Ancestor worship

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Offerings to ancestors' graves can include the burning of incense.
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Sending off the dead by burning offerings.

Ancestor worship is a religious practice based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence, take an interest in the affairs of the world, and possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living. All cultures attach ritual significance to the passing of loved ones, but this is not equivalent to ancestor worship. The goal of ancestor worship is to ensure the ancestors' continued well-being and positive disposition towards the living and sometimes to ask for special favors or assistance. The social or nonreligious function of ancestor worship is to cultivate kinship values like filial piety, family loyalty, and continuity of the family lineage. While far from universal, ancestor worship or ancestor veneration occurs in societies with every degree of social, political, and technological complexity, and it remains an important component of various religious practices in modern times.

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[edit] About ancestral worship

For most of the cultures, ancestor practices are not the same as the worship of the gods. When a person worships a god at a local temple, it is to ask for some favor that can be granted by the powerful spirit. Generally speaking, however, the purpose of ancestor worship is not to ask for favors but to do one's filial duty. Some people believe that their ancestors actually need to be provided for by their descendants. Others do not believe that the ancestors are even aware of what their descendants do for them, but that the expression of filial piety is what is important. Whether or not the ancestor receives what is offered is not the issue.

Therefore, for people unfamiliar with how "ancestor worship" is actually practiced and thought of, the use of the translation "worship" can be a cause of misunderstanding and is a misnomer in many ways. In English, the word "worship" usually refers to the reverent love and devotion accorded a deity or divine being. However, in other cultures, this act of "worship" does not confer any belief that the departed ancestors have become some kind of deity. Rather the act is a way to respect, honor and look after ancestors in their afterlives as well as possibly seek their guidance for their living descendents. In this regard, many cultures and religions have similar practices. Some may visit the grave of his parents or other ancestors, leave flowers and pray to them in order to honor and remember them while also asking their deceased ancestors to continue to look after them. However he would not consider himself as "worshipping" them.

It is in that sense that the translation "ancestor veneration" may convey a more accurate sense of what practitioners, such as the Chinese and other Confucian-influenced societies, see themselves as doing. For example, as "worship" in a Christian context is reserved for the Trinity, a Christian who is unfamiliar with the actual practices and beliefs involved in ancestor-directed rites may mistakenly assume that those who practice "ancestor worship" attribute to the ancestors everything that a Christian attributes to the Trinity: creation of the world, omnipotence, a different class of being, etc.

[edit] Who are our ancestors

Some information in this article or section has not been verified and may not be reliable.
Please check for any inaccuracies, and modify and cite sources as needed.

When one refers to ancestors, it is said to include all of the following:

  • Subtle bodies of all our known and unknown departed relations from all the previous generations are included in the category of our ancestors.
  • Relatives from all the previous generations from the father’s and mother’s side; for a woman from her parent’s side as well as from her husband’s side are included in this category.
  • Along with this subtle bodies of departed relatives from previous births are also included in ancestors [1].

[edit] Ancestor worship in China

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This picture was taken at a Malaysian Chinese home. On the left of the altar is a glass filled with rice. Joss sticks are stuck into it after the ancestors are invited to partake in the offering of food specially prepared for them on the Hungry Ghost festival
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Food is offered to the ancestors during the annual Hungry Ghost festival prayers
Ancestor worship in some cultures (such as Chinese) (拜祖, pinyin: bàizǔ), also ancestor veneration (敬祖, pinyin: jìngzǔ ), seeks to honor the deeds, memories, and sacrifice of the deceased. Much of the worship includes visiting the deceased at their graves, making offerings to the deceased to provide for their welfare in the afterlife. For instance, a toothbrush, comb, towel, slippers, and water are provided by the coffin or memorial so that the deceased will be able to have these items after they have died. Often paper versions of these objects are burned for the same purpose, even paper cars and plasma TVs! Spirit money (also called Hell Notes) is sometimes burned as an offering to ancestors as well for the afterlife. The living may regard the ancestors as "guardian angels" to them, perhaps in protecting them from serious accidents, or guiding their path in life.

[edit] Ancestor Veneration in Poland

November 1 (All Saints Day) is the day when families go to the cementaries and light candles for their dead relatives.

[edit] Ancestor Veneration in America

In America flowers, wreaths, and grave decorations and sometimes candles, are put on graves year-round, as a way to honour the dead. Times like Easter, Christmas, Candlemas, and All Souls' Day are especially days when the relatives and friends of the deceased gather to honour them with flowers and candles.

[edit] Ancestor Veneration in Ireland

During Samhain in Ireland the dead were supposed to return, and food and light were left for them. Lights were left burning all night, like was done on Christmas Eve, and food was left outdoors for them. It was believed that food fallen on the floor should also be left, as someone needed it.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

Smithsonian: Ancestor Worship Today

[edit] External links

ms:Roh nenek moyang no:Forfedrekult ru:Культ предков fi:Vainajien palvonta

Ancestor worship

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