Opening to Spirit: Creating an Ancestral Altar

During our initial Stopping the Clock for Those Now Gone: A Remembrance Ritual for Black Loss, Black Love & Black Life on 20 June, sistah Angela Franklin, 2019-2020 Xavier University Stained Glass Initiative Artist-in-Residence and owner of Chez Alpha Books (Dakar), introduced us to her work “When Feeling Blue, She Reaches for the Redbird.” The multi-media work reflects the belief that our ancestors are always with us, that they come to us . . . as red birds . . . Angela’s striking piece offers us solace, it offers us the reminder that in spite of our grief, our ancestors are accessible. That we can communicate with them divinely.

Artist: Angela Franklin

As Caroline Shola Arewa reminds us in Opening to Spirit: Contacting the Healing Power of Chakras & Honouring African Spirituality, “belief in the Eternal Spirit and respect for our Ancestors is probably the worlds’ oldest spiritual practice.” As she goes on the remind us, ‘[w]e exist today because of our ancestors; they gave us life. It is on the fruits of their labor that we live today” (48, 69). Throughout the African Diaspora, many of us understand that our ancestors are always with us. That they are here to help, protect and guide us if we chose to be open to them and “we recognize our earthly limitations and humble ourselves” (Arewa 69). As spirit, our ancestors are recognized and revered as members of our community.

Artist: Winifred Estevez

In this week’s session, recognizing the wisdom of Angela and Arewa, and with the guidance of our beloved brotha Nana Lawson Bush, we will consider how we might creatively and intentionally stay connected with those now gone, our ancestors. In addition to knowing that they come to us in our dreams and as red birds, we can create a sacred meeting place where we can recognize, celebrate and communicate with them. We will learn the importance of intentionally, consistently and creatively holding space where we can connect with our ancestors and learn how to set up an ancestral altar.

Video Editor Lailya Leach, 2020 Diasporic-Soul-in Residence

Learn more in our forthcoming book about the ways in which connecting to our ancestors can deepen our capacity for healing and restoration, resilience and resistance. Available for Pre-Order or consider for textbook adoption via McFarland Publishers , Powell’s , WHSmith (UK), Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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