“I’m a Lakota woman. I’m so grateful for that. Not a lot of people around the world can say that. And we are still here, surviving. They were trying to take us out hundreds of years ago. They were trying to take us out a hundred years ago. And everything my ancestors have gone through just to be here today. Yeah, I’m going to stand up because enough is enough. And that’s how I felt during that first relay run. No matter how scared I was, how embarrassed I got, people didn’t understand what I was doing and didn’t support me, I’m going to stand up for my ancestors, for what they did so I could be here, so that we can all be here”. Bobby Jean Three Legs, describing her long distance run to draw attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The ancestors show up in a powerful way through our habits and the gifts that we have inherited from them. Much has been written about the painful wounds that are often passed down across generations. But the ancestral helping spirits can also empower us to go beyond what we think we can accomplish because they give us a sense of rootedness and belonging. They can inspire us to protect what is important and reach for a new vision.
That sense of belonging is grounded in the natural world as well. If you are lucky enough to live on the land your ancestors have walked upon, you may experience this connection frequently. Indigenous people often say they live on lands given to them by their Creator. And many indigenous people feel guided or inspired by their ancestors as well. The combination of these two spiritual energies, land and ancestors, can be very powerful as the quote above demonstrates.
Very few of us are indigenous to the lands we inhabit. A lot of ancestral wisdom and ancestor reverence has been lost. Yet we can begin to reconnect to both. The three day holiday of Samhain through Dia de Los Muertos offers a unique opportunity to enhance this connection. In the northern hemisphere, the growing season is either winding down or shifting to winter plants. Lately, I have enjoyed these practices that help me connect to both energies.
Grounding and journeying
In many energy systems, the chakra below the feet and auric field near the skin are connected to your ancestors and home village. I like doing yoga poses or first chakra exercises to stabilize my connection to this chakra and my body. Afterwards, I might use a trance posture to journey to one of my ancestral helping spirits. The shamanic lightbody meditation also helps me to do this.
Outdoor Ancestral “Shrines”
Like many people who honor their ancestors, I have an indoor altar. But the following practice really brought a much deeper experience into my life. On my daily walks, I offer small offerings to places that my ancestral helping spirits feel close to. This has helped me realize how stressed out I can be as I think about my plans for the day. I find that the ancestral helping spirits are easier to hear after I leave my offerings and send them blessings on my walk. I am able to feel their energy lifting me up throughout my day. This can be fleeting but is also very empowering. I’m lucky to be able to go on these walks with my sister or partner.
Two nature energies are specifically connected to my ancestors as a group. The first is water. My ancestors in Europe left beautifully made objects as offerings in bodies of water. When I thank the water I pass by on my daily walks and leave offerings, I connect to an ancestral tradition. The second are pine trees. Pines have been important to my ancestors, showing up on a coat of arms and even on the front lawns of my relatives. One of my ancestral helping spirits feels more clear when I leave offerings at a pine tree. The pines I see throughout the day remind me of this.
I am finding this to be a safe way to begin healing “ghost energy” and family beliefs that I no longer want to hold on to. When I first began to “meet” my ancestral helping spirits, I could really tell this difference between their energies and the unresolved issues carried by my ancestors. I wanted a way to send blessings to my unhealed ancestors while reinforcing my connection to the healed ones. I wanted to live in a way that was closer to the healed ancestors’ values.
Fortunately, I was able to ask Jaguar Wisdom (Kenneth Johnson) for his advice. Offerings are often burned on a day in the Mayan calendar that is sacred to the ancestors: Ahau. It is a day that helps people to have courage as well. Some Mayan groups, like the Mam Maya, use candles as offerings on their altars. I burn candles or other offerings completely after my time praying and communing with them. Kenneth told me:
“Actually, Ahau is the favored day for communication with the ancestors. The Maya do have “problems” associated with ancestors, mostly in the form of being out of harmony with “awas,” the code that binds a community or society together. They leave offerings of various kinds for ancestors. I always knew without looking when it was an Ahau day, because you could always see plumes of smoke rising from the cemetery, where people had made a sacred fire at the grave of an ancestor and done offerings.”
Why do this?
I do these things because they help me live in a more courageous way, while feeling connected to deep roots. These practices also help me to speak up when I feel the earth or other people are feeling violated – without feeling disempowered or too frustrated. I feel that my connection to the place I live in is gradually healing. It is a slow process because I was not raised to live this way. But it is happening over time.
Samhain is a time where the veils are thinner and it is a little easier to commune with the ancestors. I hope you feel empowered by your connection to the land and your ancestors.