Growing up, my father once told me: “You have to know where you come from in order to know where you’re going.” At the time I was in high school and simply discarded his words. Now, that phrase bears heavy sentiment. After the passing of my grandmother during the tail-end of my Saturn Return (an astrological transit that occurs in one’s natal chart between ages 27-30) that quote was reprised. Those words evolved from just another quote my Latino father once said, to a passageway of permission allowing me to begin my ancestral reconnection.
You’re here because you’re curious on how to begin connecting with your ancestors in spirit. You’re ready to deepen your ancestral veneration work and expand in your personal spiritual practice. You might not know how to initiate the steps “properly.” Truthfully, there’s no incorrect method to begin working with your ancestors. The process is entirely up to you by compass of your intuitive guidance.
However, there are recommendations that can be provided to work past the self-doubt along the journey. Connecting with your ancestors is a healing process in and of itself. A practice that can assist one with clearing generational trauma and accessing generational gifts.
The following is intended to encourage you to begin connecting with your ancestors, but to also empower you to release any fear, guilt and shame as you explore this realm of spirituality.
Recognizing the Past
Whether you’re a first generation Latina or fourth generation Latina, no matter where you fall within the spectrum there’s a collective hurdle faced when beginning to connect with the ancestors. That is, assimilation. Through assimilation, our families that immigrated to the United States had to survive based on conformity to “American culture.” That means speaking less Spanish, practicing American cultural traditions in higher frequency, etc. Leaving access to our past in fragmented pieces.
It can be confusing, isolating, and lonely when you decide to figure out your ancestry, much less honor the past of your lineages. Sometimes, there’s not much to base off of for various reasons when trying to trace your roots. However, don’t get too hung up on that. Recognizing the past simply means you honor the land you’re cohabiting on and the land your ancestors walked. From there, you can build out your family tree, do a DNA test, and ask for oral histories to be shared with you.
All you have to do is start allowing your family’s past to feel acknowledged. The good, the bad, and the ugly. As painful as it might sound.
Don’t be Afraid to Talk to the Dead
In order to begin connecting with your ancestors there should be consideration around decolonizing our mindset. Fear has been deeply indoctrinated into us as people of color. Fear of talking to the dead or working with the dead holds many stigmas.
Maybe you didn’t want to talk to the dead because you didn’t want to be perceived as “crazy” because Latinx culture already creates lots of stigma around mental health. Maybe you grew up in a colonized religious household and working with spirits was deemed demonic. Release Fear.
How? Work through the internalized narratives that live within you that stem from colonized religion and machismo culture. Talking to the dead is a form of feminine energy. A form of being intuitive, receptive, and still. Behaviors we were taught to condemn and disregard in order to further perpetuate patriarchal control and toxic masculinity.
The dead will not harm you. Set clear boundaries with Spirit and your higher power to only connect with ancestors who have your best interest in mind. Figure out a protector guide you want to call into your altar room or prayers to overlook you in the spiritual realm to ward off low vibrational spirits. That can range from Archangels to animal spirit guides. It’s up to you.
If we live in fear we attract low vibrational experience and frequencies. This is especially true in the spirit realm. Acknowledge that the dark exists, but know that the light is stronger. Set clear boundaries with the spirit realm outloud.
Reclaim Your Traditions
Connecting with your ancestors is a deeply intimate and unique process. Your ancestral practice will defer from others. While developing or strengthening your ancestral practice, consider prioritizing the traditions of your culture and immediate family. It might feel comfortable to implement similar structures to the practice of others as yours, however, trust that your intuitive guidance and traditions of your immediate ancestral lineages will make your practice stronger.
Ask living family members if they have any recipes or rituals of their own that they can pass onto you. It is helpful to ask current elders to share oral histories of what they remember their elders doing in their personal spiritual and ancestral veneration practices. Allow yourself to adapt those or completely rid of them equally if they do not resonate with you.
Reclaiming is an act of remembering. At times it can be hard to retrace roots back to generations past for several reasons such as assimilation, trauma and more. The act of you wanting to reclaim your traditions is an honorable intention and an easy way to call in the spirits of your ancestors as an act of gratitude to them.
Research the land your ancestors are from and the cultural traditions that stem from your genealogy equally. Simultaneously, take note of how your current living elders (future ancestors) live their lives and any traditions you wish to learn from them in order to pass down to future generations. This creates a bond to you through the living to the dead and vice versa.
Work with Living Elders
I always ask my students: “Why wait until your family is dead in order to start working with them or venerate them?” Working with living elders, who essentially are our ancestors, is a proactive way of connecting to our ancestors. This intention also assists to strengthen bonds transferred into the afterlife.
You might wonder if an ancestor you weren’t close to or never met will come through in Spirit. Most times, they will. Unless they never crossed over or didn’t believe in this work. Don’t expect them to throw you a welcoming party when you decide to call them into your spiritual work.
You don’t need to have a direct relationship to an ancestor in order for them to want to work with you. But having a past repertoire with them certainly helps energetically to call them in faster.
Working with the living ancestors is a way for us to collectively begin intergenerational healing. Ask your living elders to tell their stories. Ask them to share their traumas and fond memories. This is how you can start helping them lift the burden of heavy karma before transitioning into the afterlife.
Calling in Your Ancestral Lineage in Spirit
To begin calling in your ancestors you’ll want to consider doing so in the efforts of building an altar, prayer or ritual work. You can welcome them into your home by leaving them offerings.
Offerings can range from their favorite food to a promise you will uphold in their honor. Building out an altar is a strong method to connect with them. Build your altar according to your ancestors’ needs. What did they enjoy while alive? What flowers did they love? Did they like coffee or tequila? Leave those out as offerings for them to signify you are building a spiritual relationship with them.
In addition to prayer, calling in your ancestors in meditation is likely the easiest and fastest way to feel their presence. Take time to sit in meditation for 10-30 minutes and specifically call in whichever ancestor by name you feel most connected to and ask them to talk to you!
Lighting a candle is a way to call in their spirit as well. Designating specific candles year-round for your ancestors is something they might enjoy. Take it a step further and buy a candle in their favorite color to let them know you’re ready to work with them. Celebrating their birthdays by making them a special meal or lighting a candle on significant anniversaries is also very effective in co-creating a dynamic with them.
Lastly, ask your intuition to guide you and give you next steps. You can also ask family members how they personally do this work. It can be as simple as visiting loved ones more often at their burial sites. Connecting with your ancestors will look different and similar to others in a variety of ways. The intention is the only thing that matters when working with them. Where do your intentions derive from? Are they genuine and loving? Are they only for self-serving needs? No matter what, enjoy the process!