“You are the latest version of your Ancestors. Within your DNA exists their consciousness”.
– Dalian Adofo
Africa is, as we know, not a country. It is a vast land mass rich with diversity in culture, ethnicity, and traditions. Nonetheless, there are broad recognizable features among the various cultures that can justify talk of African culture in general terms. One of the main tenets of African spirituality is Ancestor worship. It is practiced across ethnicity, mythologies, national and linguistic boundaries.
What or who are our Ancestors?
The principle of Ancestor worship is based on the value of cultivating high regard for our elders, which is a basic value in African society. Our Ancestors are our family members who have passed on going all the way up our lineage. They represent an extension of our elders in the spirit world. Old age being seen as a sign of wisdom, our Ancestors can be a source of wisdom for us. In the spiritual worldview (as opposed to the material or secular one) death is not the end of existence. When we die the intangible part of us (our soul) lives on in the spirit world and those who are left behind can continue to have a relationship with us, albeit a different one.
Why do we worship them?
In the African spiritual traditions, it is believed that our Ancestors are our representatives in the spirit world because they are closer to the Source of life, closer to God. They work on our behalf in the spirit realm. They can give us strength, they can heal us, they can intervene on our behalf. We have easy access to them by virtue of our blood ties. But they can only help us – at least it is much easier for them to help us – if we honor them. We honor them by keeping their memory alive. When we forget about them or abandon them, their spirits (their intentions) cannot be made manifest here in the physical world as they can only manifest through us. There is an interdependent relationship where our active memory of our Ancestors here on the physical plane keeps their spirits alive in the spirit realm, and they, in turn, give us strength, healing, and power.
How do we worship them?
There are many different ways of acknowledging our Ancestors in our daily lives and different rituals are used for that purpose. Libation and food offerings are two simple ways of evoking the presence of our Ancestors. Praying to the Ancestors is another way of acknowledging them and of engaging in conversation with them. Some people make altars in their homes to remind themselves of their Ancestors. These are all very simple things that do not involve any mysterious or shady dealings and can help you cultivate a loving and healing relationship with your Ancestors.
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