Friday, October 5, 2012

Ancestor Altar


The Village Witch, my pagan friend Byron Ballard, recently did a post on the practice of creating little altars in the home to honor one's ancestors at and around Samhain.

 On reading her post, I realized that I inadvertently do this every year when I take the blue and white collections out of the corner cupboard and fill it with things that speak to me of Fall -- bones and rocks and wood; crows and cows and pigs, Old things, solemn things. . .

A pre-Columbian piece of pottery, rocks from a river in the Dominican Republic, a cat's skull found in Tennessee, and an old photo of a wary-looking little girl -- sent to me by the Village Witch herself. (She said it reminded her of me.)

A fossil -- a Very Old Ancestor, indeed . . .

Some crows -- my favorite birds -- a raccoon skull, and another old photo, sent to me by my niece Amelia -- a Mr. Lane found in a junk shop. Distant kin? Perhaps.

A Junonia shell my mother-in-law found, a squirrel from my parents' house, pottery from Mexico, and a cow with wings because why not?

Looking around, I realize that our whole house is an ancestor altar. We have a wall of ancestor pictures . . .

And a cabinet )my mother's) of ancestors' mementos  -- my grandmother's bridal slipper, my father's captain's bars, a baby bonnet, a lighter, a gold watch, spectacles, a leather change purse . . . and, of course, more pictures.

I could go through the house pointing out the bed my grandmother died in, the table that stood in John's family's house, the secretary that belonged to my maternal grandparents, the marble-topped chest  from my paternal grand parents . . .

It seems a fine way to honor one's ancestors -- living with and using the same things they loved.
 
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17 comments:

katy gilmore said...

I just love this Vicki. My house is feeling light, in need of the anchor of an ancestor altar. The references are too sparse here. Yours are wonderful. Oh it really is fall. Thank you! Katy

Ms. A said...

My house has many of these things, too. It's these things and the memories they bring, that mean so much to me.

juliet said...

What an exquisite collection of Samhain objects on those lovely blue shelves. Samhain is the time of the ancestors, so how resonant this post is. Here in NZ it is Beltane, the spring festival, very soon (although not everyone realises this and acts as if we are in the northern hemisphere!)

Thérèse said...

I so much like the fact of having a story behind each piece in a home!

Martin said...

This struck a chord, Vicki. Memories are important, but it's wonderful to have a history to touch.

I have photographs of ancestors, dotted about the place. My maternal grandfather's pocket watch and pen-knife are on the desk in front of me. My grandparent's table is all prepared for our twin granddaughters when they visit this morning. They'll be sat at it, drawing and painting, just the way I used to. My grandfather's mantle clock will be ticking and chiming in the background, too. These are some of my 'markers', that remind me of the journey so far.

Miss_Yves said...

Great idea!

The Vegan Gypsy said...

What beautiful "altars" you have, Vicki, and a wonderful way to honor your ancestors. I am envious as I have very little that was left behind from mine. I do, however, have the beginnings of an Ancestry Wall which needs updating, thank you for the inspiration!

Brian Miller said...

those are pretty cool vicki....that fossil fish i s really cool...is it a found treasure or did you purchase....that would be a fascinating find....

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

These are so interesting Vicki. We have always had an ancestor wall in all of our houses. Once we filled one side of an entire hallway with family photos. It was the best.
Sam

Sandra Lassen said...

I love your altars and your ancestral wall. Our house is full of such things and each one has its own dear story. When we honor the past, we build a bridge to the future by sharing our family's lore with the next generations. Lovely photos!

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

Amen. We carry their genes in our cells and their plunder in our homes. You are fortunate to have all you have. Fires that burned and large families that diluted what was left mean we have very little. But what we have is displayed as treasure.

Deanna said...

Now that you have me thinking in that direction, my favorite and most comfortable homes to visit are those that have "altars" honoring those who've come before them. It is comforting.

Frances said...

Thank you, Vicki, for this tribute to a special season when that membrane is more thin than ever.

Probably many of us have similar ancestor altars in our homes without referring to them in that way. I know that I am thus surrounded.

Thank you also for the link to to the music in the prior post. It give a second or third meaning to Link!

xo

NCmountainwoman said...

What a beautiful and moving post, Vicki. We do need to treasure the things that link us to our pasts. I have my grandmother's watch, her eyeglasses, her wedding ring and her favorite pin. You've inspired me to get busy with that shadow box I've always planned.

Vicki Lane said...

Brian, the fossil fish was a gift from my in laws. I'm sure they bought it somewhere.

NCMtnwoman -- I have a shadowbox I made years ago with that kind of thing in it. I'm sure I've posted about it. Such a satisfying thing to make!

Star said...

How interesting and pretty to look at. Funnily enough, Fall has the opposite effect on me, like the winds that blow free at this time of the year, I have the urge to clear out the old and bring in the new. Lovely post.

jennyfreckles said...

I don't have much to link me to my past. Your cabinet reminds me of those Cabinets of Curiosities of the 17th century.