The ones who came before
When the wheel is turning towards Samhain I feel the veils between the worlds are getting thinner. Ancestors are always present and I honour them all year through, but their special time is coming… Samhain is one of my favourite pagan holidays, a major sabbat. The Halloween part with spooky features, pumpkins and the whole shebang are nice and enjoyable, but the other part is much more important to me.
There are different groups I incorporate in honouring the ancestors. Of course there’s my own bloodline, but I also see it in a broader sense: the ones who came before. People that have been (and still are) important to me as teachers, role models, etc. People that had their part in making me who I am today. But also the peoples that lived in The Netherlands in earlier times. People that played a role in the history of paganism and witchcraft. And so on.
So what do I do with and for the ancestors? I honour them in almost every ritual. Varying from simply inviting and thanking them at the start and the end to special rituals for them and with them. I regularly visit my foremothers and forefathers in meditations and shamanic journeys. Sometimes to simply sit with them around a fire, sometimes to seek advice in matters that occupy my mind.
I put effort in getting to know them as far as possible. I read a lot about history and specific people. I want to be well prepared, so I can ask the right people the right questions. For example, you don’t ask Gandhi advice about war strategy or a medieval ancestor about technology… although it isn’t always that obvious.
To get to know my family ancestors I use genealogy as a tool. I love to explore and unravel my bloodlines. In genealogy it’s more common to follow the paternal lines, but to me both paternal and maternal lines are interesting so I try to do both. Maternal lines are a bit more difficult because the family name changes every step. Nowadays you don’t have to visit archives if you can’t: a lot is available online. I use software that automatically searches for matches between your family tree and those of others. I asked family members for pictures. Some branches of my pedigree were already researched and documented, so I could simply enter them into my software. I research both my and my husband’s family tree. You can go as far and be as thorough with it as you want. I try to find pictures and info about the people in my tree(s) to bring them alive in my mind.
wedding pictures of my maternal grandmother, my mother & me
How do I use this information on my pagan path? The investigation into the ancestors is a ritual act in itself, but here are some practical examples. In an ancestral ritual I read the names out loud to give them credit, to give them a voice, literally. In another ritual I introduced myself (out loud again) to my foremothers: “I am Cora van Leeuwen-van der Heijden, daughter of Annie Jacoba van der Heijden-Slotemaker, daughter of Johanna Catharina Gerharda Slotemaker-van Otterloo, daughter of Catharina van Otterloo-Lubberhuizen….” and so on until the eldest foremother I have found. That made me feel connected with them, it felt very powerful.
Of course there are many ways to honour your ancestors, just find something that feels good for you. I also made a photo album on Facebook called ‘Memory Lane’ in which I remember the people in my family line. When I have found the right place for it I want to make an ancestral altar with pictures of both family and other ancestors. Or maybe a picture wall with framed pics, or a combination of altar and wall. Until then I have some pictures on my mantelpiece, where I regularly light a candle for them.
I’ve also seen people with ancestral houses: a miniature house (or yurt, or cottage, or shack, or castle…) for the ancestors to have a home in this realm too. You can keep it very simple or put a lot of effort in detail, whatever you and your ancestors want. You can ask them in a meditation or journey what they would like, or you can make them something comparable to what they really lived in.
So, how do you honour your ancestors, in general and around this time?
I would love to hear your opinion and ideas.
Blessings to you and your ancestors of old!
· https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.491038687271.268937.677652271&type=1&l=79015cf126 (my album ‘Memory Lane’)
· http://www.myheritage.nl/site-family-tree-139153921/van-leeuwen-van-der-heijden (my family tree, click top-right to change the language)
· www.myheritage.com/family-tree-builder (the genealogy software I use)
· http://veemerica.blogspot.nl/ ( a friend’s blog in English & Dutch about the home she’s making for her ancestors: La Maison des Ancêtres)
· http://tinkerbell-nl.blogspot.nl/search?q=ancestors (my blogs about ancestors)