Sins of the Father: Explaining The Fascination With Ancestors

The term ancestor refers to the people in one’s family lineage who precede them. Ancestors include parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents and so forth through the history of that family’s lineage. The link between the individuals is genetic, meaning that all members of a family lineage have genetic similarities that have been passed down through generations. In theory, every individual has 2,046 ancestors going back 10 generations. If we extend this theory over 500 years, which is equivalent to approximately 20 generations, every individual would have one million ancestors.

There are numerous cultures that practice ancestor worship, usually called ancestor veneration. This practice of showing respect and devotion to family members that have died is based upon a number of beliefs about the powers of deceased humans. According to the beliefs of ancestor veneration, humans that have passed away have a continuing existence in the earthly realm. In addition, they are believed to have a continued interest in the world and have powers to affect what happens in the living world. As it is believed that deceased ancestors still exist, the descendants of the deceased must care for their needs.

By ensuring the well-being and happiness of the deceased, those who remain ensure that their ancestors perceive them and the living work positively, and are therefore willing to grant favors or good fortune to the living. While the veneration of ancestors has clear religious implications, the worship of deceased family members can also have a significantly positive impact upon other cultural and social functions. For example, ancestor veneration places a great deal of emphasis upon family loyalty and the importance of a continued and strong family lineage. This emphasis upon the family and the necessity to care for family members has a major impact on social and cultural norms within society.

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