To create an ancestor altar you will need:
- A skull (this can be a ceramic imitation skull, a candle in the shape of a skull, a drawing of a skull, or any other representation). Search the stores for Halloween decorations and you should find something suitable.
- A covering for the skull. This can be a handkerchief, a hat, sunglasses, or any item that suits you.
- Photos of deceased loved ones and ancestors.
- Items you associate with your Beloved Dead. These may include antiques, gifts from your loved ones, or inherited items.
- An offering area, such as a small plate on which to burn incense and spirit money, or to leave offerings of food, liquor, ghost water or other items.
After the rite is complete, take the skull to your ancestor altar and cover it. When you wish to speak with your Beloved Dead remove the covering and make your offerings to the spirits.
Here is a recipe for Ghost Water, which is a traditional potent offering to the spirits of the dead.
At midnight on the night of the full moon (the full moon before Samhain is ideal) go to a graveyard with a glass container of spring water. Leave the spring water on one of the graves in the cemetery, making sure that the light of the full moon falls on the spring water. Remove the water after midnight but before daybreak. Bottle and label the water, and use it as an offering on your ancestor altar. Some witches like to add a splash of anisette liquor to the Ghost Water when making the offering. Good anisette will produce a milky cloud in the water, like unto a spirit manifesting.
Graveyard dirt is another ideal offering to the dead. I have a dear friend who is very interested in her family's genealogy. She spent one Samhain season collecting dirt from all of the graves of her ancestors that she could locate. The resulting jar was massive and fairly sung with ancient power. Powdered mullein or patchouli are often labeled "graveyard dust", and these too make a nice offering, either with or without actual graveyard dirt.
Other offerings to the dead include incense (a Samhain blend or an ancestor blend will work well) and spirit money. Spirit money is imitation money, such as can be found in children's playsets. It is burned with prayers that the Beloved Dead have all they need in the world beyond this one.
Keep your ancestor altar clean and make offerings regularly, disposing of any old offerings in living water or at a crossroads.
Your ancestors deserve your respect and remembrance. Samhain is the ideal time to create an ancestor altar for seasonal use, or as a permanent place in your home and in your life.
You can read more about The Ancestors at this blog post.
Ghost Water, Graveyard Dirt, and many other ritual supplies are available through our Etsy store.