On our paths to spiritual enlightenment and personal power, no practice will pack a stronger punch than Ancestor Veneration. The current wisdom teaches that there is no deity or spirit more invested in our success than our ancestors. Their blood courses through our veins. Therefore, as we succeed, they succeed. If only for selfish reasons, they desire great things for us and will remove blocks to achieving our goals. These powerful allies desire a relationship with us just as we desire one with them. There are many tools one can employ to develop and strengthen that kinship.
Unfortunately, getting reliable information on those techniques has been challenging. Finding information on Ancestor Reverence reveals a mixed bag of “One must always...” and “Whatever you do, don't ever...” as well as turning up nothing at all. My childhood comprised the “Thou shalt never” varieties and I abruptly discontinued my nightly chats with my deceased Irish Grandma. In the decade plus of actively seeking out my ancestors and opting to work with them, I've encountered roadblocks that impede my process. When not knowing how long to leave out a food offering, one might leave nothing at all. Others may have been warned not to use a certain color candle, the very color their ancestor’s desire. So, they burn nothing at all. Adopted folks experience a conundrum unto themselves. These questions, if left unanswered, may paralyze one's work. One could be called to honor their ancestors but glance at an empty table day after day in fear of doing it wrong.
Enter Mama Starr's latest book, Listen to Them Whisper: Honoring the Ancestors. This information-packed book provides a comprehensive and forgiving path to Ancestor Veneration. Individuals from all faiths and traditions can realistically read this treasure and immediately establish the relationship for which they've been yearning. Mama Starr, author of 8 previous books on her family conjure practices, draws from a lifetime of personal experience. This book, which consists of the following sections: “Honoring the Ancestors,” “Questions and Answers,” “Setting up your Ancestor Altar,” “The Ancestors Speak,” “The Works” and a “Spirit Working to Meet your Ancestors,” answers any question that could plague a seeker. In her typical no nonsense style, Mama Starr describes Ancestor work, its benefits, the process and methods of asking for help from those who have come before us. Her belief that this work should be accessible to all is a deep undercurrent throughout the book. Mama Starr teaches her traditional techniques of working with the Ancestors while providing space for personal creativity. She repeatedly explains how she was taught to do things, then gives examples of how those things could be done differently. For example, Mama Starr describes some of the components of her altar and advocates that others do what feels right to them.
The first time one hears Mama Starr speak, her power and connection become abundantly obvious. My first experience was at The Folk Magic Festival in New Orleans several years ago. At the festival's commencement, the Southern Anti-Belle walked into the center of the attendees and called on Father Blackhawk, an important spirit in conjure. She spoke with absolute confidence and authority, asking him protect the festival, to ensure that participants got the information that they needed and to guarantee that conjure itself endure. My eyes welled with tears as Mama Starr spoke and Blackhawk arrived. He protected us throughout the magical weekend. We got what we came for and more. That is what connection looks like. That is what a mutually beneficial relationship with Ancestors offers. Listen to Them Whisper is the compass that will negotiate the sometimes perplexing maze of Honoring the Ancestors. Your grandmothers will be as grateful as mine.