We are so excited to be able to invite several brilliant writers to share their experiences with ancestors and ancestral work this month. Please join us in welcoming Adrienne Sloan’s thoughtful words about connecting to ancestors, and beautiful ritual to help you get started.
We all have wise and loving ancestors in our lineages who can impart their guidance and wisdom. Unfortunately, most of us were not raised with a framework for relating to our ancestors. We may assume that because it has been hundreds (and most likely thousands) of years since our lineages lived within an intact culture where they were in right relationship with the earth that we do not have access to the gifts and medicines of our ancestors.
And yet, our ancestors are closer than we may think. They are in our blood and bones, their stories, told and untold are within us. In our witnessing and experiencing of current collective traumas and ongoing systemic harms it is essential that we all find a way back into ancestral belonging. When we forget that we come from lineages of resilience, lineages of old folk magic and earth-honoring ritual we are more inclined to perpetuate cultural harms, appropriate from intact indigenous cultures, and further internalize the unacknowledged grief of not remembering who we truly are.
In working with blood lineage ancestors it is certain that at various times our people experienced being both oppressed and oppressor. Ancestral healing work is an opportunity for us to both remember our people’s sacred ways of tending to the earth (and with the other-than-humans), and to transmute lineage burdens by asking for the older well in spirit ancestors to initiate this healing. It is not our responsibility to engage with the trouble within our lineages but to deepen in with the blessings.
By asking the well ancestors to handle what is needed concerning the not-yet-well dead we ensure ritual safety and perhaps for the first time in our lives receive support from our elders. This approach does not imply that we deny any of the toxic behaviors of our ancestors, or dismiss their legacies of cultural harm. In this way, we get to practice healthy boundaries by holding the intention for the lineage to receive the healing they need from the older ancestors and leaning into the lineage blessings that will assist us in showing up in the world in a way that contributes to collective healing.
Discerning Which Ancestors To Call In
Not all of the dead are equally well. While we inherit the gifts and blessings of our lineages, we can also carry their trauma, burdens, and unacknowledged grief. To ensure that you’re only relating to those in your lineages who are deeply well, wise, and compassionate it is essential to set that intention with boundaries and protection in place.
Ask those guides and helping spirits you already know and trust to be present with you, to assist in providing you with protection and appropriate boundary. You might also clear your physical space by working with smoke medicines from plants you have relationship with (or were sacred to your lineages).
Calling in only those in our lineages who are deeply well is not only the ritually safest way to approach ancestor work, it is also the most transformative. Our older, wise and well ancestors are those who held a more animist framework for relating to the world they lived in, both seen and unseen. For many of us, it may have been hundreds or even thousands of years since our ancestors lived in these more relational and animist ways. These ancestral guides are also available to share with us the unique gifts and blessings of our lineages. We can ask our ancestors to help us to better embody these gifts and fully live our path and purpose.
When we commit to living the gifts and blessings of our ancestors we, in turn, transmute the burdens and harms that have adversely impacted our lineages. In this journey of ancestral remembrance, connection, and healing we are invited back into this cycle of reciprocity. In remembering the lineage gifts we carry we can ask our well ancestors what offerings they would like to receive. They may ask for food or drink, for a song, to speak in a language we no longer remember, to tend to the vows we made to the other-than-humans held sacred by our people.
A Ritual To Call In The Blessings & Gifts Of Your Ancestral Lineages
(Allow for at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time)
Choose a space (indoors or outdoors) where you feel safe and that allows for deep embodiment.
You may choose to light a candle, build a fire, work with scared smoke of a plant medicine you have relationship with (or have asked permission to work with)
You may want to denote a boundary around you physically (if outside you might use ash from a fire) or ritually
You may be seated or lying down with eyes closed if you feel supported to do so
Spend a few moments turning attention inwards, becoming grounded and deeply embodied
Call in one or more trusted guides or helping spirits you already know and trust to support you
Ask them to provide you with protection and fortification around your body and energetic space
Hold the intention for only ancestors who are deeply well in spirit, who are compassionate, wise, and represent the blessings of the lineage to gather around you, at a distance that feels comfortable and outside of the protected boundary. (Hold strong intention that anything troubled or not-yet well associated with your lineage or otherwise is not welcome).
From this place of embodiment, within your protected space, and in connection with your guides, just notice the presence of wise and loving ancestors available to you. You may stay in this space for as long as feels supportive. When ready you may hold the intention and ask to receive any of the lineage gifts and blessings available to you. Receive these blessings at whatever level of intensity feels welcome for you.
You might receive these blessings through auditory, visual, somatic, or simply a felt sense. Take time to reflect and write down anything that feels helpful for you.
Be sure to extend deep gratitude for this connection and all that you receive.
When that feels complete, you may want to ask what offerings you can provide to the well ancestors. Be sure to not over commit to what is reasonable for you to provide (best to under commit and over-deliver). If you have an altar or shrine dedicated to the ancestors, you may place your offerings there if appropriate.
Return to this practice as often as feels supportive and connective.
Remember dear one, your well in-spirit ancestors are always available to you, you only need to ask.