Connecting with ancestor spirits is nothing new to me. Every piece of land typically has what I refer to as “ancestors” present.
They’re not always actual spirits. Sometimes, it’s just the energy they’ve left behind.
But they are an important part of the spiritual landscape of the land. So I always ask to speak with them and ask what messages they have when connecting with a piece of property.
Most often, it is the indigenous people of the land who identify themselves as ancestors and they show me how they used the land when they were present. I’ll see them fishing or gathering berries or drinking the water. Pictures of their everyday lives.
On occasion, there is trauma on the land they are still connected to.
I have seen children taken from their mothers, people attacked or homes burned and often, the spirits present are still in this state of panic or fear. In those cases, the people currently living on the land usually feel like there’s something unsettling present, but can’t quite put their finger on it.
However, I’ve had something that’s been kind of bugging me for the past few months when it comes to connecting with ancestor spirits.
How can we truly connect with or belong to land that we aren’t (and never will be) indigenous to?
When I think of indigenous culture, I’m thinking about the people who were living on the land before colonization. And depending on your ancestry, that could be only a few generations back and your more immediate ancestors may have passed down their traditions to you.
But probably just barely. It’s truly a miracle that indigenous people and stories have lasted at all, given the herculean efforts around the world to wipe them out generation after generation.
If you are of primarily European descent (like me), you may have to go back 1,000 years to find ancestors who were living in true connection with the land and all of the “other than human” people present – animal people, plant people, stone people, etc. And they would have had some kind of practice for honoring and connecting with ancestor spirits.
But we’re talking pre-Roman empire.
So yeah, that knowledge and those traditions are lost to me.
And it would be inappropriate to use the traditions of the people who are indigenous to the land I live on now to connect with the ancestors here.
They do not belong to me.
The traditions or the ancestors.
But if I try to go back to my own indigenous roots, and attempt to piece together those traditions, it’s quickly evident that they don’t belong in this place either.
Customs would have evolved in partnership with the plants and animals and water and mountains and people that all lived together in a specific place that I am now removed from.
So how do I go about truly connecting with ancestor spirits of a place I am not indigenous to?
I’ve been contemplating this question on and off for some time now, but a few months ago I had an epiphany.
In most places, the land doesn’t remember these things either.
Humans have largely been ignoring the spirits of the land, the ancestors, the trees and plants and animals for generations now.
And unless you live somewhere that the local indigenous culture has continued working with the land and the spirits present in an unbroken line (which I promise, you can feel if that’s the case…) the other side of the veil has not been tended and those spirits have withdrawn.
The bridge has been burned.
They’re not trying to communicate with us.
They’re still there, doing their thing. But they’re ignoring us. Just as we’ve ignored them.
And none of us are the better for it.
This is why we as a culture now view “nature” as something we are separate from. As somewhere we go to, when we feel like it, not something that is a part of us or that we are dependent on.
I realized that if we want to rebuild the bridge, we have to not only reach back into our own indigenous knowledge hidden deep in our cells somewhere, but we have to help the land do the same.
For the most part, we all just have to start over.
Luckily though, we have the support of our ancestors.
I haven’t really understood the connection between this work with the land that I’ve been doing and ancestral healing until recently. They really felt like two separate things to me.
But on the first morning of our desert retreat last month, I woke up very early and was sitting quietly in the rock house, watching the sun come up over the desert plateau when I suddenly realized my grandfather was there too.
My mother’s father, who only passed away in 2013.
There he was, standing at the window, hands in his back pockets, watching the sun rise with me.
At first, I thought it was just a memory and I said to myself…ohhhh, he would have enjoyed this.
But then I realized it wasn’t a memory at all. He really was there. And he stayed with me for the entire trip.
He came to me in our group journey that evening to say that the work that I’m doing will help heal the ancestral line both backwards and forwards and that I am able to do now what so many of my ancestors weren’t able to do in their lives.
Many generations were coming forward to support me.
These two things are definitely related.
And since returning home, my grandfather has shown up as a guide in more than one journey, but I haven’t had many details on what he wanted me to do.
He kept telling me….just keep being yourself.
We see you. We support you.
And then suddenly this week, I connected the dots of connecting with the ancestor spirits.
I was watching a video with Daniel Foor, author of Ancestral Medicine who was explaining how our indigenous ancestors can help “grease the wheels” with the ancestors on the land where we now live.
They can basically put in a good word for you in spirit.
But really, it makes sense. The spirits where we live may or may not know us or what our intentions are.
So when our ancestors show up and vouch for us, the other ancestors now know it’s all good.
So Daniel suggests that we journey to meet an indigenous ancestor in sprit who is whole and healed and then introduce them to the ancestors on the land where we live now.
And although I already know and work with the ancestors on the land where I live, I figured this journey and the subsequent introduction ceremony couldn’t hurt.
And most likely would further deepen our working relationship.
Maybe that’s what my grandpa has been waiting around for lately.
So I sat down earlier this week with the intention of connecting with a healed, indigenous ancestor.
As a side note if you decide to do this as well…keep in mind that we have thousands of ancestors and many are not healed. They have not transitioned and are not connected to source energy.
You don’t want to interact with them. And you certainly don’t want their advice.
So be sure to invoke what I call “a bubble” of protection around yourself and intend that nothing comes inside the bubble that is not connected to source.
When I called forward my indigenous ancestors in spirit, two people stepped forward. A man and a woman wrapped in fur pelts.
They said they were Scandinavian and from my father’s line.
When I asked for their names, they said that they represented the energy of all of my healed ancestors.
I asked about their culture and traditions and they said that all things were sacred.
They acknowledged all life and all other beings. It was a simple life, but rich in meaning and ceremony and mutual respect. They said that there is now a great divide and that humans have been violently torn from all that we are and all that creates a life worth living.
They said that it’s time to begin stitching these torn pieces back together.
I then asked what an appropriate offering would be to the ancestors on the land where I live now and they suggested yarrow leaves.
Oh good….I can do that.
Thank god they didn’t ask me to sacrifice a rabbit or something.
Which by the way, there are many ways to honor that request without actually sacrificing a rabbit. I would have just had to be more creative.
I made a note of their request and decided I would do the ceremony later in the week.
Two days passed and I was sitting at my computer working and suddenly, the ancestors showed up.
They were antsy.
They wanted me to do the ceremony now.
Uhh, yeah. Okay, hold on. Let me eat some lunch and then I’ll do it.
They literally stood around tapping their toes while I made and ate my salad. But it occurred to me while they were waiting that I still hadn’t buried the gemstones at each portal.
The spirits have been pestering me for weeks to do that. They were still each sitting in a mason jar at each portal, since I couldn’t bury them when the ground was frozen. So I decided that I would also do that while I was outside.
So I got a bag to collect the jars, put my bear spray in my pocket (’tis the season) and headed out.
As I walked from portal to portal, I realized there was a patch of yarrow at each spot.
The ancestors are clever like that.
And it’s not like yarrow is uncommon here. It’s a native plant and pops up everywhere – even in our driveway. But it’s not everywhere on the property. It needs the right growing conditions, which apparently are found at each portal. Funny, huh?
So I collected (with permission) a few feathery leaves of yarrow from each portal location as I buried the stones until I ended up at the big yellow portal where I was asked to do the ceremony to introduce the ancestors.
The entire time I was working, my ancestors were with me.
They repeated over and over…you know how to do this…you’ve done this before.
I intuitively laid the yarrow out on top of a small stump that I have used for offerings and ceremonies in that location in the past. Then, I called all healed ancestors who wanted to participate into the portal.
It was suddenly packed full of ancestor spirits.
I introduced myself and my ancestors and gave the offering to those willing to accept it. I apologized for all that had happened to the indigenous people around the world. For the pain and suffering that still continues today in all of our ancestral lines.
And I was suddenly hit with a wave of emotion and felt all of their sadness, but also all of their joy.
That these traditions are able to be lifted from the earth once again.
That we can begin new relationships with each other.
That we can all start to remember what we once knew.
When I returned to the house, I looked up “yarrow in Scandinavia” and as it turns out, it’s a native plant there as well.
And its primary function is to heal wounds.
What an appropriate offering suggested by my ancestors to greet the ancestors here.
So as I move forward with this work, connecting with ancestor spirits, I hope the yarrow helps begin to heal these wounds they’ve asked me to stitch back together.
The wounds in my own ancestry. And the wounds present on the land where I now live.
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