In our ever increasingly busy and forward moving Western lives, taking time to look to the past and honour our ancestors and their legacy is a lost tradition – with many seeing no benefit in it all. But ancestor acknowledgement is a very significant part of indigenous and traditional cultures. By connecting to departed loved ones not only are you able to tap into their deep wisdom and lived experiences which may assist you in the now, you also open up the possibility to heal any intergenerational trauma or unseen fault lines (once highlighted) that show up in your life.
Honouring Our Ancestors
Recognising our elders for their insights, rather than just seeing them as ‘elderly’ with nothing to offer is a radical shift towards bringing more awareness and attention to the importance of ancestral honouring – in essence looking to the past as a way to heal the future.
Wonderfully, this shift is starting to happen with more and more people around the planet reclaiming this lost tradition and realising the many benefits towards healing – not only for ourselves but also our communities and the planet – that gazing back at those who have come before us can offer.
Revealing research delving into the epigenetics of trauma, have helped bring this to the fore. These studies bring to light the lasting effects of trauma on our biology, how it can be intergenerationally transmitted, or passed on to future generations. But it doesn’t have to continue this way.
As author and independent researcher Paul Levy states so eloquently:
"We have the precious opportunity to liberate these ancestral, rhizomic strands of trauma which extend far back in time and equally far into the future, but which also converge and are spread throughout the present in the form of the society and culture in which we live. We can be the ones to break the link in the chain and dissolve these insidious, mycelium-like threads, which are literally the warp and weft upon which the tapestry of the past, present, and future history of our species is woven.”
And one of the powerful keys we hold to start breaking the links in the chain is developing our Ancestral connection!
Simple ways to connect with and honour your Ancestors.
Here are a few ways you can add the wisdom of ancestral connection into the tapestry your practice…
Name and Acknowledge your Lineage
There is power in speaking a name out loud, a resonance that echoes through the ages, bringing what has gone before to life once again.
Toko-pa Turner, in her incredible and insightful book Belonging, imparts that in various cultural traditions, acknowledging one's lineage is significant. She gives the example that, “in the Celtic tradition when you meet someone new you ask, “To who do you belong?” (not what do you do!!)”
She goes on to share, “belonging is tended when we recognize ourselves as the fruit grown on our ancestors' tree. We are weaving into those roots every time we name them. Even if we no longer know the names of our ancestors, or where they came from - even if their stories have been lost and their songs forgotten.”
Find opportunities and spaces where you can speak the names of your lineage (what you know of it) and feel the powerful connection this can bring.
One way you may like to do this, is to call in your ancestors in your next ceremony. Go around the circle introducing yourselves, naming your red thread/motherline for women, and your white thread/fatherline for men. So for example, you might say:
“I am …………
Daughter/son of …………,
Granddaughter/Grandson of …………,
great granddaughter/greatgrandson of …………”
Research your own Ancestral Lineage
Many of us have lost our ancestral connections and may not know the names of our ancestors beyond our grandparents! Taking time to research your family tree is a worthy endeavour – and can have a powerful healing impact. Getting to know the stories and background of your ancestors (either by asking your elders or using one of the many online research tools now available) can offer you a broader understanding of why you are YOU – and also highlight patterns that may have been passed down.
Through research, my red thread has gotten richer and deeper. I feel the powerful legacy of my ancestors as I can now say:
“I am Sjha’ra Anzjaera Christos, birthed as Sacha-Jane Meaton,
daughter of Felicity Ann-Delores Jack,
daughter of Audrey Lillian Gill,
daughter of Vera Clarendra Leardo,
daughter of Jessie Davis,
daughter of Eliza Pearce,
daughter of Clara Palmer, born in Holborn, London
daughter of Mary Ann Sharp (who sailed from London, England to Australia on Perseus in 1802)”.
Even if you only know a few legendary details of one Ancestor, way back, to speak this can be rich fertiliser for the soil of your roots!
Create an Ancestor Altar
Devote some space either in your home or outside to honour your ancestors with a simple altar or Ofrenda. You can include photos, candles, family heirlooms or other special objects that feel right. Trust your intuition here. This is a place to connect with and show your respect and reverence for the line of people who have come before and made your life possible.
You can create your own rhythm with how often you visit your altar – it could be daily, weekly, or at certain times throughout the year – perhaps on their birthday or the day they passed, or maybe the solstices, equinoxes, or other important ancestral holidays. When you visit. take some time to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to arrive into presence first. You can then say hello, give thanks and perhaps share an offering. There’s no right way to do this, just what feels true for you.
Share their Stories and Legacy
By keeping the legacy of our ancestors alive through sharing their stories and traditions with our family, friends, and community we recognise the value of their knowledge and create a connection with the past whilst simultaneously embracing our own personal heritage.
Our ancestors lived through a different time and their traditions and values would have reflected this by being different to what is true for us today. This difference can offer us a new lens on not only how we see ourselves, but also the world around us and our place within it.
We can keep these stories alive and relevant by listening to the memories of our parents, grandparents or other family and community members and passing these down to our descendants. Not only will this preserve our cultural heritage but will ensure future generations have a deep appreciation and respect for the sacrifices, struggles and gifts they offer.
As Dr Daniel Foor, author and internationally respected teacher of ancestor reverence and ritual counsels;
“Just as in any meaningful relationship, our bonds with the ancestors call for care and renewal. By proactively engaging in simple actions to honour and feed these relationships, our ancestors can become a tremendous source of healing, empowerment, and nourishment in our everyday lives.”
So why not draw on the wisdom and medicine of your Ancestors by weaving in some threads of ancestral honouring into your next morning solo cacao ritual, group Cacao Ceremony, or you might even be inspired to host a specific Dia de los Meurtos Cacao Ceremony for your community!
In Lak’ech Ala K’in!
I am in you, you are in me.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)