WITH THE ARRIVAL of autumn—el otoño—it’s common for many of us to experience a bit of tristeza (sadness). The temperature dips, nature turns inward, and we, too, may feel a sense of loss as we witness the trees surrendering to the cold and letting go of their leaves. But let us remember that the trees do not let go of their leaves without first giving the earth a beautiful display of color. This powerful symbol from nature reminds us that el otoño is the most energetically powerful time of the year: a time of transformation, letting go, and taking the time to journey within. Journeying within can be the most beneficial of practices; we often find that the answers we seek are already within us. And we can use this energetically powerful time of year to call upon our ancestors to help us journey within and retrieve what we are seeking.
Ancestors, Altars, and Vibrational Energy
Connecting to our ancestors is an essential part of our personal evolution and can help us understand the “whys” of our lives. Like our previous lives, ancestors can be the flames that ignite our spiritual abilities. Creating an altar, especially around the time of el Día de los Muertos, is a special way to honor our ancestors and deepen our connection to them. It provides them a specific place to gather when they pay us a visit.
As a holistic health practitioner who studies within the curanderismo tradition, I rely heavily on vibrational medicine to deepen my practices. Around the time of el Día de los Muertos, I work on adding high vibrational layers to my altar to help me connect to my ancestors—and you can do the same. A truly beautiful altar is one that holds meaning for you. And while your altar should stay unique to you and your intentions, I offer a list of elements you can add to your altar to raise the vibrational energy on and around it. As you may know, there is energy in everything. (Please ensure that any plants or minerals you use are ethically and responsibly sourced.)
The number one ingredient to include in the creation of any altar is intention. I stress this as the first step because your intention is most important, regardless of your offerings. Keep your ancestors in mind throughout the process of creating your altar. Use this time to be reminded of your love for and admiration of them, and think of any good memories you may have of them.
For example, I share a bond and relationship with my late great-grandmother and keep her in my heart and mind while I craft my altar. Her spirit is one of the biggest inspirations in my practice, and I believe that everyone is capable of initiating these strong relationships with their late ancestors by keeping their memories alive.
2. Herb Bundles
Traditional wisdom says that smoke from herbal bundles is effective in alerting the spirits with whom you aim to open the lines of communication, should they allow you. To raise the vibration and enhance your connection with your ancestors, you can burn the following herb bundles on the altar you’ve created. (Again: Please take care to source your herbs ethically.)
- Cedar. To welcome your ancestors, consider burning a cedar bundle. Unlike sage, which will clear energy, cedar is both protective and strengthening. It will fortify the space rather than swipe the room clear.
- Artemisa / Planta Viajero. To connect with your ancestors, you can also try burning artemisa (mugwort). Artemisa is what I like to call the Planta Viajero (Traveler’s Plant) because you can use it to amplify intentions and aid you in traveling spiritually to your ancestors. In fact, this is an amazing ally for those who are familiar with spiritual travel—that is, traveling with your heart and mind to the sacred place of your choice. When connecting with your ancestors, your spiritual travel might involve remembering a special memory that you have with them or imagining them doing what they loved.
3. Crystals and Minerals
You can also use crystals and minerals on your altar, since energy emits from these natural specimens from the earth. When trying to decide which crystals to use on your altar, you can first consider the crystals that formed in the same global region where your ancestors lived. You can also consider minerals that symbolize connection and transformation. Here are a few that I frequently recommend.
- Fluorite. Central Mexico is well known for producing some of the most beautiful fluorite, which ranges in color from clear, to light green, to dark purple. Fluorite clears negative energy. It aligns with the throat chakra (thus facilitating communication) and aids in spiritual balance. During ancestral connection, it is of utmost importance to be direct and speak your truth. This truthfulness often leads to a flow of emotion, which fluorite can support and help balance.
- Petrified wood. When using crystals from the specific region your ancestors were from is not an option, you can add petrified wood, symbolizing your family tree. Altars are all about representation and expression. Petrified wood on the altar adds both an element of nature and an additional layer of energy. Petrified wood is also known to be the stone of spiritual transformation. What better time to incorporate it than in el otoño, the season of transformation? When adding petrified wood to the altar, you are representing years of transformation through your ancestral lineage, and you will experience a strong sense of grounding and security.
- Clear quartz or selenite. If petrified wood is not easily accessible, you can use clear quartz or selenite to add another layer of vibrational energy to your altar. Strictly dedicate that specific piece of stone to be used for connecting to your ancestors. Dedicating the crystal to ancestral work will cement the bond between you, the stone, and its job of facilitating energy between you and your ancestors. This will allow you to leave the stone on your altar as a permanent fixture without having to recalibrate it with intentions as often as you would if you were using it for multiple jobs. I recommend holding that stone while praying at your altar or during your meditations and intention setting.