Communicating With Your Ancestors


Our most frequently asked question is ‘How can I connect with my ancestors?’ The reality is you already are but not conscious of it.


It is easy to get caught up in the belief of separation due to death, not knowing a family member or being removed from your ancestral home and culture. However, the most important thing to remember is your ancestors are you; they are part of your genetic make up. Every memory, experience and characteristic exist within your DNA. For example, you may have a child who not only exhibits a striking similarity but also similar mannerisms to a grandparent they have never even met. It is imperative to note that the connection with ancestors transcends time and space.


There are various ways to communicate with your ancestors and here are a few examples…


Setting up a sacred space in your home can be very beneficial for creating a place of peace, meditation, focused thought and to allow necessary time out from our busy lives. This process facilitates a ritual setting to connect with higher aspects of ourselves.


There is no right or wrong way to setting up an altar. You can use a table and cover with a cloth and add items that are related to your intention. You may wish to add a photograph of a family member and an item that reminds you of them. You could also light a candle and add a glass of water to the altar as well as stones, crystals or flowers. Your intuition will guide you on what to add. You can go to this area when wanting to make communication with a loved one.




Note it is advised that you should connect with positive ancestors within your lineage who lived a life of beneficence to others and were exemplary in the way they lived their lives.


The relationship between the departed and the living never ceases to exist and just like any other relationship, respect is key. When communicating with a loved one show respect and gratitude. Call them by name, if you do not know any of your ancestors’ names ask for the positive ancestors within your lineage to come through to help, protect and guide you. Start by building up a relationship with them, you may need to do a few sessions before you can recognise the signs of communication in return, but they will come, be patient. (See previous blog The Language of symbolism for information on spirit communication and recognising signs).


Libation is a traditional form of prayer, which can be found all over the ancient world particularly across African cultures. This tradition can be found on temple walls in Egypt and still is prevalent across the various communities on the continent today.


Traditionally libation was carried out using water. This primordial element represents purity, cleansing and vitality as it is one if the major aspects which makes up the planet and our bodies.




Libation2      AA_libation


The act of libation is usually done outside, pouring water gently onto the earth in short bursts accompanied by prayer.  You can call the name of the ancestor(s) you would like to acknowledge whilst pouring the liquid and stating your prayer. Some people pour libation in the morning to give thanks for the new day or to commemorate a special occasion. You can incorporate libations in your life as a way of invoking the energy of ancestors and energies of the cosmos.
Over time other liquids have been used for libation including alcohol; usually gin or palm wine. I would recommend starting with water.


The notion of giving offerings is a global concept found in many spiritual traditions, religions and cultures. In African communities offerings can take many forms including leaving a small portion of food for ancestors at meal times, pouring palm oil to the earth, adding flowers to an ancestral altar etc. There are various ways to reflect this gesture, which is ultimately to show respect and acknowledge the energies you are trying to connect with. The symbolic act of giving spiritually opens up the pathway to receiving your intent requested in the ritual, in a reciprocating cycle.



Just like anything else you will need to work at it and be consistent but they will respond to you, be patient and increase your awareness and pay attention to all forms of signs and symbols that will appear around you as these show what communication you are receiving in return.


Remember to read The Language of symbolism for insight into recognising spirit communication.
Further information on the role of ancestors can be found in our film Ancestral Voices: Spirit is Eternal.


  • Phungashe Buthelezi

    “Note it is advised that you should connect with positive ancestors within your lineage who lived a life of beneficence to others and were exemplary in the way they lived their lives.”

    In Southern African indegenous spirituality it is believed that humans are on a journey the objective of which is Union with God. Spirits burdened by their past deeds on earth cannot be punished indefinitely. Ideally all spirits of deceased are given proper burial rites and cleansed, because we all commit sins to some degree that will weigh us down after physical death.

    Often people who die having committed atrocities are burdened by their deeds and rejected by other ancestors and living relatives, so they wonder around rejected and tormented. Sometimes they manifest as ghost. If they remain in this state they become troublesome on the living relatives, because they need atonement, and acceptance into the community of ancestors. They need to be set free to continue their journey to their Creator.

    If this is not fixed, in future when a baby is born in the family they tend to tag all along the child’s soul(with permission from ancestors). Such children tend to grow up sickly, and may exhibit antisocial behaviour, or they may just suffer a difficult life to atone for the rejected soul. Such children may also be healers if there are healers in their lineage. Being a healer is a call to service to fellow human beings, this helps atone the sins in your lineage.

    If such a child is diagnosed early they need not suffer. The child needs to be cleansed and sacrifices made for the soul they tagged along for atonement or to answer a call to be a healer. If the cleansing rituals are successful the soul that was under judgment is set free, and tends to be of good guidance and protection to the child they tagged along with.
    The point am making is that once on the spiritual realm souls discover their true nature and purpose, but can’t atone their deeds because, the power to atone is on earth. If not assisted their sins eventually burden their lineage. It’s the divine connection we have with our loved ones.

    • Paris Paris

      Hello really enjoy your responses and knowledge on these matters. Also read your other post. I am in London, UK and if at all possible would really appreciate if you wouldn’t mind enlightening me on some issues I have regarding the above matters. I can be contacted on +447565313242, I can call back if you text, watsapp.

      Many Thanks

    • Yvette


      I am just now coming across your post when I noticed that your response is two years old. I hope you are able to respond. I was adopted so I do not know my ancestors. How can I know what kind of ancestors I am calling forth if I have never met them?

      • Phungashe Buthelezi

        Hi! Yvette

        Start from those that you know (your adopted ancestors), and progress to those that you do not know. I used to call on and acknowledge my father’s ancestors, because I was born in a marriage; I grew up using my father’s surname and clan name. I hardly knew my mother’s ancestry. The best advise I had ever receive, was that when invoking ancestors, it is wise to cast the net wider than the ones that I knew, because often we call on the recently departed, those who were alive when we’re born and only die later. Such ancestors are like children on the other side. They are still finding their way through. Often times the ancestor that has interest in your well being is an ancestor that was long departed before you were born. The ancestor might be coming through from your mother’s side instead of yourself father’s side – as it turned out for me. Invoke your adopted parents ancestors, because you grew up up their roof and under their care and, because you know them. Ask what you need, or be great full for what went right in your life, but at the end of your message, ask the ancestors that you know to, on your behalf, acknowledge your bloodline ancestors, because they are with them on the other side and they know them. Ask also that your bloodline ancestors pass on your message to their elders as well, who in turn pass the message to the ancient ones, the ones who have long been forgotten, until your message reaches the very beginning – the Creator.

        • Yvette

          Okay. I got it. Is there a particular way to call on the ancestors? Do i have to have on something in particular? I read somewhere that their pictures should not be in the bedroom with you, is that true?

          • Phungashe Buthelezi

            Ancestorship is not automatic, and setting up an altar does not mean they are automatically there. You have to officially welcome them there. An Ancestor altar is space within your, and it does not end there. It is also a physical manifestation of the relationship between you and your Ancestors. If neglected, then this relationship is also neglected. By setting it up your also setting space within your heart and within life. By welcoming them to the altar, you’re also welcoming them within your heart and your life.

            Prepare the Altar with Items that you feel identifies with them. Then you need to officially fetch their spirits, and cleanse them before you locate them at your altar. Cleansing spirits is extremely important, because life is a traumatic experience for us all, and leaves scars and guilt within our souls, and uncleansed spirits are troubled and they will bring trouble if you welcome them unhealed to your life, even if it’s not their intention to hurt you.

            About three days before officially locating your Ancestors to their new altar, visit the grave of your loved one – could be your grandfather. Invoke him by name and say who you are. Tell him you’ll come back in three days to fetch his spirit together with other family spirits – bonus points if you also know them by name. Ask your grandfather to gather family in the spiritual realm in the meantime, so you’ll take them home in three days time.

            On the third day, you should have a prepared altar already with bits of their favorite foods. You should have a bucket of water(prayed for and prepared for cleansing). Some people use water with special herbs, like I’ve done, some use sea water, or river water etc.

            This ritual is done in the morning or afternoon, and is usually done by elders in the family, because it requires ritual cleaners, and a mindset set on doing this whole heartedly, and with descipline. For example try to avoid sexual intimacy for about seven days before this day. Pray for water that you bath with, so it not only wash your body, but also cleanses your soul. Work through your own emotional issues as well that might hinder the ritual.

            Also have a white handkerchief with you, where I’m from a branch of a special tree is used as well, some use a candle, but a candle is difficult because it could blow off. Leave a bucket of cleansing water just outside your gate, or have someone bring it outside as soon as they see you arrive back from the grave without you having to send for them when you arrive, because you’re not to speak to anyone else at that time except the spirits.

            It’s best to have someone accompanying you, to drive you to the grave especially if it’s too far, if the grave is even further and consequently you don’t have access to it, then you don’t have to go to the grave, but instead to a mountain – the mountains are natural altar and very powerful too, or a river connected to the sea Ancestors love water. The Earth may burry them in the their graves, but water brings them back to life.

            At the grave site pour libation or even tobacco if some of them smoked it. Invoke them by names ask them to invite each other including those that have been forgotten. Tell them who you are, and that you have come to fetch their spirits to be amongst their family as they used to be when they were alive. Ask them to cling onto the white handkerchief you’ve brought with you.

            It’s important to never let the handkerchief at any point to touch the grave, or the ground. The world is full of wondering spirits looking for a home, especially in the grave yard. If the handkerchief touches the ground you might pick up a stadium full of them. From the moment you invoked the spirits you are not to speak to anyone else except them, until you get to the Ancestor altar you’ve prepared for them. Those accompanying you should be with you at all times until you reach the Ancestor altar. If accompanyed by someone Ancestors might choose to sit on their shoulders instead of yours, and they might feel a heaviness like they’re tense and need a massage. If you come across someone you know and they greet you, you have to ignore them. This is why it’s best not to do this alone.

            On you way home, you have to continuously talk to your Ancestors, describing what is happening around. When you get in the car tell them, when you leave the grave yard tell them, when you drive over rivers and passing lakes, or any large bodies of water tell them. When the car turns into the left or right street, tell them. When you stopped by traffic signals tell them, when the car begins to move again you tell them. You will end every sentence with a reminder: “We’re going home to your family, please don’t get left behind.”

            Finally you’ve reached home and to those that have seen you, you’ve been talking to people they don’t see like a mad man. Outside your home, they’ll be a bucket of cleansing water waiting at the gate. You deep the handkerchief in and you wash it with your Holy water. You tell the spirits that you are cleansing them off all grudges, of all guilt, of all the hurt, and scars in their souls. You ask that the Creator cleanse them of their wrong doings known and unknown. Tell them that with this cleansing you’re elevating them to their higher responsibility of ancestorship. Tell them to cultivate good qualities that they had when they were alive, and to discourage the bad ones, because they now know better. Tell them you’re cleansing them all, and let not one remain uncleansed, saying he/she did not hear. Tell them uncleansed spirits are not allowed in your home only, if let go of bad will and allow this cleansing are they allowed.

            At the gate have someone with the tray of fruits and tobacco and drinks and before you walk in tell them the food is gift you welcome them with into your home may they please accept it, them you walk in, still describing what is happening as you do until you reach the room and the Ancestor altar you’ve allocated them. Place the handkerchief at the altar. Light the candles sprinkle some tobacco, pore their favourite drinks etc. Tell them this is the Altar I place you in, but do not be limited to it. You are free to move around every corner of this house. This is the place I’ll come to when I need to talk to you. May this relationship grow from strength to strength. Tell them they are to protect this family, and fight of it’s enemies. They are to bring good fortune and good will. If something bothers them they are to reveal it peacefully through dreams, so it can be addressed. Ask them to reveal though dreams the significance the ritual you’ve have performed.

            It’s important to remember that Ancestors are not pets, and should not be kept as such. They are not workers and their not employed by you. They are elders and should be related to as you’d relate to your elders. If you forget your place they will soon teach you who the adult is between you and them, and you won’t win. Don’t make promises to them, unless you intend to keep them. They can’t be cheated too. Keep the altar and the room it’s on clean at all times. Taking care of their space is the same as taking care of them they’ll appreciate it and they’ll show how much. Be aware of your dreams and take note of how they appear like. They should look good, and healthy with clean beautiful clothes. If the appear cold, or wearing rags means they are troubled. Ask what they need and from who. Sometimes they may appear as certain animals. If you’re unclear about what a dream might mean tell them you’ve received their message, but unclear about what it means. Ask them to be clearer and answers will come.

          • Ancestral Voices

            Phungashe Buthelezi thank you providing this in depth explanation regarding cleansing spirits. This is wonderful information and we appreciate your insightful contribution to this forum!


Please enter a valid email to download a chapter of Ancestral Voices



Download now