image depicts an altar for honoring the ancestors with a person in black, kneeling, face not visible holding a deer skull with antlers and surrounded by lit candles and orange pumpkins in a darkened image.

Embrace Your Roots: Honoring the Ancestors at Samhain

Samhain is one of the most significant points on the Wheel of the Year. Themes associated with it include honoring the ancestors, birth, death and rebirth, divination, letting of what’s not serving us and transformation.

Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the dark months of the year. We celebrate it on October 31st in the Northern Hemisphere.

In this Samhain post, we’ll take a look at honoring the Ancestors.

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Honoring the Ancestors

Traditionally, this is a time when the veil between the worlds is believed to be thinnest, making it the perfect time for honoring the ancestors and spirits of the dead.

While this practice is rooted in ancient times, many people around the world today still honor this tradition by setting up altars or leaving offerings for their ancestors or loved ones who have passed on.

I embrace this tradition of honoring those who have gone before me by setting up an ancestor altar where I will spend some time in meditation, sending messages of gratitude to all of my ancestors for all that they have done, both while they were living and now that they stand behind me in spirit.

I include the ancestors I know, along with those I don’t know. I also honor all the unseen beings and more than human world in my ritual for honoring the ancestors.


Create Your Ancestor Altar


If you’d like to create an altar for your ancestors, it can be as simple as placing photos, mementos, symbols, or items that remind you of them in a designated place that you’ve prepared ahead of time and dedicated for this purpose.

For those who are able to do this, a simple way of honoring the ancestors is to visit their graves, stand silently for a few minutes in reverence, and leave a flower or other natural item as a way to acknowledge them.


Simple wooden cross leaning against a tree stump surrounded by green grass and green ferns to symbolize an altar to honoring the ancestors
Honoring the Ancestors


Ancestor Ritual – Honoring the Ancestors


You can personalize this ritual outline to suit your needs, energy levels, and preferences. Choose your perfect space. This can be indoors or outdoors. Create your altar or prepare your space.


Gather the materials you’ll be using. Prepare yourself in whatever way feels right to you—this could be meditation or a ritual bath. Wear clothing that feels right to you.


For safety, be mindful of the clothing you choose since you’ll be working with open flame. I keep a bowl of water nearby whenever I’m working with candles. I’ve had my kitchen on fire a couple of times in the past, so I now tend to be overly cautious.


Here’s some suggestions for materials to gather for your ritual:

  • 1 white candle + 1 black candle
  • A bowl of earth or salt
  • Photos or other things that remind you of your Ancestors
  • An offering. This can be food or wine or even a natural object. Use what feels right to you.
  • Your journal or paper and something to write with

Before you begin, center and ground yourself using any method you like. A few deep breaths can do the trick here.




  • Light the white candle to symbolize the divine power (you can use whatever name for it that feels right to you).
  • Light the black candle to represent all your Ancestors that reside in the spirit world
  • Create a sacred circle by walking clockwise around your designated space or altar while carrying along your bowl of earth or salt. You can use your athame here to draw your circle if you have one or use your index finger on your dominant hand.
  • Hold your intention of reverence and connection and say something like, **“I create this sacred circle as a boundary between the worlds. I honor my Ancestors here with love and respect for them all.” 
  • Call upon your Ancestors through an invocation. Write your own or use something like this: “I call upon all of my Ancestors. Those I know and those I do not, to share with me your guidance and wisdom.”
  • Make your offering to your Ancestors and then reflect on the items you’ve chosen to represent them. Speak to them now just as you would if they were here with you. Share your feelings or ask them questions.
  • Write down any messages or insights that you receive.


In wrapping up your ritual, thank your Ancestors for their wisdom and guidance.

Snuff the black candle and say something like **”I release the connection to the spirit world now”.

Snuff the white candle and say something like **” Even though I put out this light, my love for you continues”.

Release your circle by walking counter-clockwise around the circle. Visualize the boundary of your circle draining away into the earth as you go.

You can add in something like **”Even though I release this circle now, may the connection I have with my Ancestors remain strong. So mote it be.”


Your ritual is now complete.


**Write your own version to make it personal for you.


A note about rituals:  There are many different ways to do rituals. As a solitary practitioner, you make the rules for your practice. There’s no one size fits all approach to your spiritual practices, and I encourage you to find what works for you. Experiment with different approaches and record your results, feelings and outcomes in your Book of Shadows or Grimoire so you can easily refer to it for future inspiration. I rarely do the exact same thing twice, allowing my intuition to guide me in my own practice.


Single head stone in black and white image with a large tree trunk visible in the background.
Honoring the Ancestors



The Ancestor Tour


If you decide to visit the gravesites of your ancestors, you might wish to expand your visit into what I call an Ancestor Tour.

Walk through the cemetery and notice the gravestones. Read the names aloud. Look at the things inscribed there on the markers. Of course, all of this is done with reverence for those who have gone before you.

Many grave markers are quite beautiful, so be sure to notice them. I’ve seen some that are very elaborately decorated with carvings, photo images, cats, and motorcycles. Others reach several feet into the air, almost as if connecting earth and sky.

During one of these tours a few years ago, I was so struck by the fact that for many of these people, there is no one living that would remember them. Except for that grave marker, is there any other evidence that they ever existed?

I got very weepy looking at a headstone that simply read “Baby”.

No other information was inscribed into the stone. Not a date of birth or a date of death, and no name.

Looking at the stone, it was quite weathered, suggesting that it had been there for a very long time. Other nearby stones had dates in the 1800’s as birth and death dates.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the child. Had the infant been given a name? Was it just common practice to leave the name off the stone?  I may never know, but I said a prayer for the child as I stood there with tears sliding down my face.

The Ancestor Tour is a way of honoring the ancestors in a wider sense by including those you may not have any knowledge of or connection to.



Summary – Honoring the Ancestors

Samhain is a powerful time for connecting with the cycles of nature, honoring the ancestors, and embracing the mysteries of life and death. Consider what resonates with you, and then create your perfect-for-you ritual for honoring the ancestors this Samhain.


Blessed Be & Samhain Blessings



For a bit more inspiration about celebrating Samhain, visit this post.

Celebrating Samhain – A Personal Perspective 


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