To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root. ~ Chinese Proverb
Our family lineages can be powerful sources of support and healing if we uncover how to skillfully work with them. Even if you’ve never thought of your ancestors much before or if you feel they were duds (or worse!) there are a myriad of psychological & spiritual benefits of doing so. Whether we know our family lineages or not, our ancestors are connected to us by energetic threads, and science has unequivocally proven their stories live in the marrow of our bones in the form of our DNA. There are safe & interesting ways you can create more revelation, guidance and connection in your life through accessing your family bloodlines. Plus when we learn to energetically and psychologically untangle ourselves from the baggage handed down osmotically to us from our families then we can focus on what is truly ours this lifetime to work on and create a genuinely original life.
As we stand upon the precipice of the Samhain, which is the ancient celtic New Year and some folks are celebrating Halloween in the Northern Hemisphere ….and also around the world the Day of the Dead is being observed, this is a perfect portal to contemplate the notion of connecting with our ancestors as all of these holidays are traditionally connected to this work..
Now for some of us the idea of our ancestors is romantic and fascinating. Yet, for some of us, our ancestors bring up complicated feelings intertwined with our family's very unique set of idiosyncratic tendencies, foibles and traumas. Some of our ancestors’ stories and lives may be interwoven into the fabric of colonialism, ecological degradation, racism, classism, sexisim, oppression in various forms and other uncomfortable narratives. Yet the reality is we are all branches of a certain tree whose roots burrough so deeply down into the earth, you have ancestors who for certain who were also healers, teachers, songstresses, herbalists, artists, creators, seekers, inventors & visionaries. You have thousands of ancestors who held the wisdom of living in tandem with the earth. Not necessarily the ones if you have been lucky enough to hear stories and their names from recent years but your “deep ancestors” who lived back towards “deep time” which is a geological term referring to considering all the ages of the earth’s 4.5 billion years not just when we think life existed here.
So whether you are aware and enamoured of your more recent ancestors or this thought about your deep ancestors ignites a spark in you to illuminate the fact that you are a direct descendent of brilliant earth wise geniuses who knew how to pay attention to the sky & its patterning, to be with the water and its nourishment, to work with fire and its alchemical ways, to work with the gusts & messages of the winds and to live in collaboration with the earth. And do you know how I know this and you can know this too? Because they had to to survive and preserve the genealogical line that you stand upon.
These Beings, most of whom slipped through history’s fingers before everything was being recorded like today, delighted in the miracle of life, were humbled by the pulsing necessity of death, knew the beauty of wisdom and aging, honored the preciousness of their tribe and heard the hallowed call of spirit in their mundane tasks which opened up pathways of reverence within their minds and magic in their lives.
Just as I watch the deciduous leaves in this seam of time beginning to change their shades here in North America, when we think about that we will one day reveal all the colors that our current forms possibly can and then be offered to the soil of life, we remember life is inexplicably connected to death. And in this remembrance that we will become nutrients for the earth actually can help us live more fully with more presence and awareness. If we remember that one day we too will become ancestors, perhaps we can become reinspired to commit to our lives with renewed joy, hardwork and grace. We are in tandem with life and just as life is inextricably connected to death so too are we inextricably connected to our ancestors and when we forge this connection, we can find pathways towards more personal healing and wholeness from this holistic viewpoint.
When we take time to follow our branches through the trunk of our families to our roots, those roots then plug us into the ground of Being and bring us back into connection. Our lives in this modern age full of hyper speed and detachment from the natural world has led to such a profound craving for so many, to such a deep soul depravity that many folks have turned to distracted activities and/or addictions which disconnect us even further from our own humanity and take us further away from our own souls.
For those of us longing to find connection, revelations, healing guidance and even magic, connecting to our known or unknown ancestors is a powerful way to do this.
So what are some practical down-to-earth-ways you can begin or to continue your relationship with your ancestors:
1. Contemplation: what are the patterns within myself that are so hard to see it is like trying to see the air I breath or find the bottom of the water I swim in but it’s too deep - these are the patterns of inherited heartache & trauma, anxiety and depression - the constellations of being that seem so comfortable to us but create huge quantities of our suffering. If not clear, ask a trusted loved one, what is something about myself or the way I act that I don’t see. In the psychological world, this is referred to as “Johari window” 1) things known about by you and others, things known to you about yourself but not by others then the “blind spot” of which I am referring - that is unknown to you but known by others. Then lastly and the ultimate shadow work “what is unknown by both you and others”.
2. Doing genealogical research via asking elders in one’s family for names, stories etc…regarding the tales they’ve heard or know of the family line. Then say the names of these ancestors before bed, while meditating/praying or even when you are doing mundane tasks. Try talking to them or asking them for “signs”, serendipity and guidance.
3. Technology is SO supportive of deep ancestry uncovering research these days. So you can check out websites like Ancestry.com or Africanancestry.com . Once you fill in what you know about your bloodlines, the internet’s magic will most likely connect you with the research of all these other ancestors’ info and pictures from others in your larger “family” who have also submitted ancestors whom you have in common.
4. Especially helpful for those who don’t know their biological ancestry or want more specific info., there are DNA tests one can do.
Autosomal DNA tests trace a person's autosomal chromosomes, which contain the segments of DNA the person shares with everyone to whom they're related (maternally and paternally, both directly and indirectly). Autosomal DNA tests can confirm ethnicity percentages and close relationships with a high level of accuracy.
Y-DNA tests consider genetic information that you share with all members of your family. Note: Y-DNA test traces only paternal lineage, and so if you are female, you’d have to do this via your father or a full blooded brother.
The Mitochondrial DNA inherited from one’s matrilineal (mother's female) ancestry is called the mtDNA.
5. You can do autonomic writing and just just your pento page (or fingertips to the computer) and call upon your ancestors known or unknown and just start writing without thinking. Set a timer and commit to writing for a certain period of time and just let consciousness free flow through you. If you know a story of an ancestor, you could attempt to write this story out in detail. Be open and playful.
6. You can make art, play music, get creative and make an offering dedicated to them inside or outside. This is a way to make a bridge of communication between you and them and who doesn’t like to be given a handmade gift, embodied or otherwise?
7. Think about where your ancestors came from and which foods, flowers and herbs they might have ingested? Do a meditation and ask them this? Or do some practical research to find out. Your body is made up of the same DNA as theirs and so eating things that they might have, can be a thread of connection to them and the lands upon which they traversed and potentially extra nourishing for you. Even surrounding yourself with herbs and flowers of their heritage can often bring about powerful insights!
8. Pictures & visual nuggets. Place pictures of your ancestors or visuals of the lands, hobbies or anything you associate with them on your altar, desk or table centerpieces. Study them, get to know their energies and see what thoughts and insights start to arise. Maybe light a candle in front of them to physicalize your openness to receiving their wisdom or messages. Often this comes to us as the sound of our thoughts in our own head, so pay attention to those and see what is downloaded when you forge this visual connection. Write any and all impressions down as sometimes we can get “clues” from this work that can be pieced together or that can be unpacked layer by layer over time.
Our bodies in some sense are ancestral shrines. The ancestors were very much aligned with the wisdom of the earth and so working with them can give us clues as to how to align with living in this wise and conscious way which can create profound healing and wisdom in this modern day era where much of this innate wisdom has been lost.
May we be their servants and carry their love & their hard won lessons into our lives and into this world.
If you’d like to hear more about how you can connect with your ancestors and why this is important and profound work. Check out EPISODE #31 of the Modern Mystic Podcast.
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