Now is the time of year when our thoughts turn inward. We begin to think about plans for the coming year as the cold and dark (very dark where I live) close in around us. It’s not necessarily oppressive, or I don’t find it so, and it gives us time that might have been turned toward other things, like our home or garden, back to ourselves. Now is a good time for family and a good time to remember our ancestors.
In the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos and Fête de Mort, it is common to set up what is known in Voudon as a “white table”. More frequently referred to as an ancestral altar, this is a place where pictures of our family as well as things they loved – books, drinks, flowers, foods, jewelry, etc. – can be displayed and offered as a way of letting those who went before us know that we realize they are still with us, just in a different sort of way.
None of this has to be particularly fancy. Some white tables are, of course, but you can just as appropriately honor your ancestors on a nicely draped and decorated TV tray as you can in a huge credenza. Particularly in our modern culture, when we don’t think much about our ancestors in general, they will appreciate any effort you make. I like to keep a white 7 day candle (those candles with the tall glass holders that you see in Catholic churches) burning on mine in memory of those whose names are remembered and those whose names are forgotten. The candles are available at the grocery store and if they tip over they are designed to go out automatically. Safety first. Also, the general recommendation is that ancestral altars not be set up in a bedroom. Dining rooms and particularly kitchens are very popular for this sort of thing as the ancestors will feel part of your daily routines.
Remember that you are not obligated to bring energies you cannot live with into your home. If you have a relative who was ill tempered and/or abusive they need not be included on your altar. Even if you can’t choose your family you can choose your companions. On the other side of the coin, I personally feel very connected to some ancestors that I would never have any way of knowing personally and, in fact, did not know of until I was an adult. If you have that kind of interaction with some of your many-generations-back relatives, find a way to represent them on your altar. Pictures are just the start.
This project is great for letting your imagination go to work. With only a little effort, a white cloth and some flowers to start, you can make a pleasing place for both you and the people who cared for and care for you. Taking the time to set up a white table now may make you want to keep it up year round. The ancestors can be a helpful group of allies, if you communicate with them regularly.
Header: Voudon white table via Kiwi Mojo (I would have posted a picture of mine but our camera has decided to join the ancestors)