The Science of Honoring Your Ancestors

1 09 2014

Hetepu (Peace) Family.

I am writing this post because venerating the ancestors has become a very popular tradition lately and when I first started honoring my ancestors. Since, there was no one around to assist me I simply followed what everyone else did without having any understanding of the purpose. This is therefore, my understanding of the process based upon my experience.

For the record honoring one’s ancestors is humanity’s most ancient and oldest traditional practice. Humanity has been honoring their dead ever since the first man and woman wondered what happens after death.  In fact, the caring for the dead is one of the significant factors that distinguish human being from animals. Although animals do grieve for their dead, animals lack the mental capabilities of caring for their dead as human beings do.  This is why human beings are the only species on the planet that perform elaborate rituals wishing that their dead find peace in the hereafter.

bovedaEspiritual

It is for this reason every culture has some type of ritual practice in place assuring that their dead loved ones find peace in the hereafter because it is one of the features that makes us human.   That being said, there is no right or wrong way to wish that your deceased loved ones rest in peace. This is the reason regardless of our culture and ethnicity, we all can identify with the various ways of honoring the dead rather it be a moment of silence, the setting a deceased body aflame, the setting a light out to sea, etc.  Without even having a full understanding of another’s cultural beliefs.  The is due to the fact that the ritual transcends logical thinking because we all have one thing in common and that is that we will all eventually face Death.

So any sect that does not abhor or support this basic essential human practice is a cult that is not only created to control and dominate your thoughts in life (and in death), but is also trying to deny you of your humanity and ultimately your free will.  Let me explain.

The most powerful organ human beings have is our mind, which consists of a superconscious, subconscious and conscious.  Although, the mind is composed of these three parts, technically speaking there is only one mind, it just moves into these three states of awareness. For instance, right now you are consciously reading this post, while subconsciously your heart is pumping blood, which transfers oxygen and vital nutrients throughout your body; as ideas superconsciously pop into your awareness. Hence the human being is a kingdom within.

This is because your subconscious was created to help you to physically survive and it does this by governing all of your memories, which it plays back automatically or what we call a habit. This means that your heartbeat, the digestion of your food, breathing responses and everything that your body does automatically is technically a program or more like a computer program.  Your conscious mind is the part of your being that makes decisions of what is passed or impressed upon your subconscious. In other words, your conscious mind also called the soul is what determines if you should read something or not based upon what you believe and think. The superconscious is responsible for taking what you believe and making it a reality.

So, when the first human beings died, their loved ones were at a loss because they had never encountered death. All they knew was that there was a great emptiness and sorrow that they felt. Every culture around the world experienced this same loss when they first encountered death and described pretty much in the same way, how they coped with this strong and painful emotional that they felt. Many cultures, including the Kamitic culture explain that the early human beings not understanding how to clearly express the sorrow they felt in death and the desire in their heart for their loved ones to be a part of them, resulted to cannibalism. Understand that ritual cannibalism was humanity’s desire to express that one’s deceased loved one was a part of them. It was an extension of the hunting ritual in which a hunter consumed the heart of an animal to absorb its’ prowess and strength.  This is the origin of the Eucharist or Holy Communion, which is the most important religious ritual practice in Christianity.

Catholic Relics

Catholic Relics

Other cultures resulted in taking body parts of their deceased loved ones, properly known as relics. To this day, there are a number of relics possessed by the Roman Catholic Church. Again, as bizarre and macabre as this may sound, the whole purpose of this ritual is to cope and subdue the overwhelming emotion of loss caused by death.

The reason these various rituals dealing with death came into existence in the first place is because our subconscious you will recall is the most logical part of our being and its purpose is to help us to physically survive based upon our beliefs.  Since death is a natural phenomenon that we will all experience but there is no logical explanation as to why we die. Our subconscious, which processes everything that we experience like a logical computer, would have concluded that since there is no explanation as to why we die, there is no real explanation as to why we should live.  Therefore, when early humans consumed part of the remains of their deceased loved ones or took a relic (body part of the dead), they in essence was trying to impress upon their subconscious a higher purpose of living rather it be to provide sustenance or to continue to provide life, to the community, as the meat of an animal did.

Kamitic Statues

Kamitic Statues

It is not officially known why ritual cannibalism fell out of practice.  It is believed most likely that the tradition fell out of practice due to the rise of transmitted diseases (most likely through pests and rodents) and/or the lack of relics that could be shared by the living, which consequently resulted in mummification, burying and/or burning their dead. (It should be noted that the reason a few cultures continue to burn the body of the deceased is because they have not consciously evolved past the ancient global belief regarding the dead.  Some more evolved cultures on the other hand reserved the burning of the deceased body to members of nobility in order to ensure that relics were not stolen from their enemies. The last thing one wanted in ancient times was to fight an opposing tribal clan who possessed the skull, right hand or femur bone of a beloved dead leader. The psychological impact of such occurrence would have been devastating).Whatever the case, a new way of wishing the dead peace was needed to relieve humanity of the horrendous emotion caused by death. Consequently, enters religious thought to address the haunting question what happens after death.

Viking Funeral Pyre

Viking Funeral Pyre

Since the Kamitic (Ancient Egyptians) were one of the first cultures to address this psychological problem and provided the foundation for Western religious belief, we will use them as a model to explain how humanity tackled this daunting issue.

Early Kamitic Mummies

Early Kamitic Mummies

It must be understood that prior to this moment, all of humanity cared for their dead the same way. All of humanity faced the same psychological issue with the rotting bodies and desire to rid themselves of the emotional pain due to death. So, in response, some wise Kamitic men and women conceptualized that there was a part of the human being that continued to live after death, which is the reason we all felt some sort of loss when our loved one died. This part that continued to live they conceptualized as being the soul, which was separate from the physical body, thus making the physical body a vehicle for the soul. This made it possible for the body of the deceased to be cared for and grieved but at the same time not consumed or kept as a relic because the soul of the deceased was the vital element and it continued to exist outside of the body.  It was also due to this new global belief that it became possible for the living to wish their deceased loved ones peace by simply keeping an item that contains a fragment or piece of the soul, such as the last items used by the deceased or some image of the deceased such as a statuary or figurine. It was from this idea that ancestor veneration was born.

Venerating the Dead

Venerating the Dead

Some scholars I have noted will try to claim that Kamitic people worshipped death but, these are individuals with a limited understanding of the human psyche.  The idea behind the conception of the soul meant that human beings no longer needed to consume the flesh or take a relic in order to relieve themselves of the emotional pain caused by death.  All they needed to do was to physically acknowledge and respect death by providing a memorable burial either by burying and or mummifying their dead, which signified that their loved one was indeed physically dead.  If they were still consumed by the heavy burden of grief, they could remember their deceased loved ones in thought. Technically speaking, because the dead do not have a physical body they cannot be hungry or thirsty since food and drink is meant to sustain the body that they no longer possess. The belief that one’s ancestors are hungry and thirsty is simply an individual’s way of coping with the death experience.  The idea behind saying that one’s ancestors are hungry and thirsty is to remind an individual of the reason why they should continue to live because of the sacrifices that other’s made for their benefit.

Honoring the lives of soldiers

Honoring the lives of soldiers

So the main purpose of honoring one’s ancestors is to remember the sacrifices that those who lived before you made.  If you do not remember the sacrifices that were made, then you will live your life based upon the erroneous belief that you and you alone are responsible for your evolution and survival.  Not only that, you are not reminded of the purpose of living or inspired to live for a higher purpose such as to improve the quality of life for your loved ones or humanity overall. It should now become clear why Osar (Asar, Ausar, Osiris in Greek) was considered the most important ancestor or Lord of the Dead in the Kamitic tradition, and why Jesus is considered the Lord of the Dead in Christianity. You will also find this same reference in other cultures such Buddha the Lord in Buddha, Yama in Asian mythologies and so on.  By the way, this is the reason every culture has a day to honor the dead rather it be Memorial Day, Hungry Ghost Day, Day of the Dead, etc.

Buddhist Obon Festival to honor the dead

Buddhist Obon Festival to honor the dead

Now, some cultures like the Africans (and many of their descendants), many Asian and Latin Americans take the remembering of the dead a step further because they understand the psychology behind the practice.  It is in their celebration of death, that you see from a reverse psychological perspective the beauty of life and vice versa.

They know that by honoring the dead on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis, one is able to inspire ethical and moral behavior among the populace.

Second Line aka Jazz Funerals in New Orleans. http://www.knowla.org/entry/860/&view=image-gallery

Second Line aka Jazz Funerals in New Orleans. http://www.knowla.org/entry/860/&view=image-gallery

This is because since we all will physically die one day, most of us do not fear death. We have been comforted by the belief that our soul will continue to exist after death, so we do not fear death. We do however fear how we will die. in other words, most people wonder if they will die peacefully in their sleep or painfully kicking and fighting as we are dragged off to the other side.

Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico

Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico http://coasthwytraders.com/tag/day-of-the-dead/

So, many Africans and Asians continued to explore upon the concept of death in an effort to relieve us of the burdensome question of how to secure a glorious afterlife.  It was discovered for some that they need to honor their dead every day, while others only needed to honor their ancestors once a month or a year. In some cultures, honoring the ancestors was the responsibility of the head of the household usually the men (or the eldest son) since traditionally it was the men who maintained law and order.  In other cultures, it was the responsibility of gifted men, gifted or barren women, who were viewed as shamans, because of their responsibility to guide the tribal community. All of which, later developed into a cultural practice.  This is the reason there is no right or wrong way to honor one’s ancestors and one does not need to belong to a particular religion to honor his or her ancestors. Honoring one’s ancestors is a human spiritual tradition.

Chinese burning money for the dead.

Chinese burning money for the dead.

Now, the cultural practices that developed was to put one’s mind at ease by ensuring that their ancestor was at peace.  To keep the ancestor on good terms, it was important that the ancestor feel that they were not forgotten, remembered for his or her honorable deeds, and believed to continue to be a vital member of the community. Hence the rituals that developed from this understanding, was the offering food and drink to the ancestors, burning money for their ancestors so that they will enjoy their afterlife, and so on.

For the same reason, those who honor their ancestors, altars reflect what they believe the afterlife will be for their deceased loved ones and them in return.  Many Asian ancestor altars like African and African descendant altars are usually either close to the floor or mid – ranged level, consisting of foods and other gifts that the dead will enjoy. My own altar is a reflection of my Kamitic and Kongo inspired beliefs, indicating that when I physically die my soul will return to the house or village where all my deceased loved ones dwell. I will be able to see my grandparents, great uncles and aunts whom I briefly met and knew in life.

As you can see, this is a non-Western cultural thought, which is not taught but developed as a result of honoring the dead.  In addition to this, many believe that if the ancestors are well taken care of they will in return assist the living. This simply means that the ancestors will relieve them of the emotional pain – particularly fear – brought upon them by death.  In other words, after honoring one’s ancestors one should be happy or feel at peace, because in the process or remembering one’s ancestors, they are being reminded that they are spiritual beings having a physical experience. And, in the end, because they honor the living memories of those who died before them, they will have a glorious afterlife as well. This is the reason most people who honor their ancestors do not fear death. Many will attest that they are more courageous because they feel that their ancestors protect and guide them from danger. The general belief or explanation is said to be that the ancestors continue to have an interest in the life of the living.

Afro-diaspora ancestral altar

Afro-diaspora ancestral altar

So, if you do not honor your ancestors or are simply honoring your ancestors out of tradition with no real explanation as to why you are engaged in the practice, you are not addressing the basic question regarding humanity, which is “What happens after death?” With no clear and practical explanation as to what happens after death, you will not have any purpose or reason to live. You will feel as if your purpose is to simply exist at the whims of the forces of nature or even God. With no purpose, you are not only, not fulfilling your destiny but on a course to eventually self-destruct because your subconscious mind, whose purpose is to physically survive. Will literally do whatever it can to stave off death, for example the numerous unnatural practices behind cosmetic and plastic surgery. In traditional non-Western culture, we look forward to old age because it is sign of peace, prosperity and maturity.

Hope this helps.

Hetep (Peace)

For more information on The Science of Honoring Your Ancestors, check out: Maa Aankh Vol. 3

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The Importance of the Ab (Spiritual Heart)

7 03 2011

Do you know why it is important to strengthen and develop your ab (spiritual heart)? Many don’t know or understand the concept of free will and the soul because Westerners are afraid of death and see it as being the end. In Afrospiritual traditions, death is not the end.  Death is the start of something new, but in order to make this transformation we have to have a strong ab (spiritual heart).

It is the ab that makes the entire Kamitic theology clear, because our ab is tied to the whole Kamitic spiritual hierarchy and the concept of life after death.  This is a pretty interesting yet complex concept to understand because it doesn’t correlate to Western thinking exactly. Like I said, Western thinking in linear and sees death as being the end, whereas African (and non-Western) thought is circular and holistic.  So, below is how my aakhu (ancestral spirits) explained this concept to me through a shamanic meditation and divination session.  This is what seems to make the most sense to me so, I will try to make this as simple as possible for you all.

We are all spiritual beings that have been infused into a physical body. Our spirit is composed of nine parts (incorrectly called souls) and they are : the khab, khabit, ka, sahu, ab, ren, shekhem, khu and ba. These parts of our spirit are more like consciousness and they can be grouped into three divisions called the ba, sahu and ab.

The first division of the spirit that we are given is our ba (divine conscious), which is said to be the divine spark from God. Our ba provides us with khu (divine wisdom), shekhem (divine power) and ren (our divine name, hence destiny).  The purpose of the ba is to help us to spiritually survive.  The ba was symbolized as a human headed falcon to indicate that it like a trained bird of prey will return back to its original owner or God.  So we have it the ba is closely assoicated with our breath. When body expires its last breath, the ba will return back to God. Besides providing our being with life, the ba draws all of its inspiration from the spiritual realm of the universe.  When we sleep, it is the ba that provides us with our dreams by flying wherever it needs to go and communicating the message from the spirit world to the other parts of our being. The ba corresponds to the unconscious. All living beings have a ba. The ba does not reincarnate but is new so that every living being has a fresh start or new and unique experience.

When we are born, we are also given a second divisions called a sahu (physical-body conscious) that governs our khab (physical body), khabit (emotions/animal instincts), and ka (personality), because the purpose of the sahu is to help us to physically survive.  To accomplish this feat, our sahu, which is also contains our genetic memories, draws all of what we need to know from the external environment. Our sahu corresponds to the subconscious mind. All living beings have a sahu. The sahu (and its associated parts) reincarnates but only biologically by following one’s lineage in order to provide every  living being with the genetic memory to survive. This is how animals through evolution acquire a certain distinctive pattern. In human beings this is how we acquire the physical features, behaviors, etc. of our foreparents.

We are also given an ab (spiritual heart or human conscious), which corresponds to our conscious mind but when we are born, our ab is not strong. This is the reason we have to learn right from wrong, how to be courageous and ethical in the face of fear.  We have to strengthen it, which occurs over a course of time.  For most, we do not come into the understanding of our ab until we are teenagers.  It is then that we learn that our ab is responsible for providing us with free will.  It is through our ab we are able to make choices and decisions, but our choices and decisions are influenced by the maa (divine law).  As a result, our ab grows and becomes stronger based upon the consequences of our actions and behaviors. It is through the maa that we develop a conscience or strong ab.  Only man and woman has been given ab and this is what makes us unique amongst all of the other beings and connects us to God. It is this uniqueness that intimately connects our ab to our ba. It is because of the connection between the ab and the ba that we all feel like we have a higher calling. It is our ab that is the eternal part of our being and the surviving conscious that is reborn.

When an individual physically dies, the ba, which was given to us to help us to spiritually survive, returns to the spiritual aspect of the Universe from whence it came from. The sahu, which was given to us to help us to physically survive returns to the physical aspect of the Universe from whence it came from. The ab, which is the eternal part of our being is the division of the spirit that survives the physical death experience.



So after death, the newly deceased remains with their body until they are able to pass into the otherworld or KAMTA with a clear conscience or strong ab. (Please note that this entire experience has been fictionized as the Kamitic Weighing of the Heart).  If the living remembers the deceased as being a purely evil individual. It will cause their ab to be so heavy, that their guilt (depicted as the Aummit monster) would totally consume their ab and prevent them from ever returning to the land of the living – TASETT to wreak havoc upon humankind. Although this is rare, this usually is what happens to individuals who in life encouraged a lot of chaos and confusion like Hitler and other beast men and women.  Most of the time, Aummit will be sent to fetch these individuals, which is why usually these individuals (like Hitler) commit suicide.

If the living remembers the deceased as being a troublemaker that attracted trouble in life usually due to ignorance, misguidance, wrong choices and decisions, etc., which resulted in the deceased dying a violent death or through suicide. It will cause the deceased to have a heavy ab, thus preventing them from passing into other world because now they have grave concerns that are on their mind. Since the choices these individuals made in life caused them to be shunned. In death they are shunned (not spoken of), which makes them visit the places they frequented in life. It is at these places (their homes, bars, clubs, alleyways, etc.) they influence the living with their negative and destructive ways. These deceased are called aapepu (snakes or worms) because they were parasites when they were alive and the maa causes them to be parasites in death. We encounter these negative spirits or ghost whenever we are walking and all of sudden for no apparent reason get an eerie chill up our spine, or for no reason at all have sudden thoughts of anxiety, depression, etc. Other times we know that we may have encountered an aapepu whenever we have an eerie hot and cold sensation, which is proof that these spirits are stuck in TASETT since the desert can become both extremely hot and cold temperature-wise.

If the living remembers the deceased as being an ethical and honorable individual in life. Then the deceased is able to pass into KAMTA with a light ab (clear conscience) where they will become an aakhu (ancestral spirit and spirit guide).   God allows the aakhu to be honored and venerated like the Christian martyrs and saints because in life these individuals chose to live a righteous life even in the face of death. It is through their courageous acts of bravery that these individals were tranformed and became emissaries for the Divine. This explains how biological, cultural, historical and mythical individuals even after dying tragically became aakhu like the Preto Velhos (Old Slaves in Brazil), known as Uncle Joe and Auntie (or Papa Joe and Big Momma in the US), El Negro Jose and La Madama in Afro-Cuban spiritual traditions.  It is because their ab has been made strong and pure.  Since, the aakhu can only address issues that they were familiar with in life.  Many aakhu choose to return to the land of the living where they are born through their descendants to master more skills. Others choose to return to the land of the living to assist their descendants by acting as spirit guides and speaking to us through our visions and dreams.

If the deceased after returning to the land of the living and dying with a light heart, numerous times, passes to KAMTA multiple times. The aakhu amongst the aakhu becomes a netcharu (netjaru, neteru, guardian spirit or principle of nature) because they have transformed beyond the organic birth-life-death-rebirth cycle. The netcharu are the masters of all technology and the guardians of God’s mysteries. They are the ones an individual must appeal to in order to master a particular skill and talent from God. The netcharu speak to us through quick flashes of insight. When they make themselves known, it renders us speechless temporarily because it is hard to literally explain what had just occurred. When we encounter the netcharu it is because our awareness had slipped into KAMTA – the underworld – and upon realizing what had occurred returned to the land of the living.

The netcharu exist as a clan of unique spirits and I believe the first and older netcharu  are the original founders and leaders of people.  It is this connection that ties the netcharu to everyone regardless if one believes in them or not. The older the netcharu the more it was associated with a particular aspect of nature and the more permanent it has become. Fortunately, new netcharu are being created everyday and these younger netcharu are more easy accessible and act as representatives of their clans. For instance, the original Osar is associated with agriculture, morality and stability, which caused him to be connected to the ground and pillars, hence foundation. Osar manifests himself in the mountains, but his representatives or spiritual children can be found in white stones like limestone.  The legendary Mother of all mothers,  Oset (Aset, Auset, Isis) is associated with the life giving waters and is identified with the sea. She as the ocean is permanent, but her representatives or spiritual child (essence) can be found in certain seashells.

Because death is not the final resting place and the maa mirrors the spiritual and physical world. Lower spirits can advance to the next level, just like human beings. They just have to work hard to do it because this is part of the maa. It is because of the maa, spirits can be offered prayers, light, water, money, the recitation of the psalms, rituals like the novena, and so on, which can elevate the ab of the spirit.

This is why it is best to work on developing and strengthening your ab now, so that upon death. You will have a light ab and be well received by the ancestors that have preceded you.

Excerpts for this post are from Kamta: A Practical Kamitic Path for Obtaining Power by Derric “Rau Khu” Moore, 2011.

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