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.
- 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.