Let me first begin by saying: Great job on the last post Concha!
No matter what path you walk, death is the only guarantee that any of us have in this life. Yet, death is not truly the end of anything besides the physical body and that is especially true for the spiritual worker.
In Conjure work we venerate, petition and work with the dead or rather the Spirit. They are what gives us the ability to do the work that we do, without them we would have a much more limited access to the spiritual plane. They help us when we need there intercession, they teach us to really enjoy the life that we are blessed to have and they even at times will tell us when we are doing wrong.
In Conjure, one of the first things that you learn to do or should learn to do is work with you Ancestors. They are always going to be the ones who have your back because they are your blood and they want to see you do well for yourself as well as the family. Now, let me also say that there are some that may not be quick to work with you or may downright say no, these are usually Ancestors who may have not had such a nice life when they were alive or for any multitude of reasons. Just because we die and become Spirit does not mean that we automatically become better beings in terms of how we act. Usually though, these are few and far between and your other Ancestral Spirits do a good job at keeping them at bay.
There is nothing scary or 'spooky' about working with your Ancestors. Think of it like this; when someone in your family passes away they are either buried or cremated.... if they are buried it is customary to visit their gravesite and speak to them, leave flowers, things that they liked and just spend a moment with them. If they have been cremated, most people keep the Urn (container for their ashes) on a shelf or fireplace mantle or someplace free from being disturbed as a way to preserve their memory and essentially their Spirit. Having an Ancestor Altar in your home is no different really and you are able to work with and commune with them whenever you like as well as care for them in your home where they truly belong. It is a beautiful concept and a strong reminder of who we are and where we came from.
The way that we typically set up our Ancestor Altars in Conjure is by using a table (doesn't need to be fancy) or shelf that we have cleansed thoroughly with either Holy Water, Florida water or an herb infused water that we have created. What I use to clean my Ancestor Altar with is a mixture of Florida water, Rue, Hyssop, Lavender and LOTS of prayer :) Once I scrub down their altar I place a white cloth over the table and place their pictures on it towards the back, a glass of water in front of their pictures and to the center for them to share, a cross or crucifix, the Holy Bible, things that my Ancestors enjoyed in life such as cigarettes, peppermint candies and crossword puzzle books. Every week I will refresh the glass of water and dispose of the previous weeks water by watering my plants with it. I read the water as well, if it is bubbly they are usually working on clearing up an issue or blockage in my life, if it is cloudy they are trying to tell me that I am not doing what I need to be doing somehow and it is affecting me. Also, I give my Ancestors food in the form of bread on a white plate every other week which I place to either side of the glass of water and every once in a while, I bring them some coffee which goes on the other side of the water. They also get candles for light which I light when I am speaking to them and flowers get put there in a vase for them as well.
I greet them every morning when I get up with a simple "Hey guys, good morning! I love you" I read to my Ancestors alot or I sing to them every night (privately of course because only the dead admire my singing voice lol). Most of the time the reading comes from the Bible that is kept on their altar. I talk to them constantly when I am anywhere near their altar, just as if they were their.... because they are. I talk to them about my day, my hopes and dreams, when I'm sad, when I'm happy, what's on my mind etc... You should talk to them as if they were right there in front of you. No need for formal prayer, speak from the heart, they will hear you and it doesn't need to be formal or fancy and long winded.... simply tell them whats on your mind: "Hey guys, I think I need your help" "Hey grammie! Just wanted to say that I'm having a great day" "UUGGGGH, Auntie, please give me the patience to deal with these children today"
When they have done something that I asked them to help me with I usually write them a huge thank you letter that I place inside the Bible or I bring them something special that they want, like a special dinner or something to just show my gratitude.
As for upkeep of the altar, it needs to be kept clean, organized and free of clutter. I remove everything once a month including the cloth, scrub it down while I pray for them, put everything back, light their candles and fumigate it with Frankincense or Copal. Once a week I make sure everything is refreshed, flowers, water etc. And on a daily basis I dust it off lightly and make sure that it is nice and tidy.
With the offerings I give them if it is a food product I take it and set it under a tree for the birds and other critters to feed themselves and their little critter families with. The flowers I give them once they wilt I replace them and use the petals of the old ones to grind up in a dusting powder that I dust their pictures with occasionally.
That's pretty much it I think, if anyone wants to know anything specific just feel free to ask. I may make a video regarding this subject soon as well ;)