How to Build an Ancestor Altar, Give Offerings, Prayers and Burn Ancestor Money

How to Build an Ancestor Altar, Give Offerings, Prayers and Burn Ancestor Money

An Ancestor Altar is the primary way for you to honor your ancestors.  Many people complain about money issues, bad relationships, health problems, mental disturbances and the rest of the all-too-familiar human plight.  Believe it or not, many of our “problems” are a result from not honoring and taking care of our departed loved ones.  I learned of this concept from Master Dr. Mitchell Gibson of some years back.  What stuck out to me most was how Dr. Gibson stated that having an altar changed his life.  Fast forward to today, I echo those same sentiments.  Practicing altar work has not only provided my ancestors with the sustenance they need on the other side but I have tremendously been able to grow with full support from Spirit.  The ancestors are that powerful!

Building an Ancestor Altar is very simple.  Obviously there are many types and everyone’s living situation is different.  For the sake of keeping this how-to resource simple and to-the-point, we will focus on a basic altar setup.  My first altar was WAY more simple than what I’m going to share with you in this article.  I still reaped major benefits from having it and giving offerings.  What you’re going to learn to do with your altar will be more than enough if you apply this information.  Most altars have a connection to elements (fire, water, air, earth).  This knowledge will be relayed to you in ‘What You Need’ below.

To get things started, let’s gather all the items you’ll need.  We carry affordable altar work supplies here at EL9SHOP.COM.  You can also find altar tools at your local metaphysical shop or online.  Most items needed will probably be something you have already.  Feel free to alternate and experiment.  It is YOUR altar.

What You Need:

  • Table – Try to have a table made from something natural like wood or metal.
  • Pictures – These are pictures of your deceased loved ones.  If you don’t have any, you may write their names on a piece of paper or book.  You may also place a plant on the altar to represent your family tree.  Regardless of how many pictures or lack there of, ALL your ancestors receive your blessings.  It’s all about how you say your prayers.  Who are you addressing them to?
  • Personal Items & Vices – Place any items that belonged to or stuff that known ancestors liked.  For instance, you may had a grandmother who liked a particular perfume.  Or, an uncle who smoked pipes.  Any writers in your bloodline?  Place a pen or pencil on the altar.  Vices like cigarettes, cigars, alcohol, tobacco, beer and whiskey can go on the altars, too.  Many ancestors still crave these vices.
  • Candle – Candles represent the element fire.  When lit before offerings, it sends a signal to the Spirit World that you have something for them.
  • Water – Water obviously represents the water element.  You can place water in a glass or chalice.  Traditionally water has been place on altars for many years.  Water is a viable element along with the others.
  • Incense – Incense and other items whose smoke goes in the air represents that element.  Burning herbs, resin and sage are also popular.  Many ashcatching and burning things can be found here.
  • Crystals, Stones and Natural Earth Stuff – Completing the elemental roundup are crystals and stones representing earth.  Try putting some crystals that symbolizes your family.  For instance, if your family is very lovey dovey, place crystals that vibrate with the heart chakra like rose quartz or green aventurine.  Or, place some of your faves on the altar. Have fun!
  • Altar Cloth – Something to set your items on.  Can be a blanket or scarf.  Check out our various selections of altar cloths here.
  • Ancestor Money – Ancestor Money or Joss Paper is Spirit funds that you can send to your ancestors.  The concept is that the ancestors leave a debt behind that trickles down among the living.  Because their debt was not settled in the flesh, they are limited on the other side.  This limitation is also extended to us, the living.  The limitation is usually financial strains and trouble.  Burning ancestor money literally is a life-changer.  Get some here.
  • Cauldron or Fireproof Pot – Something to burn ancestor money in is important.  Please make sure you are using something that is fireproof.  I love using cauldrons.  Before that, I used a cooking pot.

Remember, there is no one right way of setting up an altar.  You can modify, substitute, omit and add as you please.

How to Build an Ancestor Altar, Give Offerings, Prayers and Burn Ancestor Money


How to Give a Prayer and Offering

Now that you have your altar setup, you want to get started.  I recommend one food offering, prayer or words spoke and burning of ancestor money at least once per day.  You can also leave a bowl of fruit, nuts, candies and slow perishables on the altar for added sustenance.

Try to get in a routine of giving an offering per day and replacing the old one.  I leave the old offering on the altar until the next day.  This cycle keeps a fresh rotation of food on the altar that the ancestors can energetically enjoy.  This cyclical system also keeps me regular with my offerings, prayers and ancestor money burning.

Next, I will outline the steps of saying a prayer and giving an offering.  This is just a sample.  You an address your ancestors as you see fit.  I will also include a short prayer you can use.  Notice how it starts with “all my ancestors both known and unknown”.  This covers the entire bloodline.

Step-by-Step Offering Instructions

  1. Have your offering ready.  I usually give a portion or plate of what I’m eating for dinner.  Give as much or as little as you can.  The important thing is to GIVE.
  2. Light your candle.
  3. Set the offering on the altar.
  4. Say your prayer.  Example.  “To all my ancestors both known and unknown.  Please know in my heart that I love you.  Thanking you for protecting me.  Thank you for blessing me with more finances.  Thank you for guiding me on my path.  I pray that your souls are liberated.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.” You can also just talk to them.
  5. Take your ancestor money and hold it or place in cauldron.  Light it and while it’s lit say, this is for my ancestors both known and unknown.  If you are lighting by hand, make sure to put in cauldron before it reaches your hand!  You may also say names of loved ones or write it on the ancestor money.
  6. Cover pot or control smoke of ancestor money ash.
  7. Thank the ancestors again and tell them you love ’em.  Once again, you can just talk to them or meditate at the altar.


This is a decent ancestor altar ritual.  Feel free to try it out for some weeks or so and let me know how it does for you.  I can assure you if you are proactive with this information, you will notice a literal change in your life.

Check this video out if you want to see a visual presentation of this ancestor altar building and practice.



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By S. Ali Myers