Today we’re talking with Mallorie Vaudoise, author of “Honoring Your Ancestors”. We talk about family, mediumship, Italian magic, and more!
1. What is ancestor veneration?
Any spiritual practice that connects us with the people who were here before us is a form of ancestor veneration. This could take the form of prayer, ritual, and offerings. Or it could take the form of genealogical research, cooking traditional foods, and playing folk music.
Ancestor veneration is found throughout the world. Even within our own culture, which I consider spiritually impoverished, we still see the impulse to hold funerary rituals, create memorials, and leave offerings of flowers at cemeteries.
My book is about adding new depth and color to these simple actions. It’s also about grounding your magical practice in a loving relationship with these powerful spirits who have a vested interest in you as their descendant.
2. What sparked your interest in working with ancestors?
I was a weird kid. Some of that weirdness was unique to me. But in retrospect, some of it was a failure to integrate messages that I was receiving from spirits through mediumship. I didn’t have a framework for understanding the weird physical and emotional sensations that I now associate with spirit contact. And yet, there were some things that I could perceive, like the presence of my great-grandparents around me.
As an adult, I became involved in two lineages of African-diasporic traditions. Both traditions required me to undergo rituals aimed at nourishing and seeking the blessing of my ancestors before I could be initiated. They gave me a practical understanding of the phenomena that I had experienced throughout my life. It was life changing. I wanted to share the gift of ancestral consciousness with other people, outside of any traditional lineage. That’s why I wrote the book: as a guide for people who don’t have the benefit of a tradition or teacher, so they can find their own path. Or for people who are working within a tradition but want to further develop their ancestor veneration practice into something more personal.
3. In your book you explain there are different types of ancestors. Can you explain this for our readers?
When we think of ancestors, sometimes we assume these are always blood relations. I definitely think there is an inherent power in connecting with your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. because they made your body with their bodies. So, as ancestors, they are connected to the great Mysteries of incarnation: birth, death, and rebirth.
But there are other types of ancestors that we may honor as well. For example, the ancestors of an initiatic lineage might consider you their descendant as much as your blood ancestors if you ritually died and were reborn as their godchild. We also have connections to ancestors that come about without ritual initiation that I refer to as “affinity ancestors”. And of course, there are other spirits of dead humans that we might incorporate into our ancestor veneration practice, like saints and spirit guides.
At the end of the day, they’re your ancestors. You get to decide who you honor and how. You’re already the high priest/ess of this religion. That means you have the power and the responsibility to honor them in a way that works for both sides of the equation.
4. Can ancestor veneration be incorporated into any spiritual practice?
If you’ve got ancestors, you can venerate them. How you do it and how it relates to your other spiritual practices is entirely up to you.
5. Is making offerings a requirement of ancestor veneration? What constitutes an offering?
I don’t think there are any universal requirements in ancestor veneration. But offerings can be profoundly meaningful for many people, especially for those of us who were raised never to show up to a party empty-handed.
An offering is anything given as a gift to your ancestors. This could be incense, food, or flowers. It could be the sacrifice of time or money to charity. I consider writing this book the biggest offering I’ve made to the ancestors to date.
6. You talk about mediumship as part of ancestor veneration in the book. What is mediumship?
Ancestor veneration is a two-way street. If prayers and offerings are communication in one direction, then mediumship is communication in the other direction.
Unlike other spirits, our ancestors were all once human. They remember what it’s like to have a body, to go hungry, to fall in love, to stub their toes, to feel feelings, and to have dreams. Just like us, they once chose to come here and learn the lessons that can only be learned through a human body. But their day was different from our day, and their lessons where different from our lessons. Through mediumship, they can share their learnings with us so we can be free to focus on the new lessons we have come here to experience.
7. Can anyone perform mediumship, or do you need to have special gifts to do it?
Anyone can perform mediumship. But what that looks like for you may differ from what it looks like for me. Some people see spirits. Some people hear them. I am always shocked to find how many people feel them physically like I do.
I’ve met mediums who can give hard facts, like names and dates, through mediumship. I’m not that type of medium. But names and dates wouldn’t be terribly helpful for me anyway. I need guidance on how to accomplish the unique work that my spirit chose to incarnate for. Names and dates aren’t going to help me with that.
Mediumship is like any other skill. Anyone can do it. Not everyone can do it in the same way. But ultimately, if you want to get better at it, you have to practice it.
8. You have a beautiful website, Italian Folk Magic. What inspired you to create a site devoted to the subject matter?
I’m Italian-American. Growing up, it felt like my family was haunted by Italy. I was raised with stories about how difficult my grandparents and great-grandparents’ lives were, both in Italy and when they immigrated to the United States. But at the same time, it was almost taboo to talk about our heritage. That tension between the depth of gratitude that I was taught to show and the shame my family had acquired about our roots led me to go searching for our ancestral traditions. I wanted to find the things we had sacrificed to become American: the passion, the ecstasy, the magic.
At the time, there were very few resources on the topic in English. Now, I see more and more Italian-Americans proudly embracing their heritage in the form of traditional herbalism, devotion to the saints, and yes, folk magic. I like to think my site played a small part in inspiring other Italian-Americans to explore their roots.
9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects my readers can look forward to?
I think of myself as a missionary for the spirit world. I started with the ancestors because people were already asking me about them. But I’d like to start writing more about other types of spirits: spirits of place, for example. Ultimately, the goal of all of my projects is to remind people that they are not alone. We are all connected with each other and with a vast ecosystem which includes every other living organism as well as discarnate spirits.
10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one questions!
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from a dead person?
“Don’t check the value of your retirement accounts daily, it will just make you crazy. You’ve got a long time to retirement.” That’s what my father always said, and now my day job is working for a financial advisor and seriously, a lot of people would be a lot happier if they followed this advice.
About Mallorie Vaudoise:
Mallorie Vaudoise is a NYC-based spiritualist of Italian descent. She is the author of Honoring Your Ancestors: A Guide to Ancestral Veneration (Llewellyn, 2019) and Italian Folk Magic, a blog about devotional practices from Southern Italy and Sicily. She is an initiated Olorisha (Orisha priestess) and an apprentice in the ecstatic music and dance traditions of her ancestors. She believes that music, food, wine, and kissing are vital tools of spiritual evolution. Visit Mallorie online at www.roadsideomens.com or follow her Instagram account @honoringyourancestors.
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