Ancestor Worship is an idea based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence, take an interest in the affairs of their family’s life, and are able to influence family members. These practices are not to be confused with the ritual significance of dying and death found in other world cultures. The goal of ancestor worship is to ensure the ancestors’ continued well-being and positive disposition towards the living, and sometimes ask them for assistance. The social or non-religious function of ancestor worship is to cultivate kinship values like respect, loyalty, and continuity of family lineage; an example of which is seen in the fetch/fylgja.
Though not a universal practice, ancestor worship or veneration is found in varying degrees of social and political construct, and remains a vital component of various religious practices in modern times. In those cultures that practice ancestor worship, this is different from worship of gods. Gods, for example, are attached to local temples, and are asked for favors. Generally speaking, ancestors are not asked for favors, but asked to do their family duty – which is to watch over their lineage. Some cultures believe that ancestors need to be provided for by their descendants; while others do not believe the ancestors are aware of them, but that expressing family duty is what is important.
-forthcoming Heathen Anthology Volume Two (Volume One)
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