Ancestor Velación for el Día de los Muertos
arrow icon

Ancestor Velación for el Día de los Muertos

A velación ritual and companion piece to Xochi Quetzalli's Spirit Loss in America.

Ancestor Velación for el Día de los Muertos

A velación ritual and companion piece to Xochi Quetzalli's Spirit Loss in America.

Editor’s note: This velación ritual is a continuation of Xochi Quetzalli’s essay, Spirit Loss in America.

DO YOU FEEL like you have experienced susto (soul loss) and that pieces of your spirit have strayed away because of disconnection from your ancestral culture? Well, it is time to call those pieces of your spirit back home. Join me and millions alike, as we honor our ancestors during this season of offering flowers, during this time when the fruit falls—known as Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos (celebrated November 1–2). Building relationships with your ancestors can help you recover from susto, reconnecting to the deepest parts of yourself. Your ancestors can guide you to find those lost pieces of your spirit and reintegrate them for your strength and healing.

Ancestor Velación Ritual

To prepare for this sacred day and season, let’s do some ground work to prepare and connect with our ancestors first. This simple velación (vigil candle ritual) can be done as often as you’d like. It helps you establish a connection to one deceased ancestor and then continue to strengthen your relationship with them.

Materials needed: 

  • Several thin, fast burning candles (any color)
  • 1 photo or representation of a deceased ancestor
  • 1 frame
  • Smudging medicine (responsibly and ethically sourced copal resin, leaf of sage, small branch of cedar, palo santo, etc.)

Choosing an ancestor to work with and preparing your space

In choosing the ancestor you want to work with, it is important to begin with just one (unless you already have a well-established connection to your ancestors). You might ask: How do I choose that one ancestor? Well, have you had any dreams about one particular ancestor? When you sit with photo albums, is there one ancestor whose story you particularly remember or enjoy? Who do you connect with when you sit in silence, between the waking and dreaming state? Let your intuition guide your choice.

Choose a photo of your ancestor to use in your velación. If you do not have one or cannot obtain one, then a beloved item that was once theirs will do. 

What if you are adopted and have no direct lines to blood family? This displacement is great, yet know you are not alone. Working with the ancestors does not mean they have to be blood related; in fact, you do not need to have met the person you choose as your ancestor. Those who feel displaced often choose to work with a deity, ascended master, angel, saint, or holy person instead, and this is perfectly fine. Use an image or drawing of them in place of the photograph.

Next, honor your ancestor by placing their photo or image in a frame. (You can make the frame if you’d like to.) Next to the frame, place your fast burning candle. Use a candle holder, or more simply, melt some of the wax in a small ceramic dish and stick the candle into the wax. Use a few drops of wax and a steady hand, and do not wiggle the candle around once you set it firmly in place.

Like what you’re reading?

Beginning your velación

Go ahead and begin your velación by lighting the candle. The candle represents the fire and is a portal to welcome in our ancestors. It attracts them into your home.

Next, light your smudging medicine. You can use a smudging medicine that is common to your ancestor’s place of birth—or you can simply use what you have on hand. (Use just a leaf if you are using white sage or cedar, for bundles often burn too much, too fast. Also, be sure to source your herbs responsibly.) These sweet aromas entice our ancestors to join us in the physical realm, call their spirits, and feed our senses.

After you have an aroma filling the air, begin to pray. Yet what if you feel like you do not know how to pray? Well, begin with a four-direction prayer (like the one I’ve shared in Spirit Loss in America) or with any poetic words to call the spirits to come. Be direct and clear, stating the name of the person you’re talking to, stating your name, and simply sharing that you are hoping to establish a relationship with them.

What is important is communication and your continued development of this relationship. The more you speak aloud to them, the more natural your words become, the more they turn into a prayer, poetry, and song that entices the spirits into your home.

If you do this velación often these coming months, you may feel ready, then, to create your own ancestor altar for the Day of the Dead. Remember, the ancestors are always guiding you.

Note: Please source any plants and minerals ethically and responsibly and with respect to Indigenous cultures. Please seek the advice of an Indigenous elder before you use any products that may be considered sacred to cultures that are not your own.

Top image credit: istock.com/mustafa güner.

Note: Please source any plants and minerals ethically and responsibly and with respect to Indigenous cultures. Please seek the advice of an Indigenous elder before you use any products that may be considered sacred to cultures that are not your own.

Top image credit: istock.com/mustafa güner.

Note: Please source any plants and minerals ethically and responsibly and with respect to Indigenous cultures. Please seek the advice of an Indigenous elder before you use any products that may be considered sacred to cultures that are not your own.

Top image credit: istock.com/mustafa güner.

Continue Reading

All Issue Contents

From thE Community Marketplace

Would you like to list your business or product? Learn more.

For the healing of people and planet.

Ofrenda Magazine is a grassroots-funded platform and publication. If you enjoy the content, please support this work in the spirit of reciprocity. Your tax-deductible donations help us produce the magazine, offer the web version free to all visitors, and pay our contributors and staff.

Thank you. Gracias. Tlazocamati.

Donate Today