How to build an ancestor altar

By Susan Starr | September 17, 2014 | 3 comments

Candle, photo by ZeHawkI stood before my unused sewing table, where I was to build my first ancestor altar. I thought of what I might put there: a photo of my birth parents, certainly, and two metal Peruvian figurines, a man and a woman, to honour my karmic roots to Peru. What else held meaning for my ancestors; what might make them feel at home? For my birth parents, two treasured old compasses that belonged to my father and a favourite hamsa necklace of my mother’s. For the Peruvian folk, an offering of corn meal and tobacco, and palo santo, a Peruvian wood incense. To symbolize the ancestral wisdom I wanted to access, two small plastic skulls; and to honour my shamanic path, pieces of wood from a tree struck by lightning on the property of one of my shaman-sisters (being struck by lightning three times is believed to be a call to that path).

In shamanism you learn fairly quickly about the constant presence and influence of the ancestors, their legacies — both gifts and wounds — and why it behoves you to pay your respects and enlist their help. Yet no matter what path you’re on, a relationship with your ancestors can benefit you. Continue reading


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