits and making offerings to private altars. Honoring ancestors is something that people across the globe do, no matter the country, language, or culture.

Our ancestors connect us to our familial history. We learn much through studying and learning about relatives from our past. Not only are we able to gain insight into how we became the people we are, but we are also able to learn from ancestral experiences, both good and bad. Even though many are no longer with us, our ancestors continue to guide us to live to our fullest potential during our time on Earth.

This month, in the Ananda Citta group, we will discuss ways to honor our ancestors, using whatever methods that feel right for you. You may decide to create an altar or sacred space to honor loved ones who have died. Perhaps you will choose a day each year to remember those who have come before you through stories and songs. Connecting with ancestors through guided meditation and prayer is another way to honor deceased relatives. Each Facebook Live in the month of November will focus on a way you can honor your ancestors and why it is meaningful to do so.

I look forward to being a part of this journey into ancestral lands with you!