Altars for Ancestors: How to Setup & Give Offerings

Having an altar for your ancestors is a very important practice.  Our ancestors, depending on their state of awareness on the “other side”, need help from us.  Many people transition from this world into the spirit realm with no conscious awareness of the afterlife.  Sometimes these souls get caught up in the lower worlds and within these worlds they (our ancestors) require a certain amount of energy.

This article will serve as a guide for setting up an ancestral altar.  Feel free to use this guide as a blueprint and add to or take away what you like.

Ancestral altars serve as a portal or gateway for communicating and transferring energy from you to your ancestors and vice versa.  After you setup and start to work with your ancestral altar you will have a beacon of light that attracts and satisfies your family members that have passed on.

When we help our ancestors they can assist us.  There are benefits of not being in the human body and our ancestors can pull strings for us in the spirit realm to help us out in our earthly lives.  Making offerings to your ancestors is a mutually benefiting practice that anyone can do with a little know-how and commitment.

It is very easy to setup an altar and you should have one up in no time!  Have fun creating your altar and always remember to follow your Spirit Mind and intuitive faculties.  If you feel that you should do something different than what I outline in this article, then go with that thought.  It’s probably your ancestors telling you!

Items You will Need

  • small or large table preferably made out of wood
  • pictures and/or items of deceased relatives
  • small glass or ceramic bowl for water (south)
  • candle(s) – fire (east)
  • incense and holder – air (north)
  • crystal(s), gemstones, rocks, and/or coins – earth (west)
  • anything else you want to put on your altar

How to Setup Your Altar

  • If you’re able to designate a room of its own for your altar then do that.  If not, place your altar wherever you feel comfortable having it. Try to avoid placing it in the bathroom, bedroom, garage, laundry room, if you can.
  • Place all the pictures and/or your loved ones items on the altar table.
  • Place your crystals and/or coin, candle(s), incense holder, bowl of water and any other items on your altar table.  You may place them according to their elemental direction (optional).

What to Offer

  • food of any kind especially meats.  Just make an extra plate at dinner time.  If your budget doesn’t allow an extra plate then you can offer rice or potatoes.  Offer food daily.
  • liquor and/or beer.  Especially if you know of ancestors with a fancy for alcohol.
  • cigars, cigarettes, and/or smokeless tobacco.  Especially if you know of ancestors who yearned for any of these items.
  • ancestor money aka hell notes, heaven notes or Joss paper.  This is optional but highly recommended.  Burning ancestor money is uncommon in the United States but heavily practiced in other cultures.  The bigger the denomination the better.  Offer daily, if possible.
  • flowers

How to make an offering

Make sure you make an offering everyday.  Get in a habit of making an offering before or after you eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Be sure to keep some kind of fruit on the altar as this serves as an energy source that can be left on the altar for a few days.  Usually the fruit you place on the altar will stay ripe longer!

You can refresh the bowl of water daily or every few days.

  • Light your candle and incense.
  • Place your offering on the altar.  It can be any one or more items listed above.
  • Verbally speak that this offering is for your ancestors that are known and unknown.  You may also say names or surnames.
  • If you have ancestor money, you can burn as much as you like in a steel or fireproof pot.
  • Verbally speak that the money is for your ancestors known and unknown.  You may also say names or surnames.
  • Now speak to your ancestors.  Talk to them collectively or by name.  It can be a simple thank you or an elaborate ritualistic prayer.  This is the time to ask for forgiveness for anything that you may have done to any one of your ancestors.  This is also the time to ask for help. Remember to be reasonable and practical.
  • Thank your ancestors and blow out the candle(s).

Written by S. Ali Myers

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