How to Set Up an Altar for Your Ancestors

Reaching out to your ancestors can be one of the most beautifully enlightening things that you can even strive to accomplish. While Samhain (Halloween) has long been regarded as the perfect time for ancestor-work due to the fact that the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest, you can work with your ancestors and reach out to them at any point during the year! If you are ready to begin reaching to your ancestors for answers and a sense of guidance in your walk of life, this article is for you! Here, we will be delving into the magikal world of ancestor-work and will show you how to set up your altar to achieve the best results. 

Gather Your Photos

The very first thing that you are going to want to do when you are setting up your altar for your ancestors is to gather up photos of as many of your ancestors as you can personally get your hands on. Photos are a collective way to gather the energy of your ancestors, to bring your intent in inviting them and welcoming them into your life, and basically becoming familiar to their faces and their unique presences. If you do not have actual photos, but know their names and have a compelling feeling to connect with them, write down their name and place it on your altar next to the other photos you have gathered. 

Gather Your Objects

Personal objects are also a really powerful way to connect to your ancestors. Anything that may have been personally connected to a deceased ancestor is a wonderful and incredibly powerful connection that you can bring about in making a connection with your ancestor. As you may well be aware of, spirits strongly connect to objects that they used in their life and anything you may be able to use is going to be incredibly beneficial to making that connection with them.

Best Candle Colors

Really, this is up to you. While white is a common one to use because it represents purity and cleanliness, it is also a simple and basic candle that can be used for virtually any type of spellwork, including ancestor-work. Feel compelled to use a candle that you are drawn personally to, you may be being beckoned to it for a reason. Additionally, you can use virtually any size candle as well: a large, central one; multiple smaller ones; or chime/spell candles.

Leave Offerings 

Leaving offerings for your ancestors is an important and wonderful way to inspire them to gain the energy to reach out to you. Some foods and beverages you may opt to use are:


  • Fresh water (this is a requirement)
  • Hot coffee or tea (can be sweetened or not)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Candy or desserts
  • Cigarettes/ tobacco 
  • Fresh fruits and veggies (cut and ready for consumption)
  • Home cooked food (served warm and steaming as spirits are drawn to scents)
  • Bread (cut and ready for consumption)
  • Coins (use to pay the toll to pass between worlds)

Other Items You May Want to Use

  • Black or white altar cloth
  • Ashes of relatives, or graveyard dirt from their burial site
  • An incense burner
  • Flowers and a place to set them
  • Scrying mirror or crystal sphere

Be Aware

It should be noted that not every ancestor in your family line is going to be a warm, positive one and all too often, they can be known to create mishaps, strife, and pain in your life, if you welcome them in and they are a dark spirit. You need to truly pay attention to this and to make sure that you are careful who you welcome into your life and ask for guidance in the first place. 

Be sure that you carefully word your invocations, and do not include negative spirits in your offerings and venerations. If you know who the ancestors are who may not be the best to invite into your life, make sure that you also do not use their ashes, images, or personal items of those relatives on your ancestor altar. Reach out to family members to see if they can provide insight as to who to be on the lookout for, do your own research on ancestry records to see if any names cross you that give you a bad vibe. Always trust yourself. 

Making a connection to your ancestors is a wonderful thing to do. When you make that powerful connection with an ancestor or multiple ancestors, you are able to gain so much wisdom and insight from them in how you can live your life, learn from their past mistakes, and grow within your craft as well. Again, however, you need to make sure that you are careful in who you welcome into your life and who you accept the teachings of. Always be wary of who you invite to your dinner table (so to speak). 


Amy Koller

Amy Koller

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