My ancestor shrine, inspired by the colorful egun'gun tradition of West Africa and Lucumi religion. It's also my first work on clay. The nine masks represent the collective spirits of my ancestors. Nine is the number of the orisha Oya, guardian of the dead. The pattern around the frame represents the river of life force (ashé) to which our spirits are bound to return.
Having come from the Llewellyn-Wicca variant of neopaganism, the idea of ancestor worship was unfamiliar to me when I first got introduced to it via a group of friends practicing African traditional religions.
Nevertheless I have made it a part of my practice as well. I felt that there is something important to it other than the obvious purpose of giving respect to the elders, which is very much a part of Asian culture, and other than redeeming myself from the guilt arising from worshipping the pagan gods of the Western world.
Over the years I have developed a peculiar posture whenever I say a prayer to the ancestors. I pray to the honored dead kneeling on the earth or on the floor while touching my head to the ground. I think this comes naturally being that the underground is the archetypal realm of the dead - just as people tend to look to the sky when praying to the gods.
What I notice about it is that it brings me to the safe and comfort of the fetal position. I have come to think of it as a little performance art of me returning to the womb and as a gesture of acknowledgement of my roots.
In this position I see nowhere but down and inward, and I am somehow compelled to give a deep, hard, inner look at myself:
This is me. This what I and my ancestors of blood and spirit have made. To honor my ancestors is to honor myself.
It's so easy to get lost in the clouds in this so-called spiritual journey. I pray to the ancestors to remind me of what I was and to become realistically aware of what I have become. While it is my love and faith to the gods that lift my hopes and ideals to heavenly heights, it is the honored spirits of the dead, powers beneath the earth that they are, that keep my feet on the ground.