With A Little Help From Our Ancestors

A photo of my Chinese husband's ancestors
The fact that my Chinese husband worshipped his ancestors inspired me to worship my own.

“I feel so hopeless.”

In the ebb and flow of my own moods, I had hit another low tide this past Friday. I didn’t want to feel this way, but the week had swept me under for a lot of reasons – from hormones to the fact that my Chinese husband John had a really bad week (for reasons I can’t get into right now). So there I was, sitting at the kitchen table and letting myself get pulled into a whirlpool of negativity.

Then I thought of it – or, rather, her, my deceased mother. And just like that, I sprang from my chair and my mental abyss, as if pricked by some invisible pin. “I know what we need!” I exclaimed to John as I started opening a little box in the corner of our living room. “A little help from our American ancestors.” That box contained photos, letters and mementos related to my mother, who passed away when I was 17. I started arranging them in a corner to create a makeshift shrine. When I stood back and looked at it, I smiled in relief. “She will give us power and strength,” I promised my husband. And even though I had never been brought up with the idea of ancestor worship, I believed it.

I wondered what my mother might have thought of me now, praying to her the way my husband and his family would pray to the ancestors in the hallway of their home. While I’ll never know, I was sure of one thing – my husband changed how I turned to higher powers for help. I had left the Catholic church behind long before I met him. But now his tradition of ancestor worship provided me with the sense of hope I needed on a hopeless Friday afternoon.

What do you think of ancestor worship? Have you ever adopted the religious or worship traditions of your partner’s culture?

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4 Replies to “With A Little Help From Our Ancestors”

  1. In Judaism, as far as I know, although we don’t pray or considers ancestors deities, we do honor them. Using first initial of the first name, we traditionally named children after those who have passed away. Also, during holidays or birthdays, my mom always brings over my grandparents so we can celebrate it. I hope your week will go better Jocelyn. Best of luck to you and John and thanks again for all you’ve done for me 🙂

    My sister adapted celebrating Christmas with her future husband. Not religiously, but secularly. She often told us that for December she places New Years Tree very early in December, and often the two of them spend the day with his family. The future husband, on the other hand, celebrates Jewish holidays with me and my family.

  2. Interesting post. Ancestor worship is a very Chinese thing. But I believe some other cultures too have ancestor worship. We worship or rather we pray to our ancestors not because we really believe they are gods, but out of a sense of respect and continuity. Of course the Chinese people do make offerings to their ancestors when they pray and the 清明节 (qing ming jie) or Ch’ng Ming Festival readily comes to mind when the Chinese go to their ancestors’ graves to offer prayers, clean up the graves and make offerings of food and even paper money. Many Chinese households also have an altar in their homes for ancestor worship. All this sounds like silly and and foolish to the modern mind, but the Chinese people do not mind as long as the practice gives them a sense of continuity and respect for the departed elders.

    It is interesting that circumstance has brought you to think of your departed mum and the subject of ancestor worship. I am sure that she is there in spirit and watching out for you. It is interesting that in a sudden moment of certainty you said “she will us give power and strength” and that ” I believe it”. She will. And your belief is the clincher. Even Christ said “It is not I who heal, but your belief” Ah, the miracle of the mind and spirit.

    Science is only now beginning to delve into the mysteries of the mind. And quantum physics may yet get us a little closer to an nascent understanding of the mysteries of the mind.

    Take good care and trust your mum and your mind.

  3. i like your posts ….. on ancestors my early childhood Italian background certainly did feature our ancestors and that has certainly rubbed off on me. So yes i do find it significant that i draw some energy/comfort/guidance/influence from my ancestor images on my photo frames around my house. Now i would not be with out them…..

  4. I think “worship” is too strong of a word. Its more like “respect”, like the American would belief their parents who had passed on to “watch over them”.

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