Let’s talk about the spirits that we work with and acknowledge as witches and magical practitioners. We should make some effort to understand the difference between an ancestor and an actual member of the Mighty Dead.
Ancestors are of blood and bone. They are those we share immediate genetic lineage with. This would be your siblings, mother, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.… Whilst these individuals mean something to us this doesn’t mean that they necessarily are connected to others in our craft and our practice. Each of us can connect with them, but they are more apt to communicate and work with those that share their blood and hereditary lineage. They are more apt to intervene in worldly matters by stepping forward to do part of the work.
Ancestors of Spirit and Heart can also be known as Beloved Dead. These are friends, mentors, teachers etc. Working with them opens a broader spectrum to those who practice ancestral veneration. When working with these spirits it is going to be more along the line of energetic and spiritual support. Whilst they do aid is spell work and the like, they are more apt to lend their power to our workings and rites because they love us, however, rarely will they intervene physically.
Mighty Dead are larger and more community oriented. These are spirits that helped humanity, the world, or a particular group of people to evolve and become better and more powerful. Examples would be Martin Luther King, (specifically for civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. Marsha P. Johnson, who was a transwoman of color that threw the first brick at the Stonewall Riots, would be a mighty dead for the LGBTQ+ community. This list of spirits goes on and for witchcraft specifically we have Mighty Dead like Doreene Valiente, Raven Grimassi, Leo Martello, Gerald Gardner, Scott Cunningham and Marie Leveau. These spirits get a little more complicated as they can be specific to subsets of practitioners. One example of this might be a Norse practitioner who most likely isn’t going to consider Marie Leveau as a Mighty Dead.
Celebrity doesn’t make one Mighty Dead, just like knowing someone for a couple months doesn’t mean they will become one of these spirits to you. Before working with the Mighty Dead and doing Ancestral veneration, really think about who you’re seeking to connect with and what they did in life as this can be a focus of power and what they can assist you with in death.
Finally, we come to just spirits in general. This includes our Gods, Ancestors, Mighty Dead, Familiars, and the like. When we work within the structure of a particular tradition, we carry those spirits with us; the spirits of witches past, who impacted a tradition for the better. When we evoke these spirits, we are effectively adding these allies to the work being done. Think of these spirits as incorporeal coven mates that have known you since you set foot on this crooked path. They want to see us grow and empower the traditions we practice for this benefits them as well as us.