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Venerating the Ancestors

Updated on September 7, 2011
One room log cabin in Kentucky.
One room log cabin in Kentucky.

In the Northern Way like many other religions of the world, memories and deeds of our ancestors are sacred. They are honored for being the roots of our family tree. In pre-Christian, Nordic/Germanic cultures, there was an overriding belief in two main aspects of the Ancestors and Ancestor-Worship.

One, was that the Gods and Goddesses are also our ancestors. Odinn, Hoenir , and Lodur were said in our myths to have created the human race by shaping them from trees. Then, in Rígsþula, the god Ríg (Heimdall), intervenes to found the different classes of mankind.

Also, in many sagas and histories of royal families, the root ancestor is said to have been a god, like Odinn or Frey (Ingvi).

The second aspect was the belief that children were the ancestors of old and that one could be reborn into their family lineage. There are several references in the sagas and poems within the Poetic Edda that speak of this belief. It was also believed that one's ancestors could help bring luck and prosperity to the living and even give advice. The act of sitting on a grave to gain insight and inspiration was due to this belief. The noted mythologist, H.R. E. Davidson wrote extensively on death, the afterlife, and concepts of ancestor worship from the Nordic/Germanic point of view, in her book, The Road to Hel.

Almost all Heathen homes will have an alter for the Ancestors. This usually will include some family relic or pictures of the ancestors as far back as possible. It will always feature a plate for food and a horn or chalice for drink. Some place a small offering each day and others only on Feast days.


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