When I think of honoring my ancestors, I often forget that it can include more than than just those to whom I am tied by blood.
Family, to many, equates to a blood tie, or a blood relationship. But there are those who for whatever reason do not connect with their biological family. There may be estrangement, or “bad blood”, or they may not even know who their genetic family is. I’ve been asked several times by people in these situations how they can possibly practice any kind of honor or worship of their ancestors when there’s no connection.
Family does not just include our kin, those related to us through genetics. It also includes our kith, those to whom we are related through choice. The adage about not being able to choose one family is not so true; while we cannot choose those to whom we’re genetically related, we can choose those with whom we want to have a familial relationship despite genetics. We can create our own families of those we choose to honor, and associate with, and keep company. We don’t need to worry so much about blood if those of our blood are those we cannot reach, or contact, or honor. We can choose another way and build a family based on like mindedness and mutual respect.
The same idea applies to the ancestors we honor. I might choose to honor my grandmother and grandfather, but not an uncle or a great aunt. I may choose to skip generations of people I’ve known in favor of those I never met. I may choose to call the mother of my friend my ancestor because she came before me and treated me well when my blood family did not. I am NOT locked in. I am NOT limited. I am NOT tied down. I can choose to honor whom I will. I can offer water, or prayer, or incense to those I deem worthy.
To worship one’s ancestors in this fashion is not a burden, or an obligation…but a freedom.