Ancestral Work and Practices
Last year my post in the Pagan blog project on ancestors (Ancestors and why Ancestral Veneration exists)was at the start of my exploration of ancestral worship and working with the powers and spirits of our ancestors. Most of what I was doing there really had no meaning to me. It was a basic understanding of concepts. Yes I had an ancestral altar that was set up but there really wasn’t any meaning to my work. I prayed to my ancestors because I thought I should. The altar was set up because I thought I needed one. There was no reason behind any of it.
I did believe that our ancestors had power. I just wasn’t sure how to work with them. I knew that as I had said in ancient cultures it was a common practice. I also knew that there were a few modern pagan religions that had continued the practice of ancestral veneration. I saw that it was a part of many forms of traditional witchcraft and as well as part of Asatru. So I wanted to make it a part of my path. I wasn’t sure how.
For me part of it was the process of how complex my ancestry is. I consider the fact that I have spiritual ancestors. Those are the people who were the first authors in bringing witchcraft to the world today. In that group is Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valienete, Sybil Leek, and several others. I also have my ancestors of the heart. This is where my Foster and Adoptive ancestors lie. They are not connected to me by blood but by the bonds of love through my adoption and family ties. Then I have my ancestors of blood. These would be the ancestors tied to my biological family. These multiple ancestral lines were some of the reasons I wasn’t sure how I could work with my ancestors. Which type did I honor and work with?
I recently started to realize that I can work with all of my ancestors in different ways. I just needed to think about applying ancestral veneration in different ways that did not just relate to prayers and offerings at the altar. I found that because I had the different lines I could find three different ways that I can honor my ancestors and so far this revelation has been working for me.
My witchcraft ancestors (Gardner, and the like) I work with and honor simply by continuing to practice witchcraft and keep it alive. They feared that witchcraft would die out. Instead it has grown beyond what they imagined. So for me to practice, study, and explore as many venues of witchcraft as I can is a way of honoring the witches who have walked the paths before me. This was one of the first ways I actually started to work with my spiritual ancestors.
My ancestors of the blood were a bit different. I did some traces of where the various ancestral lines my biological family came from. In this practice I have found that my ancestry is Germanic in nature. Around the same time I had a dream where several of the Germanic/Norse Gods appeared calling for me and for one of them. I concluded that by studying and by working with the Gods of my blood ancestral tribes I could honor them as well. So that was another way I could honor my ancestors. It has worked well for me.
Its been my adoptive ancestral lines that I have really had some issues working in. While I prayed to my Grandmother for advice (she had made herself known to me early on as a spirit guide for me) I had no real way to integrate the rest of that ancestral line into my life and I honestly didn’t think that they would approve of the work I was doing. So it was something I didn’t quite understand.
Even in my studies of Traditional witchcraft while I would acknowledge the power of the ancestors in the land I wasn’t I was sure I actually believed in. I also never actually called my ancestral powers into ritual before. I would call on the spirits of the land and the God and Goddess but not my ancestor when I was doing that work.
Now things have actually changed. I am actively working with my ancestors. I pray daily and I actively maintain an altar to them. On this altar I regular light a candle to them as an offering. I also give them fresh and clean water on a regular basis so that when they visit they always have a clean drink. In rituals I have an item I use to give them a manifestation in the room that sits on the altar the rest of the time.
Yes. I never actually worked with my ancestors in magic or in rituals before. Now things have started to change. I actually call them into my rituals. They have a place that they can manifest in ritual and in magical work. Like the God and Goddess can manifest in my statues and in me, my ancestors have a vessel with which they can manifest in this world during ritual. I am actively forming relationships with them like I would any other spirits, through now working with them in formal rituals.
Recently I have started to study a new magical tradition. I have started to study Hoodoo. Now I am not African American nor do I belong to the culture that Hoodoo was created in and for. That being said I do respect the origins and I know that today Hoodoo is not practiced by just those of African American descent or in that culture. There are Caucasian Americans who practice this art. They all however pay respects to the origin of the path and understand where the roots of Hoodoo come from.
Hoodoo in some forms was heavily influenced by forms of Catholicism. My adoptive ancestry on my mother’s side is all Catholic. I have felt that by practicing and studying Hoodoo I could connect with that part of my ancestry. In Hoodoo a lot of time is spent focused on working with ones ancestors. So for me Hoodoo provides a way for me to connect with my Catholic ancestors while still remaining the witch that I am and that forms the base of the tradition I am developing.
I feel that my connection with my ancestors has started to grow because I have started to work with them in ritual and pray to them daily. I invite them into my life on a regular basis. I know they are around me now. I know that they are there. I just needed to find a way to interact with them all and I have found a way to work with them. Now I just need to make sure I maintain the practice.
As long as I have been searching for answers in my spirituality and religious practuces I have at least once a a year h as to asses my beliefs and what my practices are. The next 4 questions I answer were asked by Orion Foxwood in his book :The Faery Teachings. These questions are designed to make a seeker try to figure out what they personally understand about the universe before they become a member of any one tradition or practice. In this way a seeker figures out what they believe and understand for themselves.
The next few questions come from both the questions asked in the book and from the episode in Babyblon 5 where Dalen is asked by “Jack the Ripper “Who are you” and all she can come back with is family lineage, social status, political status, and jobs as descrpitions. She had no other answer. The trick of these questions is that it is easy to answer in labels, but its harder to define who you are at the core. In assessing yourself and your own beliefs you have to come to understand who you are and what you as an individual believes and understands reality to be.
I have personally found these four questions to be an excellent first step in find out where you belong as a person. It’s why I have taken the time to answer them here so that my followers can understand my development as well as I can come to understand myself and my views better as I work on forming this tradition and my own cohesive practice to teach my family, friends, children, and other seekers.
Four questions to assess one’s beliefs
My answers to those same questions
1: Who am I?
I am myself and no one else. I am the sum of my experiences. I am both who I was born and my experiences while a part of my biological family, the child of my first foster family and those experiences, the daughter of my two adoptive parents, and my fiance’s wife. Each of those people are me and I am all of them. I have a different role and relationship in each family and yet they are me.
Those experiences have added to who I am,
I am also the sum of all my social, spiritual, and emotional experiences up to this point.
In some ways this makes me a Christian, a Witch, a Christian Heretic, Satanist, and Witch again all at the same time. I embrace all of those titles because of them has added to my knowledge and wisdom of the universe. I am a Christian in that I accept the words and teaching of Christ as an excellent guide to life.
I also believe he was a wise and enlightened man who was the son of a God and thus a demi God until his ascension. This is why I still honor his birthday and his sacrifice. I see them as what they really were-lessons for enlightenment and the true path as outlined by his father.
I am also an event on a specific event in the world wide web of fate which includes all my previous experiences and lives. I am ultimately both just what you see in this life and the sum of any and all previous lives. Here and now I am a daughter, sister, friend, lover & wife all at the same time. I am also a witch, a teacher, a student, and a philosopher. I am many-things at once, but none of those individual things make up the totality of who I am.
I am a single event in the universe.
As a witch I only have the power to effect my own strand of fate in the universe. While having an effect on this single strand has an effect on all the strands of fate that make up reality, I can only really work changes on myself and my personal reality which is not the same any any one else reality. My reality is how I have been effected by any and all the events within my strand of fate (mostly within this current event on the strand) going back to when it was first woven into the web of life which is reality in it’s truest sense.
2: What is it (God, creator, force, ect)?
Out of all the questions that are asked this is often the most difficult question for me to answer. The simplest response that I can give in all my titles and experiences is that “IT” is ultimately a mystery. The true divine force behind the universe as far as I have been able to see and experience is really undefinable. There has only been one source which really explained what “It” or the ultimate force behind creation is. That book is The Kyballion.
It has been through reading that book which I have really started to get an understanding as to how the universe works and why there are so many different paths out there which can lead a person to “truth”. That book to me also explained why magic can work and why it might not work at times.
In simplest terms I believe the creative force of the universe to be essentially a mind of some sort which exists in a form we can not completely understand. This force is best explained as a giant living mind in which we are creations of that mind. The Kyballion identifies this force and mind as “spirit” which is essentially the unidentifiable aspect of what makes something alive different from something which is dead.
I see this mental force to be the initial force of thought which drove the universe into creation. I see this force inaction in various creation myths where some thought of some sort starts the first action which in the end creates either just Earth or the universe. I strongly believe that thought is power and that the way we perceive the universe and situations holds the key to accessing the mysteries available to us in this life time.
The concept of a “Great moving spirit” is not uncommon in various Native American traditions.
Now I do believe in many and all deities. The answer to both of those questions is yes. However that is something which I’ll get into in my next entry about beliefs.
3: Why am I here/Why do I exist?
This is a difficult question to answer.
The first answer that comes to mind is that I was brought into this world to serve the Gods I worship in some way shape or form. This is typically what I like to think and have based my life on. Under this view I believe I have a specific type or work or skill set I am supposed to use in service to my Gods.
The second answer I have is based on Wyrd which is:
I believe that the events that have occurred thus far on my chain of fate are there because of something from the past. I believe that what ever happens to any one in any life has a basis on any and all events which occurred in a previous event on your thread under another ego/body. There for I am here because of my fate and Wyrd
The third answer I have is: that I am simply here because I am.
In many ways the three answers are related. Today I still feel I am here to serve my Gods. For the longest time I thought that meant as a psychological healer (therapist of some sort) but I have come to realize that it’s not the path for me in this lifetime. While I am still meant to serve my Gods, it is not as a healer in that regards. Its more as a guide and teacher for others.
I am a natural healer, so I will not abandon that practice. I’ll just guide others and find other ways to heal people with their mental/emotional/spiritual issues.
I am here to serve and I will find my way.
4: What happens when we die?
I have many theories, philosophies, and beliefs as to what happens when we die. This belief system regarding the afterlife and how humans are both mortal and immortal at the same time actually includes several different belief systems. One thing I have accepted as I have become a witch is that as a witch I can not get out of exploring some of these mysteries while alive.
In some ways that is related directly to the etymology in different cultures regarding the terms and practices.lore surrounding witches, It is actually an aspect of being a witch that I have come to be honored to accept and proud to explore and discuss in my own path.
To put it simply I believe that all afterlives exist. I also think that if you believe strongly enough that there is nothing aside from this life then when you die your done. If you entertain in the slightest that there could be something else than something may happen to you. What ever religion or spiritual path you took the most advice in is what will happen to you.
I will discuss this more in my post about death. For now I believe in multiple types and realms in the afterlife. I also believe in reincarnation and that part of who I am now once I am dead will remain in the underworld while another part of me will be reborn.