How to create altars, communicate and leave offerings for your ancestors, a guide :
Creating an Altar - Setting up an ancestor altar is often the cornerstone and the very foundation of working with your extended network of kinfolk for spiritual empowerment and personal growth. Much like a garden, it can become a place where your spiritual work blooms and flourishes.
When creating an altar space to communicate with your ancestors you want to first designate a space over some kind of flat surface which can be dedicated to praying and leaving offerings.
Altar supplies are essentially composed of the four elements and may contain other materials such as ;
A white cloth- white symbolizes the color of purity, used to cover your altar table.
Knife or a sharp object- used to assist your ancestors in protecting you.
A small compact mirror- bounces back any evil eye sent your way.
Pictures/trinkets of your loved ones- this is simply to honor them specifically and not a necessary component, your ancestors will understand if you don't have these items on hand and will most likely guide you to what they like- all you have to do is ask !
Florida water- Can be used as an offering, to cleanse crystals, altar spaces and tools when in a pinch.
Pennies or coins to pay the toll for travel between the worlds of the living and dead
Divination tools: Your ancestors are a valuable resource for divination workings; they have plenty of insight and guidance to share with you. Keep your favorite divination tools on your altar so that you can communicate with family members who might have some wisdom to pass your way. Whether you use tarot cards, a pendulum, runes, or some other form of divination, keeping your tools on your altar will help charge them with your ancestors' power and energy.
NOTE: You must cleanse every item before it is placed on your altar. You can simply sprinkle them with Florida water and envision the item covered in white light.
Fire: Which is also the heart of the altar, so be sure to keep a candle lit consistently. White represents purity therefore it is a suitable color for this purpose. (Check out my blog post on Candle and Planetary Magic for help with other spell work on your altar).
Water: Keeping clear cups of water on your altar will ensure that the channels of communication remain open and clear. I recommend keeping 1-2 cups of water on your altar however, you can use the amount you're called to.
Be sure to change the water out often !
-Never let anything on your altar grow mold or get stale, be sure to dispose of offerings properly.
Air: Incense ; which can also be used as an offering.
Earth: Fresh flowers, herbs, crystals.
A regular offering practice for your ancestors will make life run more smoothly overall.
Offerings: Food, liquor and tobacco or cigars are great offerings to leave for your ancestors/guides. Food you make or take out can be left out and prayed over for them. When giving offerings you should pray and ask for your ancestors to assist in delivering your abundance and protection, be specific and very intentional. Offerings such as coffee, food and liquor will give them the energy they need to assist us. If you find yourself having random cravings or smelling a certain food out of nowhere, pay attention ! It could be your ancestors "guiding" you to what they would like to eat. If you're unsure, it is always encouraged to simply pray to them and ask them what they would like for an offering and they will give you signs ! Sit with your ancestors, thank them, eat with them, talk to them, greet them each morning, pray at your altar space for prosperity, abundance and protection. Well fed, well intended dead will do you unsolicited favors, such as — keep bad things from happening, protect your children, the rest of your family, and home from harm, communicate important things through dreams or signs, increase your luck, give you advice and generally look out for your best interests.
Good times to make offerings and do rituals for the deceased —
Every New Moon at night
Saturdays during the hour of Saturn
Tuesday nights after dark, hour of Saturn
Around the time of Halloween/ Dia de los Muertos
Birthdays or death anniversaries of significant ancestors
Your own birthday; the birthdays of your parents, children, or siblings and when feasting.
Around the time of the Fall Equinox through Halloween and the first week of November is the perfect time to clean or establish a new offering schedule, contact is assisted by the veil being thin.
Last thoughts: Get creative and get personal, there is no real right or wrong way to start ancestral veneration. Start with what you have, pray to your ancestors and ask them what they need. Clean, cleanse and keep up your altar space regularly to keep the channels open and clear.
I hope this provides you with the beginning you need to connect with your people, may they guide, protect and nurture you.