Sensing Ancestors: Bridging the Gap
First, I want to start by saying that I’m currently in Florida visiting family for the first time in years to celebrate the life of my recently passed Nana. Before coming here, I got my family members one of these pins (see images below) by Adam J. Kurtz. His work is lovely- uplifting, simple, and transparent. You can buy all of his magical goodies here.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY “SENSING,” ANYWAY?
I’m first generation Arab American, though I was adopted and raised in the United States by a family of Scottish and Irish heritage. I often have ancestors from my blood lineage as well as my adopted family visit me- sometimes in dreams, and other times through intuitive guidance- which is somewhat strange since I’ve been aware of the historic relevance of both, but generally new to their personal significance. I find that it’s become normal to get so caught up in my day-to-day busy little life that I forget to find out who I am, where I come from, and practice actual gratitude for those who got me here. Getting in touch with ancestral wisdom is an important opportunity and responsibility to understand ourselves with a clearer view, a more critical and empathic heart, and a willingness to face a life of probable challenge as those who came before us have done.
Most of us are an amalgam of several places, traditions, and origins – all while developing our own individuality. This offers a very real chance for reparation between lineages that may once have been at war, or even particular individuals or groupings who never had the chance to establish amnesty. You have availability to make bad blood a bit better, and wiser. What’s more is that in teaching future generations to follow this lead by way of example, they will inevitably impart even greater capacity for healing as people continue to grow, intermingle, change, and dig through the muck of historical inaccuracy. Sexism, racism, genderphobia, bigotry, and patriarchal control have done substantial damages on much of the worlds magic. It’s time to reclaim these parts of who we are, but with a willingness to educate ourselves, and be educated. Find what feels true, and choose wisely. Without being informed or with willingness to learn the truth of our own heritage through community, history, spirit and stories, it is all too easy to self-appropriate. Drifting further into the season of the Thin Veil, we find ourselves in a particularly powerful time of the year to cultivate new personal skills based on ones once necessary for ancestral survival. Learn and practice, but do so critically. Be mindful of what may be over-harvested, over-used, or under-represented. Continue to ask ancestors, “should this be applied in such a way?” “Will this honor you and our shared heritage as well as the vulnerable state of this modern Earth?” “What needs to change, and how might I change it?”
It’s entirely fair and encouraged to act intuitively. You may even discuss such matters spiritually with your ancestral lines and other guides. Perhaps some of the ancient ways don’t sit well with you. Take it upon yourself to change the outdated and noninclusive. Maybe a traditional meal is centered around meat and you’re a vegetarian. Perhaps one tradition was originally reserved for cis men only, and you don’t identify as such. Follow your guidance, welcome and listen to your ancestors who love you and have only their best intentions for you, and discuss with trusted others too if you wish. This is, all at once, an individual journey and a shared advancement in evolution. Where once we mostly survived in the brain, we now move closer to thriving in the heart.
When connecting with ancestors and future generations to come, visual meditations are often a powerful tool of wide recognition- perhaps one of the first true spiritual tools of our species. What was it that your ancestors saw that made them who they were? That made them who you are? These could be the plants of your homelands, or even photographs of structures, living spaces, or nature of a respective region. What beauties and atrocities alike were witnessed? Joy and grief both can and should be honored as part of the experience of your lineage. What art heralds back to your ancient family? How could you now partake in it? Use your eyes to drink in these details, and perhaps create some yourself. Decorate your home with the colors, textures, and flora of your ancestors.
What are the sounds of the people you’ve been, and places your blood and spirit have called home? The music? What songs did they sing, and when? What instruments were common, and how did they apply to ceremonies, rituals, or play? Which animals could be heard during the day, or at night? What does language sound like? Has time given it a new shape? Perhaps take moments to intentionally speak some words of your ancestral tongue. If you do not speak this language, whatever it may be, take time to learn a phrase of gratitude. Dance to the music and feel your body change, activated with the heat of beating hearts, all which now live within you – and which you will also pass on.
What grew in these lands? Being from Morocco, I smell mint and fresh baked bread and remember something from long ago. Dry dirt on the wind and wet animal hide ignite these old memories too. Which cultural, natural embellishments carry this power for you? Does the dewy fragrance of wet marshlands conjure sudden insight? Or cinnamon and rice? What traditional resins or plants were burned in these lineages? Fresh flowers and crushed herbs can be used to create a warm and welcoming space for ancestors, as well as prepared meals that were once and perhaps still enjoyed as customary. Fill your home and your lungs, and feel the breath of your lineage expand once again.
Smell and taste are so closely conjoined…but rather than simply ingesting something through the lungs, you are physically making it part of your body. It is now an aspect of your living form. A single letter of your lifelong story, which reaches back to before you were born. To taste is powerful enough, as is ruminating on the revolution of flavor to a place and its people. Deeply consider what it does to our psyche and spirit. However, I recommend taking this a step further and prepare what you consume. You not only learn about the flavors and textures, but you physically find awareness of the past in your present actions. Ancestors love to experience through us once again, and to cook is to pay the deepest respects for the work that went into keeping a people alive. As the wheel of the year changes, it may be worth considering growing some ancestral herbs, too.
Textiles tell stories. Colors create webs of light, reaching back in time and forward to the future. How does it feel to be shrouded in the cloth that once kept your same blood in a different body warm? What customs were necessary to create these garments and goods? Weaving? Tanning? Dyeing? Carving? What crafts were developed and maintained over generations to make these things possible? Are you willing to take them on, and keep them alive? We are blessed to now have access to so much, yet often are bogged down by options in the modern world – as well as pressures to keep consuming. What if we accessed even a portion of the old ways? Something as inconsequential as spinning yarn from wool, harvesting herbs to dry, carving a spoon, or visiting a flax field destined to become linen will surely awaken awareness and respect; likely that had always been there, but waited for us to meet it halfway.
SERA IS A WRITER, PHOTOGRAPHER, SOLITARY GREEN WITCH AND QUEER EARTH DEVOTEE. AS SOMEONE WHO WORKS WITH PLANTS AND LISTENS TO ANIMALS, HER LIFE IS CENTERED AROUND THE COMMUNION AND DEFENSE OF OUR PRECIOUS RESOURCES.
BORN IN MOROCCO, HER FORMATIVE YEARS WERE SPENT IN ENDLESS MOTION ACROSS THE US. ROOTS FINALLY TOOK HOLD IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST WHICH IS NOW WHERE SHE CALLS HOME.
شكرا لقرائتك. شكرا لك أسلاف لتعليمنا.