The introductory segué into the Betwixt series has focused on lesser realized spiritual allies that assist us along our path. In this post, my focus is on the ancestors, and how in the western world working with them is a bit different than that of indigenous cultures.
A topic that comes up often in regard to spiritual counsel is the ancestors–those of our family line who have lived fully, persevered through the experience of the form, then moved on to anchor the wisdom of that formed experience into guidance for their earthly successors. Ancestors can also be beings who are not in our family line, though are connected to us in some way. They can also be spirits of place, as often the connection between a family and land is akin to marriage. However when we in the west talk about working with ancestors, generally a great deal of healing must come first.
In shamanistic cultures, emphasis on dying well goes into how one lives, which is to say, people who live with an eye toward the unseen, die without as much (or any?) baggage. They tend not to take the unresolved affairs of life into their deathwalk. Of course this is a very simplified view and by no means categorical. Regardless of culture, people engaging a foot in both worlds tend not to sit on trauma. Their soul retrievals are done immediately after wounding; thus, they don’t carry etheric scars into the afterlife. As a result, healing doesn’t have to be done after death, to ensure them as ancestral allies.
Western culture doesn’t generally embrace living with an eye toward preparing the consciousness for death. We are more likely to experience soul loss that sustains over a long period of time, and isn’t resolved prior to death. When we die carrying those traumas, that life force has to go somewhere. Where it goes is to the living. Our wounds in death are carried on, in the formed experience of our successors.
Also, western culture is typically white western European-descended culture, which means a facet of our ancestral healing must be facing our role in oppression. In every one of our lines is the role of oppressed and oppressor. Until we face the historic violence and harm caused by colonization and how those systems still influence the treatment of marginalized groups today, we carry the wounds. This healing is part of working with ancestral lines.
As our culture doesn’t readily teach skills to release the drama of our own lives, it scarcely embraces the concept of amassed trauma passed to us from our ancestors, let alone how to heal it. Because of this, in order to work with our ancestors as allies, we first have to ensure their wellbeing. We must heal the troubled legacy they have left at our feet.
For some that can be easily done. For others, it may be more involved, and require help of someone who sees the dynamic more objectively. You don’t have to be a shaman to do this work. You don’t have to want to develop intuitive abilities. This kind of release work can be done purely to release any dynamics held onto by your ancestors–physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual–so that you, in turn are free of these dynamics, as well.
However best suits your spiritual practice:
- Call in your spiritual allies and allow them stand with you.
- Call in your ancestors, and tell them of your intention to release them of anything impeding the fulfillment of their souls’ desires. Express to them your desire to embody their wisdom, and your gratitude for their experience. You do not have to relive their experience for it to release. Honor any shadow components of it, and from the firmest place that you can, show them compassion.
- Allow your allies to do whatever healing work is appropriate for your ancestors, for you, and for any life force between you.
- When that work is done, allow it to move through your body. Note any sensations, thoughts, memories, or awareness that comes.
- Thank your ancestors.
- Thank your guides.
- Thank you.
When we give attention to releasing the suffering of those who came before us, we clear the space more appropriately to address our own. Healing them doesn’t mean that we are suddenly free of affliction. It means that what afflictions we are faced with are ours, and not the result of thousands of years of amassed trauma. From helping our ancestors shift from suffering into release, we gain allies in the work our own lives require. We become ready to realize that relationship and embrace the insight of our lineage.
Know that there is no end to ancestral healing. It is a lifelong commitment to do better than those who came before.
Know that in taking responsibility for the healing of your own ancestral line, you bring healing to us all.