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Honouring our Ancestors - an Ayurvedic practice

Jan 02, 2021

Tarpana is a Sanskrit word which refers to making an offering and relates specifically to making an offering or acknowledgement of our ancestors. 

Honouring your ancestors is the first step in reclaiming your spiritual heritage. As you begin to recover your ancestral memories, you will also uncover unconscious, troubled memories that prevent you from knowing the truth of who you are. According to the Vedic sages, we humans are the only species which has the power of intuition. Yet too easily we forfeit our sacred birthright and with it the ability to change and grow, create, and strive for inner freedom. We have largely forgotten the joy, love, and wellness that are intrinsic to human nature, and we can rediscover them through honouring our intuitive knowing of our ancestors and their wisdom.” Maya Tiwari (Wise Earth School of Ayurveda)

The beginning of the year is a wonderful time to remember our ancestors and the lineages we come from. None of us exist in a vaccum – and according to the teachings of yoga philosophy we live in the context of ‘time, place and circumstance’.  Part of what creates this context is our ancestry – culturally and in terms of family lineage.

All of us, no matter our skin colour, racial background, social status or culturally diverse heritage have ancestry that reflects within it the best of human potential and the worst.  All lineages contain trauma and cycles of abuse as well as wisdom and spiritual traditions containing much merit.  At the same time some cultures have dominated and exercised privilege and subjugation over others and this should not be ignored.  My point is that it is human nature to contain multiplicity – we are not binary beings and polarising is never helpful.


As we begin the year let’s take some time to honour and acknowledge the ‘wise grandmother’ energy of our ancestry.  In the teachings of plant wisdom and essential oil magic the plant which holds this energy most strongly is magnolia.  Here is what Vanessa Jean Boscarello Ovens has to say about magnolia oil and the energy of the wise grandmother archetype ‘Magnolia with her great age and longevity here on Earth carries a queen-mother or crone energy about her.  Magnolia shows us deep unwavering love, inspiring acceptance and forgiveness.  Magnolia harks back to a time gone by and helps you connect with your ancestors and understand the legacy they left.  The key word for Magnolia’s energy is ‘solace’.

You might wish to use this powerful and ancient essential oil to support your practice of honouring your ancestors.  Other methods you might use could include creating an altar with pictures of your ancestors on it and lighting a candle or offering some flowers in their honour.  You might also wish to wear clothing or jewellery passed down to you from previous generations or even use a favourite tea cup or other such item from a beloved grandmother or family heirloom.


Here are some resources for further listening if you’re interested in this subject:


Here is a beautiful meditation from spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on honouring ancestry. 

Breathing In, I enjoy my in-breath.
Breathing out, I enjoy my out-breath.
Enjoying In-breath.
Enjoying Out-breath.

Breathing In, I become mindful of my heart beating, sending blood and new oxygen to every part of my body.
Breathing out, I smile to this life, flowing inside me
Aware of heart beating
Smiling to life flowing through me

Breathing In, I feel my in-breath bringing life to every cell of my body
Breathing out, I feel my out-breath deepening my awareness of being alive
In-breath, bringing life to every cell
Out-breath, deepening my being alive

Breathing In, I know that my heart beating is also the heart of my ancestors, with all their dreams, joy, happiness, strength and courage
Breathing out, I am determined to continue to nourish this heart for them and for me
My heart, the heart of my ancestors
Determined to continue their joy, courage and strength

Breathing In, I know that my heart beating is also the heart of my ancestors, with all their fears, sadness, hunger, anger, hatred and discrimination
Breathing out, I am determined to practice to transform the afflictions of my ancestors in my own heart
My heart, the heart of my ancestors
Determined to transform their afflictions

Breathing in, I am aware of the very many hearts beating in this room right now, bringing life, blood and oxygen to many parts of the many bodies here.
Breathing out, I smile to this life flowing all around me
Aware of very many hearts around
Smiling to life flowing all around me

Breathing in, I am aware that all these hearts are the hearts of many ancestors, with their joy, dreams and suffering
Breathing out, I am determined to learn to embrace, accept and love all the people around me
Hearts around, the hearts of many ancestors
Determined to embrace, accept and love

Breathing in, I am aware of the Heart of the Earth under and all around me, beating in the trees, rocks, grass, water, birds…
Breathing out, I take refuge in the Heart of the Earth, in Her Love, Strength, Forbearance and Creativity, always bringing forth new life.
Aware of the Heart of the Earth
Taking refuge in the Earth


We also have a whole module on Honouring Ancestors in my Ayurveda Goddess training.

With great love

Katie Rose x



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