The Tree of Life

Honouring Our Descendants at Beltane


At Beltane it is said that the veil between the worlds thins, just as it is said to do at Samhain. Beltane – also known as May Day or Walpurgisnacht – traditionally marked the beginning of summer, and is directly opposite Samhain, the beginning of winter, on the Wheel of the Year. At Samhain many Pagans choose to use this thinning of the veil to honour and work with the spirit of their ancestors. Accordingly, why not balance this by honouring and working with the spirit of our descendants at Beltane?


I believe every moment of the present is a magical blend of the wisdom inherited  from the past and the chance to create the future. With every choice we make we are constructing the future our descendants will inherit in their turn. Just think about that for a moment. What a responsibility – and what an amazing gift! We have a great opportunity in every minute of every day to create – or at least tip the balance towards – a peaceful, abundant and just world.


When I speak of descendants, I don’t just mean those who inherit our genes. I believe my ancestors include not only ancestors of blood (my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents etc.), but also ancestors of culture (those who shaped the society I live in – inventors, craftspeople, healers, warriors, artists, philosophers, musicians, politicians, psychopaths and philanthropists alike) and ancestors of choice (those heroes and heras who inspire me with their words, thoughts and deeds). Together these three types of ancestors have made me who I am today.


Each of us, then, will have the chance to one day become an ancestor of blood, culture and/or choice. In this way, although I myself have no children, I will have descendants. I have a dearly-loved nephew, cousins and three beloved Goddess-children. But there are also the descendants I will not necessarily ever meet – those to whom I will unknowingly pass the legacy of my actions and choices during this lifetime. To me this brings a sense not only of responsibility but also opportunity.


If you would like to work with the spirit of your descendants this Beltane, I suggest first building an altar to them. If you already have a permanent altar for your ancestors, you may like to make this new altar next to it. You could even put a photo or other representation of yourself between them to signify that you are the connection between the two. Place photos or items to represent any descendants of blood that you may have, or the children that you plan to have in future. Add pictures or items representing the gifts, skills or wisdom you would like to pass on. You could also have representations of the kind of world you would like to have an active role in creating.


It may be helpful to meditate before you start, to clarify your vision and your wishes. What is the worst future you believe is likely to happen? What is the best? What can you do in the present and the immediate future to tip the balance towards the best future and away from the worst? What special gifts, talents or skills can you offer? What changes can you make in your daily life that will have a positive effect?


At Samhain, some people lay out a feast for their ancestors, cooking the foods their beloved dead enjoyed while they were alive, or the traditional foods of their cultural ancestors. Usually this feast is then shared by the living celebrants, though a portion of food is set aside for the spirits. In working with our descendants, it is harder to know what they will enjoy eating. So how about making your best recipe as an offering? You know the one – it’s the dish you’re always asked to bring to pot luck suppers, or when the family gets together. Making such a dish is an act of love, and what better offering could there be? Share the meal amongst those gathered – but remember to set aside a portion for your descendants.


If you would like to continue working with your descendants after Beltane you could maintain a permanent altar for them. I would also suggest regular meditation or trancework to connect with their spirit and find out what they would like from you.

And most importantly, remember that you are a conduit between the past and the future. The past is fixed, but the future is constantly in flux, tweaked and nudged by our every move. That gives us power. Let’s use it wisely, compassionately, mindfully. Let’s work towards being the best ancestors we can be.