I Pray to the Dead

Working on the Bakcheion ritual for Many Gods West (which we are still trying to raise money for), I am working with the Dead again. I want to establish a more regular practice with them, and possibly a necromantic one as well. At the same time, though, I've been sick, and there have been multiple miserable heat waves, leading me to scale back to the absolute most basic form of my practice, which makes expanding it at all even harder. I've been chatting with a friend about it. They're just establishing their practice as a Hellenic polytheist, and want to work with their ancestors, but are feeling a bit uncomfortable with it, partially just from being so immersed in pop culture about ghosts, and the show Supernatural in particular. I told them I've been seeing a thing around recently, I think it's a new book, suggesting that it was only after the Civil War that the American ghost story (as opposed to English ghost stories, which are their own genre) really got started. Particularly lost and wandering ghosts, like hitchhikers, certain kinds of vengeful spirits, particular battlefield spirits. That it was a psychological response to the war, an attempt to make sense of it, to deal with the aftermath. And I totally buy that. But I also wonder if that's the only reason. I said to my friend: It was an incredible psychospiritual trauma for our nation. It changed the way we, as a nation, thought and spoke about the spirits of the dead, and I strongly suspect it changed the way spirits here actually behaved. SO many dead so suddenly, so afraid and so angry when they died, with a much smaller number of spirits from the same cultures already around to help them, as had been the case before. And for the living, so many simply gone, usually just never heard from again. No confirmation that they were dead, of when or how. Just gone. All their sad hopes and dreams pinning spirits here. Families still dreamed, for years and decades, that their missing loved ones would come home, some dark, foggy night. Perhaps some did, and then were gone again, in the morning. And I made some suggestions to them on getting started. They've been reading Galina Krasskova's Honoring the Ancestors. I haven't read it, but Galina is good at what she does, so I assume it's a good book. But she's a spiritworker, a strong and devoted and specialized one, and from what my friend was saying, I was wondering if the book was maybe not a little too specialized for some people who are just finding their feet, taking their first steps. So I made a few suggests, just to get them started: It's always good to start where you are. Set up an ancestor altar. Nothing bit or fancy. A corner of a desk or end of a bookshelf. Put things there that are mementos of dead relatives. Throw in representations of ancestors of the spirit, too. Actually, a good way to start is simply to assemble for yourself an album. Old photographs, drawings, whatever. If your family won't let you have the physical pictures, scan them or take a photo of them. You can even assemble your album entirely digitally. For those too long dead to have had photos, even names and descriptions, or stories about them. Quotes from ancient poets. If someone has assembled a family tree, that's a good thing to include, too.... Before you go to bed, open the album to a random page or image, speak a brief prayer to your dead, pour out a little water or honey or milk. Thank them for their lives and love. That's all. That is the beginning of ancestor work. This reminded me of a project I've wanted to take up for a while, as a devotional act: genealogical research. So I'm starting to poke at it. My maternal uncle has actually done a huge amount of work on that side of the family, which is awesome and gives me a great place to start. On my paternal since, though, things are a little messier. My aunt, while she was still married to my uncle, did quite a bit of research on our family. She says that when she left him, she left all of that information with him. He says he has no idea what she's talking about or where it is. She's considerably more reliable than he is on most things, but all of that is still just gone. So I'll have to start fresh there. There are a bunch of genealogy sites that allow you to network with others, which would be a huge help, but ones like Ancestry, Geni, and MyHeritage, which are good for that kind of...