Do you pray to your ancestor?
How do you pray for your ancestor?
How do you acknowledge your ancestor?
I grew up with praying for my ancestor at least once a year. I grew up in a modern world, so the ritual seems irrational: offering food, incense and flowers for the ancestor who can no longer eat and smell. My late father was not a full supporter of strict tradition, although my mum is still following the strict tradition to some extent. My late father was a rational man. Therefore, he was cremated while his ashes scattered to the ocean.
He knew that the future generations would get tied down to visiting the cemetery and creating pressure to look after the physical grave. In his rational mind, the descendants can always go to the beach wherever they are: to be one in nature. My mum went to her hometown with her families.
I can’t help wanting to find out if my family is the odd one. When researching, I was surprised the ancestor worship or praying to ancestors is common practice in many cultures. I was relieved that we are not strange: we are part of something larger than ourselves.
Here are some examples of different cultures honour their ancestors:
Ancestor worship is ingrained in Chinese culture, and it is believed that ancestors have the power to protect and bless their living descendants. The practice involves offering food, incense, and other offerings at ancestral altars, and performing rituals during important family occasions.
The Aboriginal cultures of Australia
The Aboriginal cultures have a strong tradition of ancestor worship and spirituality. The praying to ancestors is deeply rooted in their culture and worldview and reflects their unique relationship to the land and the natural world.
Ancestor worship is known as “kuyo,” and it involves offerings of food and incense to ancestors, as well as visits to gravesites during the annual Obon festival.
The Day of the Dead is a traditional holiday where families honour their deceased loved ones by building altars decorated with flowers, candles, and photographs of their ancestors. The offerings of food and drink on the altars as a way of welcoming the spirits of the dead back to the living world.
It is a common practice in many African cultures to believe that ancestors have the power to protect and guide their living descendants. In some traditions, the offerings of food and drink at ancestral shrines and rituals performing to communicate with the spirits of the ancestors.
Native American cultures
Many Native American tribes have a strong tradition of honouring their ancestors, with practices that vary widely depending on the tribe. Some tribes believe their ancestors can offer guidance and protection, and they perform rituals and ceremonies to honour their memory.
This year is the second time that our family in Australia is practising the Qing Ming ritual. I consciously made the decision to ensure that my son knows his ancestor and he feels that he connects to his ancestor. My late father did not have the opportunity to meet my son in person. Read another blog on my father’s day – coping with grief.
You can imagine how hard it was for me to explain this ritual to my son. Last night, coincidently we watched Dr Strange, so my son somewhat got an idea of spirit. My son funnily had a concept and said that the spirit is his second layer of body after his skin in the scene that Dr Strange’s spirit is separated from his body.
Praying to ancestors can shape a generation in several ways such as:
It is often an important part of a culture’s traditions and values. By practicing this tradition, individuals can feel a sense of connection to their cultural roots and a stronger sense of identity.
In many cultures, it is a family affair. Family members may come together to perform rituals and offer prayers, which can strengthen family bonds and foster a sense of community.
It can also reinforce ethical values and moral principles. For example, in some cultures, it is believed that ancestors can offer guidance and protection, but they can also punish wrongdoing. By honouring ancestors and seeking their guidance, individuals may be motivated to act in accordance with their cultural values and avoid behaviour that would dishonour their ancestors.
Sense of continuity
It can provide a sense of continuity between past, present, and future generations. By honouring the memory of their ancestors, individuals can feel a sense of connection to their past and a responsibility to pass on their traditions and values to future generations.
At the end, write your story but remember where you are coming from. You are the bridge between the ancestor and the future generation.