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  • Writer's pictureNyasha Williams

Why Ancestor Money?

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Offerings in Ancestral Veneration: From Historical Traditions to Modern Practices


Ancestor Money

Ancestral Veneration is a meaningful practice that has been performed by many cultures throughout history. It involves showing reverence and respect to one's Ancestors, spirits, and deities by performing specific actions, such as lighting candles, burning incense, and offering food and drink.


Let's talk about offerings in Ancestral Veneration, specifically Ancestor Money, looking into the historical and modern practices surrounding offerings, and how working with Ancestor Money can bring about healing, justice, and empowerment for community.


In many ancient cultures, the practice of making offerings to ancestors and deities was commonplace. In African, particularly ancient Egypt, offerings such as food, drink, and incense were made to the Gods and Goddesses in temples and homes. In ancient Rome, families made offerings of wine, olive oil, and animals to their ancestors at their grave sites. These practices have continued throughout the centuries, with offerings often tailored to the culture and religion of the people. In Latinx culture, offerings of food , photos, candles, cempaxochitl, and incense are made during, Día de los Muertos- the annual Day of the Dead. In Hindu tradition, offerings of flowers, water, and sweetmeats are made to the Gods during Puja ceremonies. Consciously on unconsciously we enact venerating practices through our holidays sometimes being unaware of who is being venerated.


In modern times, the practice of Ancestral Veneration is being recognized new forms, expanding beyond offerings that may seem more obvious to the plain eye. Art mediums, such as painting, sculpting, and singing, have become popular offerings to honor Ancestors. The act of creating something in honor of an Ancestor serves as an act of devotion, and can also promote healing and self-reflection.


Another offering is Ancestor Money, also known as Joss Paper or Hell Money. This offering is commonly used in Chinese and Vietnamese traditions, and involves the burning of paper imprinted with images of banknotes. In these cultures, it is believed that burning the paper offerings will send them to the spirit world, thereby providing the ancestors with material goods in the afterlife also providing abundance and joy to the family members venerating on the earthly plane.


Ancestor Money has become increasingly popular in recent years within the African Diaspora community. Kenda Bell and Nyasha Williams have created bills featuring well-known Black figures such as Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, and more. They both recognize the significance of having Black Ancestors on the bills is two-fold - it acknowledges the important role Black individuals have played in history, and actively incorporates them into spiritual practice.


Working with Ancestor Money that honors Black Ancestors can bring about healing and empowerment for the community. The use of Black historical figures creates a connection among Ancestors, the living, and the collective Ancestor, and promotes a sense of cultural and spiritual pride. The act of burning Ancestor Money becomes an honoring of the energy of our Black ancestors, and an active way to move into deeper relationships with them, relationships based on respect and mutual honoring.


In addition to the spiritual benefits of working with Ancestor Money, it can also bring about tangible change in society. By placing images of Black figures on currency, it contributes to the ongoing movement for racial justice and equity. It provides an opportunity for the community to re-examine the role that traditional symbols of power and economic might play in our culture, and offers a way to create new symbols centered in cultural power and Ancestral consciousness.


In conclusion, offerings have played an important role in Ancestral Veneration throughout history, and continue to do so in modern times. The use of Ancestor Money that honors Black Ancestors adds to this legacy by acknowledging their contributions to history, promoting healing and empowerment, and using ancestral consciousness as a way to bring about change in our society.



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