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Since Samhain is fast approaching, I thought I would share a picture of my ancestor altar and talk a bit about what an ancestor altar is and what it means to me.
My altar is a old side table that my wonderful Pepere (that’s GranPa to you non-New Englanders), had by his favorite lazy boy chair until he passed in April 2009. On my altar, are pictures of him and my Memere (You guessed it, GrandMa), who passed almost a year to the day after him, in April 2010. Small urns of their ashes adore my altar as well as two silver horses. I choose to have horse symbols because they raised horses for almost 50 years. There is a candle for each of them, that is lit on their birth days and the anniversary of their passing. My Pepere’s old cowboy hat is there too.
My altar is in a corner of my dining room because that is the central gathering spot in my home. The altar is a permanent year round addition to my home but as we get closer to Samhaim, it becomes a place of focus and reflection. I add an offering bowl and put in food that my Grandparents enjoyed. I go to it daily and speak to them as if we are just chatting on the phone. I ask for guidance in the coming year and ask them to watch over my children as they did when they were alive.
On the night of Samhain, my family gathers for dinner and a ritual. We light the altar candles and we leave a chair open for the departed (like at a Dumb Supper, I’ll post about that tomorrow) and I say;
This is the night when the gateway between
our world and the spirit world is thinnest.
Tonight is a night to call out those who came before us.
Tonight we honor our ancestors.
Spirits of our ancestors, we call to you,
and we welcome you to join us for this night.
We know you watch over us always,
protecting us and guiding us,
and tonight we thank you.
We invite you to join us and share our meal.
(Theses lovely words were written By Patti Wigington)
Then we sit down to eat, making up a plate for the ancestors and talk about our favorite memories of our departed loved ones.
An ancestor altar is very personal. There is no right or wrong way to set one up. A friend of mine has placed photos and toys of a beloved pet who passed, on her altar. The only warning I have is to never place a photo of the living on your ancestor altar. Do you have an ancestor altar? What’s on it? Share a photo too!
The photo is in the gallery, under My Altars.
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The Goddess Inanna:
Inanna is the ancient Sumerian mother Goddes. Both the protector of grain and the queen of heaven, she combines earth and sky. Powerful, self-sufficient, passionate, and many-sided, she is a fertility Goddess as well as the source of the earth's wells, springs and rivers. Each year Inanna descends to the underworld to resurrect her consort, Dumuzi. At each of the seven gates she leaves one of her garments behind until, naked, she meets her sister Erishkigal, queen of the Underworld. Erishkigal kils Inanna and hangs her on a hook until Inanna herself is resurrected and returns to life. Inanna is a representation of the many facets that go into being feminine as well as a guide into the dark places of psychological and spiritual death and distintegration.
This is just one interpretation of her mythos, please feel free to add or debate!