DIY Ancestor Altar For Cat Lovers by Layla Morgan Wilde
If you missed yesterday’s post Black Cat Halloween Video, Interview and Insta Reels Scroll to the end to see our Halloween costume fails.
What is remembered is never lost.
I keep a small ancestral altar all year round as part of a shamanic practice. Every religion and culture has some variation of ancestor veneration. The most vibrant and elaborate example is Dia de los Muertos or Day of The Dead where families hang out dancing, eating and drinking at their ancestors’ graves. This year is especially poignant given the tremendous loss of life globally from the pandemic. It’s healing and life affirming to honor all those we have loved and lost.
As I’m connecting more deeply to my ancestors, I’ve started creating ancestral portraits with or without animals for others. All I need is an old photo or description to radically transform it, breathing new life to your family tree.
Every year close to Halloween, I make large ancestral altars to honor my ancestors but I also make one to honor my dead pets. It’s a personal labor of love that is fun and easy to create. For my cats, I make both indoor and outdoor ones weather permitting. This Instagram reel shows an overview. (It looks distorted on my computer but not mobile).
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You probably have what you need at home but buying a few items is not expensive unless you want to splurge. Place the altar away from open windows or high traffic areas. If your cats are curious (almost all are) be sure to keep only safe, non-toxic items and NO candles unattended.
This year, I kept the altar so full, it was impossible for Odin to jump up. He did pay his respects from the sidelines. He just came in from an adventure and wearing his GPS collar.
Altar Building Supplies
- Table or shelf. Large or small. It can be a coffee table, window sill or hutch. Even a big cardboard box will do.
- Covering. Table cloth, scarf, throw or fabric of any kind. I used a large silk velvet wrap in a deep burgundy color.
- Items representing the four elements:
- 1. Air. Incense, smudge, palo santo wood to burn.
- 2. Fire. Candles. I like a mix of small white votives and tapers but any size work. Glass hurricanes offer protection from drips and curious noses.
- 3) Water. Place a small bowl or saucer of water to represent your cats’ dish.
- 4) Earth. Natural items might include flowers, autumn leaves, pine cones, acorns, plants, stones, crystals, shells. Include a little dish of food, treats and or catnip.
I have a huge amount of photos which changes year by year. In the past year, two new angels, Domino and Clyde joined the group. Choose the most meaningful ones for your altar. Even one photo is enough.
- Photos of the cats. They can be framed or loose. If you have a lot, place an album or create a collage.
- Art work. Portraits, drawings, a custom mug or item of jewelry. Add a replica or felt mini me, if you have one like my Domino.
- If you don’t have photos you can place a photo of a similar breed or color cat. I prefer to write a list of their names on a piece of paper or little chalk board.
- Cremation remains boxes.
- Memento boxes. I like to store bits of fur and whiskers in little boxes like my Egyptian mummy pencil tin.
- Paw print memento.
- Favorite old toys.
- Collar or clothing.
- Birthday cards, memorial cards or letters to your dearly departed. If you’ve never written a letter as part of your grieving process,please do. It’s very healing.
- I have no cremation boxes since I choose to bury but I included this year, little boxes of fur and whiskers. With human ancestor altars, most add favorite vices of the dead like alcohol or cigarettes. Cats don’t have vices but you could add feline wine or catnip. Keep it sealed up to avoid your cats from jumping up and making a mess.
The objects with the most energy from use would be collars, toys and favorite bed or blanket. Again, use what you have. I’m a big believer in recycling and re-purposing.
There are no rules. This can be as minimalist or over the top as you wish. It will be appreciated from beyond the veil no matter what.
I keep seasonal indoor altars up for about a week until November 3. Candles are replaced as needed. Dead flowers are replaced. Plants watered, treats and water bowl kept fresh. To prevent attracting ants or other bugs, place a can of favorite cat food or unopened treat bag.
Outdoor altars are subject to the elements. Keep them tidy as you can but wind, rain and snow will make an impact. As always, fire is a hazard. Take pre-cautions. For Clyde’s grave I was shocked how the paint had already faded in under a year. I’ll touch it up in the spring but there’s nothing like nature to remind us of the impermanence of life.
Happy All Hallow’s Eve and Blessed Samhain!
Layla, Odin, Nou Nou and the many Angels
I quietly slipped a witch hat on Nou Nou while she napped. It took her a few seconds to realize something was on her head and two seconds later it was off. Always honor your pet’s wishes or else they might put a spell on you 😉
Halloween Cat Costume Fails But Purrfect Anyway. Did you buy your cats a costume? Have you made any DIY cat altars?
Odin happily wears a bulky GPS collar but costumes, forget it. Sometimes I can get a minute of cooperation but this time zilch. And he looked so magical for a moment in his wizard cape. I know Clyde would have rocked it. Oh well.
Does anyone want a barely used wizard costume?