Since we’re coming upon Samhain and the dark half of the year, I thought it would be interesting to talk about how we all view working ancestors. There are some ancestors that we would rather not have at our table, so to speak. In this case, what do you do when you’re working with ancestors and don’t want specific people to show up?i
I’m gonna be honest and tell you… Ive never done any formal learning with ancestral work. This is something that’s always come naturally to me. I talk to my ancestors daily, several times a day in fact. There are but a few who I do this with, and I always call them by name. I have not had any issues with unwanted connections. I have had some experiences with, what I can only call unfamiliar feelings, and odd (to me) messages being put before me. When this happens I enlist the help of others, both living and in the spirit world, to help me decipher what bewilders me.
I don’t work with them at all. A few hundred years worth of really kicked around Protestants in my history do not make for good interactions.
I honor my teachers and predecessors, with the caveat that there is a stricture in many cultures against trying to contact the recent dead. In Spiritualism, it is said that this time is needed to sleep, to prepare for the Summerland or reincarnation.
I’ve never done any formal work with my ancestors either, and I don’t generally speak with them. I only have knowledge of some ancestors in my recent past and I don’t feel like it would be right to try and contact them this soon. They’ve only been on the Otherside for less than five years. I don’t know or have contact with ancestors in my long-ago history. I do have knowledge of them as my mom has done extensive work on our family tree. However, I’ve never dug deeper into any of their history or anything like that.
One day I hope to have some sort of connection with my ancestors. I’ve tried once with my great grandfather who passed in 2009, just giving him space in my home around Samhain. We didn’t know each other very well and there wasn’t an “open line”, so to speak.
Same. I know the basics of my ancestors going back to their migration to America in the early 1800s. Honestly, they wouldn’t approve of me or my life. I don’t think they made good choices either, so we’re even.
I asked my recently deceased to move forward even before she passed. Don’t try to hang on for me. I don’t know if she did or not, but I don’t want her stay for me. Whatever is next, I want her to go. Be at peace.
I get that, too. Sometimes it would be nice to talk to my grandma, but she passed away in August of 2021. That’s too soon for me to try and make contact with her (in my opinion), but it’s also a tricky situation because while I know she loved me in life, we had very different opinions on a lot of important matters.
One thing we are taught in our Potawatomi culture is that our ancestors are always listening, waiting for us to reach out. We are taught that communication with our ancestors is an important thing to do because it helps us to connect with our roots. We seek wisdom and guidance from them, and we are meant to acknowledge and honor the sacrifices they made for future generations. Although personally knowing those we communicate with may help strengthen our connection, it is not necessary to have known them. I am the great (x’s 4) grand-daughter of Chief Shabbona. He and my Great Grandmother, Watchekee (Shabbona’s daughter), played a pivotal role in our tribes survival when the Indian Removal act tore thousands away from their homes and led them to reservations west of the Mississippi River. Our tribe was taken from Michigan and led to Illinois, and eventually to Oklahoma where our reservation is located. Without the leadership of my grandfather and grandmother, our tribe may not have survived. I am grateful for their sacrifices and contributions to our people, so that we can be here today, and I honor them and talk to them every day.
Linda Hogan (of the Chickasaw Nation) said it best with this quote:
I think that’s a beautiful way of looking at things. I’ve had a contentious relationship with several people in my family, especially those who’s mindset is stuck in the past. They make me feel… not the best, I suppose. It’s too early for good words but does that play a role at all in the way you connect with your ancestors? How do you reconcile with the ancestors who weren’t the greatest people in life, if there are any at all?
Honestly, I am a huge believer in forgiveness. Not always and necessarily for them, but for ME. I believe that until I’m able to truly forgive someone, living or departed, I just remain STUCK in those feelings of hostility and negativity, and those feelings spill over into other areas of my life and can wreak havoc. “I ain’t got time for that!” So yeah… I actually and actively spend time meditating on those feelings, and I imagine (or physically) the negative energies being washed away. If I have time, I use an epsom salt soak to physically remove toxins and to rejuvenate my physical and mental state. Once I’ve cleared whatever is causing me to be “stuck” with resentment or what have you, I will call to that person and let them know that I forgive them for whatever wrong they’ve done to me, and I’ll release them from any guilt they might carry in their next journey. I don’t do any of this tho until I feel the weight of my own burden of animosity lift.
That’s a beautiful sentiment I’ve thought about forgiveness, and honestly, a lot of what I’ve experienced is more of my own feelings rather than what was done, if that makes sense. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but I’m sure I can flesh it out eventually with some meditation and journaling. Thank you for explaining how that works for you!
My connection to ancestors isn’t very individualized (idk if that’s really the right word but hey). I connect to the spirit of the collective ancestors, and I’m grateful for their skills and knowledge being passed down through generations. I sew, cook, crochet, make art, and know that so many of them have shared in those skills as well. I’m comforted knowing they lived full lives and experiences the world in ways that are vividly similar to me in some ways, and wildly alien to me in others. Their work lead to me being here, with the advancements that are available to me. We build our lives on their experiences.
When I take my glasses off, I realize people in my ancestry didn’t have this technology to help them, and some of them saw the world that way. When I choose ingredients for dinner from a stocked pantry, I think of the masses of relatives I can’t even fathom who didn’t have such wealth and luxury of food security and choice. We may not understand each other’s points of view, and individuals from my family’s past may not appreciate the things I hold dear and important. But I am safe, warm, loved, and well fed. I like to think they can appreciate that for me.
I also have a fondness for what I call the “ancestral slime”. All life started with microorganisms, and I like to think of the primordial soup as an ancestor as well. The immense expanse of experience and evolution that I’m directly related to and influenced by sincerely blows me away, and that’s something I honor at this time of year.
There are lots of individuals in my family who I don’t respect. Abusive personalities abound. But we all lived, and did what we could with what we had.
Huh, I’ve never heard of anyone doing this before. This is a really interesting way to connect with ancestors - the realization that all life is connected in some form, and that even goes all the way back to before the evolution of humans!
I don’t remember when it hit me and I started to have those feelings, but it’s been rewarding for me over the past few years.