Accepted Paper:

Ingesting ancestors: witchy practices of honouring the dead  
Emma Quilty (Monash University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore how the dead (in the form of ancestors) are ontologically intertwined in the everyday lives of young women practicing witchcraft. I argue that stories about ancestors are learned via a process of ingestion.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores how ancestral worship is ontologically intertwined in the everyday lives of young, Australian women practicing witchcraft. I will present ethnographic reflections, together with interview data from this study that reveals the spiritual and material practices used by witchy communities. Stories about witchy ancestors are learned via a process of ingestion. I put forward the idea that ingestion is an embodied practice through which young witchy women develop their values, sense of self and ways of relating and connecting to others. This process of ingestion emerges in a number of ways. Material traces of ingestion are visible through altars the young women create and maintain in their homes that often feature photographs and vestiges of family members who have passed on. Hosting a dumb supper is another form of ancestor worship that utilises processes of ingestion. This event takes place during the witchy festival commonly known as Samhain. This particular festival marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year. As a spiritual endeavour, witchcraft provides these young women with avenues for exploring and challenging their sense of self. During the dark half of the year, death is used as a thematic and symbolic device to facilitate group processes of transformation.

Panel P25
The dead in social life: death in the (re) constitution of sociality of the still living