In addition to the gods, we honour our Ancestors in our druidry. Ancestors do not have to just be those we are related to by blood. We may also have ancestors of heart, those people who are important to us because of their deeds, much like Isaac Bonewits is an ancestor of the folk of ADF. Likewise, we may also honour ancestors of land, including city founders or important local figures. Heroes from mythology sometimes fall into a fuzzy area between gods and ancestors, but it doesn’t really matter how we categorize them, they are still beings worthy of worship.
We honour the dead because what is remembered, lives. By telling their stories, we ensure that they are carried forward for generations. We learn from their wisdom and apply it to our own lives. They may even speak to us in our devotions and become allies to us from beyond the mists.
Ancestors are most often honoured at Samhain, as they are in our Grove. At this rite, people may bring photos or other tokens of remembrance of them to place upon the altar. Our Grove also has an Ancestor Book which we hope to improve this year, so that we can have another way to share who we are remembering with each other.
We do not have any dogma about what happens to us when we die. There are hints in lore, but we will not know until we get there. In our rites, we call upon Donn, the first to die in Ireland, to guide the dead to his otherworldly home, Tech nDuinn. From there, the spirits of the dead move on to the lands of the Ancestors, or possibly reincarnation, provided the soul has multiple parts.
ADF has a subgroup called the Order of the Dead, whose purpose it is to focus on ancestor worship, but also to create traditions and practices about death and dying that will aid our membership.
In our home, we have a small ancestor shrine that includes photos of our relatives, but also of a local pagan community leader who was responsible for many of our current events, and Isaac Bonewits as the founder of ADF.
The Afterlife, the Heroes, and the Dead – Rev. Ian Corrigan