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Ancestral Medicine

Did you know that the pain of our ancestors can endure through many generations? And when we stay open to our ancestors it acts as an early warning system that helps to protect us from unnecessary hardship, illness or premature death.

After having studied Jyotish for a couple of years I found out about Ancestral Healing and how it shows itself through the paternal or maternal side in a chart. Now to me this is really interesting! From a young age I always wondered: “why did I have to lose my mother at such a young age, and why do certain problems just keep repeating itself”? I started noticing that my children carry similar issues and behaviors, which we say in the West are the genes of our parents or grandparents. Ancient Sacred texts have written about helping heal our ancestors which can be addressed in very different ways then what we are used to.

We all have the opportunity to support our physical & psychological health and our Ancestors in many ways. It really is not that difficult.

Many places around the world maintain relationships with their ancestors through holidays such as Celtic Samhain, Mexican Day of the Dead and the Japanese Obon Festival.

At other times of the year, communities may call upon ancestors for guidance and healing*.

In the Vedic tradition such time is called Pitru Paksha and starts with the upcoming Purnima (full moon) on 29 September 2023 and ends with Amavasya (no moon) on 14 October 2023.

“Pitra Dosha" refers to a belief that a person may be afflicted by the negative effects of the ancestors' actions or the ancestral spirits due to unresolved issues or karma from previous generations. Pitra Dosha is often associated with challenges or obstacles in a person's life and is believed to affect various aspects of their well-being. **

You may be asking yourself:

“If my living family or recent ancestors are abusive, unloving, dysfunctional, absent, or otherwise uninspiring, why in the world would I want to connect with them?”

One reason to connect with them is to make sure that they’re not already connecting with you in an unhelpful way. Until the deceased join the ranks of the loving ancestors, they can weigh heavy on our lives.

Benefits of Ancestral Work:

  • Reflecting on your ancestors may boost intellectual performance and confidence.

  • Awareness of family predispositions, including behavioral health risks, may encourage life choices that benefit you and future generations.

  • Forgiveness, a common component of family healing and ancestral repair work, which promotes greater physical and mental health.

To address or mitigate Pitra Dosha, there are certain ancestral remedies and rituals that you may perform at home. Here is one simple ancestral remedy that can be done during the upcoming Pitru Paksha:

Pitr Tarpan is a ritual performed to honor and seek blessings from your ancestors. It involves offering water, sesame seeds, rice, and black sesame seeds to departed ancestors. During these 14 days between the full moon and Amavasya (no moon) (29 September - 14 October 2023), it is the time on the Vedic Lunar calendar to dedicate and honor our ancestors.

The purpose of Tarpana is to seek blessings and forgiveness from the departed souls and ensure their spiritual progress in the afterlife. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to perform a simple Tarpana at home:

Ingredients and Tools:

  1. A copper or silver plate or a clean area of soil near a water body like a river, pond, or lake.

  2. Black sesame seeds or rice grains.

  3. A small, clean bowl filled with water.

  4. Black sesame oil or ghee (clarified butter).

  5. A spoon.

  6. Flowers, incense sticks, and a lamp (optional).

  7. A photo or representation of the deceased ancestor (if available).


  1. Choose a Suitable Location: Find a quiet and clean spot near a water body, if possible. Place the plate or clean area there.

  2. Set Up the Plate: Place the photo or representation of the deceased ancestor (if available) in the center of the plate or clean area.

  3. Sankalpa (resolve): Begin by taking a few moments to meditate and set a clear intention for the Tarpana. Mentally address your ancestors and express your gratitude and love for them.

  4. Prepare the Tarpana Material: Take a small quantity of black sesame seeds or rice grains in your right hand. Add a few drops of black sesame oil or ghee to it. Mix it gently while chanting the pitr's name or the mantra "Om Pitrabhya Namah" (ॐ पितृभ्य नमः) three times.

  5. Offering Water: Take the spoon (with left hand) and pour a small amount of water into the palm of your right hand. While holding the water, recite the name of the ancestor and your gotra (ancestral lineage). Then, sprinkle the water over the Tarpana material on the plate, symbolizing the offering to the pitr. Let the water roll through the thumb and index finger. (You may say: “To all the ancestors of 6 generations on my mother’s side. To all 6 generations of my father’s side. Please receive this offering”.

  6. Offer Tarpana Material: Offer the Tarpana material (sesame seeds or rice mixed with oil or ghee) on the plate while continuing to recite the mantras.

  7. Pray and Seek Blessings: Express your gratitude to your ancestors, seek their blessings, and ask for forgiveness for your mistakes or shortcomings. Pray for their peace and spiritual progress. (You may say: “Let this offer nourish your soul, release yourself and let go of all worldly attachments. Be free and move into the light. As you move into the light, please bless me and my family”.)

  8. Dispose of the Offerings: After completing the offerings, you can either leave the Tarpana material on the plate for birds and animals to consume, or you can immerse it in the nearby water as an offering.

  9. Conclude the Ritual: Conclude the Tarpana by bowing down and offering flowers, incense sticks, and a lamp if you have them. Express your love and respect for your ancestors once more.

  10. Clean Up: Ensure you clean the area and plate thoroughly after the ritual.

It's essential to approach these ancestral remedies with respect for cultural traditions and beliefs and to perform Tarpana with sincerity, devotion and a pure heart. If you decide to do this ritual set the intention to do this all 14 days. People who believe they may be affected by Pitru Dosha often consult with knowledgeable priests, astrologers, or spiritual leaders who can guide them in performing the appropriate rituals and remedies.

*Daniel Foor, Ancestral Medicine ** Prasna Marga XV .36-38

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