The voice of this book is sometimes an awkward mix of an explicit political project of decolonization of spirituality, reclaiming traditions of ancestor veneration inside the Meso-American and Mexican communities, with a New Age project of individual empowerment which is accessible outside of those communities. A wide range of evidence is blended into Buenaflor’s project of reclaiming Meso-American spiritual practice together with her own UPG (unverifiable personal gnosis) and ritual practice and experience. 

There is a mixture of practice and theory throughout the book, with each chapter including ritual directions and specifics, as well as several stories of people whose ritual practices enriched their lives and solved problems that they had come to Buenaflor for help with. 

Chapter headings are: 1. Locating the Ancestors You Wish to Venerate (not necessarily biologically related, not necessarily from inside the same culture or from the same land as yourself). 2. Invocations that Welcome Ancestors into Our Lives. 3. Colourful Ceremonies Honouring Our Ancestors. 4. Rebirth, Renewal, and Continuation of Our Ancestors. 5. Working With Deified Ancestral Sacred Energies for Healing Purposes. And Healing Grief from the Death of a Loved One and Facilitating Their Graceful Transition. 

Her practical suggestions and path-workings are very good, suggestions for setting up an altar and items to place on it, cleansing rites and offerings, the more elaborate Dia de los Muertos public displays, and others. A satisfying beginning to a personal practice could easily be developed from this book. 

My academic side notes that her bibliography is substantial and contains no fluff and that her discussion of ritual, archaeology and ritual tools are thorough and very interesting. I enjoyed the effort that she made to provide a context for the rituals and practices that she detailed – drawing from the archaeology of burial practices to support her ritual development and her discussion of the nature of the soul and connection between the energy of ancestors and that of the deities and the universe as a whole. 

~ review by Samuel Wagar

Author: Erika Buenaflor
Bear and Company, 2023
196 pg. Paperback $24.99 CAN / $20 US