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Food for Thought...and Spirits


Yes, I feed my Ancestors.

Sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll do a Decoration Day of my own and will go to three (possibly four) different cemeteries and will clean up around the graves and bring flowers. At the graveyard with the highest concentration of closest relatives, I’ll bring a little picnic basket. That basket will include some baked chicken for my grandmother, some bourbon and cheese for my grandfather, a slice of coconut cake for my mother and corn bread and green beans for my great-grandparents on that side.

I’ll bring some candy for the other graves I visit and a cheeseburger for Cousin Steve. My dad isn’t buried there–and I can no longer access the place he is buried–so I’ll sit on the family plot and drink a cold Budweiser in his honor.

That will be the hardest part–I really dislike that beer.

I will leave all those foods on the ground, not on plates. Because I usually do this work alone, I leave the food there for animals and insects to eat, instead of eating it all myself. I do like the idea of the family gathering at the family plot and having a big time.

But as you can see, most of my family is already there.

I also leave food offerings on the Ancestor altar at home but they are smaller and more general.

But I do feed them. Most of them fed me when they were here and it seems only fair to return the favor during this holy time.



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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Tess Dawson
    Tess Dawson Thursday, 04 October 2012

    I enjoyed this Byron. What you do sounds very similar to the kispu rite in Canaanite and Amorite tradition. A living family would go to the burial site or tomb and have a dinner in honor of the dear departed.

  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch Friday, 05 October 2012

    As part of their Samhain celebrations, my wife and her coven always do a Dumb Supper. I don't partake myself, as my faith has its own ways of honoring the ancestors, but it's a very moving ritual. Sounds like yours is quite moving as well; I love the idea of leaving favorite foods on the graves.

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