Unknown to me at the time, I first started working with the blessed dead as a young child. I call them the blessed dead because they have provided me with messages to aid the living, insight or knowledge applicable in life and guided me on my magickal and spiritual path. The blessed dead is a term I use, as it’s a name used for our ancestors and deceased loved ones in the Kemetic tradition I am a follower of.
It all started in the middle of one night when I was woken up by a loud voice talking to me. When I opened my eyes I was at first startled when I saw a tall middle aged man standing at the foot of my bed, but as I focused, I realised he was familiar to me and so I wasn’t afraid. He was talking to me without moving his mouth, was slightly transparent and being so young I didn’t question this aspect. I just accepted that he was there and didn’t want to hurt me as he just wanted me to pass on a message.
He was telling me that I needed to tell his brother that he was gone and that his brother needed to know he was ok and not to worry. I got up and ran into my parents bedroom to tell them what this man had told me, but my mother thinking I had a bad dream, put me back into bed after bestowing upon me a blessing and protection prayer. Some time later, I was woken again by this man who was adamant I pass on a message to his brother and that he wouldn’t leave until I’d done so. Again I raced into my parents bedroom and this time when my mother tried to explain it was just a nightmare and everything was ok. I started to throw a tantrum because I wanted to be heard. Whilst my mother was trying to calm me down I practically screamed out the message I had received which was that “John” was in my bedroom and wanted to tell his brother that he was dead but that he was ok and not to get sad. My mother’s eye’s widened in a quizzical expression and she then asked what he looked like so I carefully described him. When I was done my mother crossed herself and shot my father a worrying glance. I started to cry in panic and she soothed me and put me back to bed whilst telling me everything was going to be fine and thanked me for passing on the message from John.
The next morning I found my father crying at the kitchen table and when I asked him why he was sad he told me that his brother John had died. Uncle John was my father’s favourite brother and best friend who lived interstate and had suffered a stroke and died during the night. I hugged my father and told him not to cry as Uncle John had visited and told me that he was ok. It did give my father comfort and solace. Then in the following days when I attended the funeral with my parents I wasn’t shocked to see Uncle John lying in an open casket and was actually wondering why people gathered were upset since he told me himself, he was fine. When I told this to my mother she explained to me that not everyone talked to people who had passed away and gently warned me not to repeat to anyone what had happened as they wouldn’t understand. She also explained that some people in our family could talk to the dead in order to help those who were left behind with their grieving. Since I had this gift she would teach me how to work with the blessed dead in a safe and helpful way.
That was the beginning of when I started working with the blessed dead and to this day I continue to work with them in one way or another. I predominately work with my own blessed dead as they have guided me on my magical and spiritual path. When I conduct healings and readings I receive messages for clients from their loved ones which I pass on. I find that these messages along with descriptions of their loved ones are appreciated by the living as they help them to move on and accept they are no longer in physical form and we don’t need to worry about them.
Having lost both my parents before I turned 30, working with the blessed dead has allowed me to accept and let go of them with love in my heart as I am completely confident they are in a peaceful place. I had been warned about both my parents passing before it occurred through dreams and other blessed dead who came to me to tell me and in both my parents cases it actually helped them move on.
Over the years I’ve delved deeper into Hellenic and Kemetic magickal and religious practices. I have found this has added value not only to my personal life but also when dealing with the blessed dead. My interest in Hellenic and Kemetic traditions stems from my ancestry and I was also drawn to it through the guidance of my spirit guide who happened to be an ancestor well versed in these traditions.
When I was introduced to the concept of Ancestor Veneration in the Kemetic tradition it felt very familiar. This practice was something which I had always done in some way or another and it was refreshing to see others actively participating in the same practice in this day and age. I came to learn that “Akhu” also known as the “Shining Ones” or “Blessed Dead” and are the spirits of our ancestors who became a star in the heavens in the body of Nuit. Nuit is a sky goddess who is depicted as a naked woman covered in stars who arches over the earth. She is also a goddess of death and swallowed and rebirth the stars and sun. As stars shine their light down upon us, they remind us that they are always with us and watching over us. This brought me great comfort and resonated within me in a most profound way.
Venerating the Ancestors is a practice where you honour (instead of worship) your blessed dead so their Ka (soul) continues to be fed and therefore continuing to exist. Through remembering and speaking their name and by leaving them offerings such as incense, water or things they enjoyed in life , it allows them to have the ability to intercede on our behalf and assist us in our lives. Venerating the Ancestors shows how much you care for your blessed dead even though they are no longer in physical form in this earthly plain. It allows us to thank them for being as our own existence is due to theirs. When Venerating our Ancestors it allows them to bestow blessings and offer insight into our lives. This is because it is believed that they stand in the Duat or underworld/land of the dead and can communicate to us or be go betweens to the Gods themselves if necessary. All that is needed to Venerate the Ancestors is to acknowledge them in the form of prayers or offerings, this includes asking them for assistance and in return thanking them for their assistance when given. Also it is worthy to note that you don’t have to be blood tied to your blessed dead as they can be a person you cared deeply for in life and want to remember them in death.
People in many cultures including Eastern, Native American, Greek and Egyptian have been known to Venerate their Ancestors for many thousands of years. Originally it was part of everyday life for the common man to do this and in the modern day these practices have remained in one form or another. This shows us that many acknowledge that honouring and/or working with the blessed dead gives them comfort or blessings and has a positive impact on us physically and psychologically.
I have an ancestor shrine which I maintain regularly and sits in a part of the house I frequently use to ensure my blessed dead are acknowledged as part of the family. My shrine is an old desk I have covered with a star studded shrine cloth and I have placed various items on it which represent my ancestors and which symbolically feed their soul. Some items on my ancestor shrine include personal possessions of my ancestors, photos of my ancestors, a book containing ancestor’s names and their stories, flowers, a libation bowl, a food offering plate, incense holder with incense and candles which are lit during the reciting of prayers. It is important to note that food offerings are always disposed of in the garbage separately to the household trash and are not to be consumed. Libations are left to evaporate or poured onto the earth outside.
((C) T. Georgitsis Akhu Shrine 2010)
I find an effective way to communicate with my blessed dead other than simply talking to them in shrine is by writing them a letter and reading it to them or leaving it on their shrine. I have a personally amended a Kemetic prayer (A Hotep Di Nisut Prayer) with my own words at the end which has been framed and placed amongst photos of my blessed dead on my shrine which is recited frequently:
“An offering which the King gives to Yinepu-Upon-His-Mountain and to Wesir, Lord of Abydos: a thousand of bread, a thousand of beer, a thousand of oil and alabaster and linen, a thousand of meat and fowl and all things good and pure that heaven gives, the earth produces and the inundation brings; for the ka of _______ ma’a heru.
Your names will live on forever, for you are the stars who watch over me “
If it wasn’t for my ancestors, my blessed dead, I wouldn’t be here and for that I am indebted. I am a part of them and they will always be a part of me as I remind myself how much I love them through devotional veneration where I bestow offerings and prayers as a symbol of this love and remembrance. In return they bless, assist me and remind me of where I came from. Until I see my blessed dead when it is my time to cross over, I will continue to show them respect and be their messenger when needed.
By T. Georgitsis © 2011
This article was the opening piece from the book: Memento Mori – A Collection of Magickal and Mythological Perspectives on Death, Dying, Mortality & Beyond, Edited by Kim Huggens which can be purchased here:
Memento Mori Collection Mythological Perspectives