Week twelve is looking at one of the Kindreds, the Ancestors or the Might Dead. At the end of the DP we will have written about our understanding of the Three Kindreds, so it is good that we are able to explore and learn about them slowly over the twelve months (or longer) that we take to do the Dedicant Path.
So for this week we are as always reading sections of Our Own Druidry and are given some optional readings, the ones I’m doing are – Ancestors Invocations by Jennifer Ellison, A Beginners Guide to Geneological Research: Or How I Connected to My Ancestors by Meghan E. M, and Ancestors for Those Without Ancestors by Renee Rhodes.
So the first of these is literally a sample invocation that you can use when working with or invoking the ancestors, certainly I would be having a printout of this invocation on hand as a script if I were to use it because it is too long to memorise. It is actually a fairly simple invocation and feels respectfully worded.
The second aritcle discusses using geneology as a form of honoring the ancestors, by understanding where they came from, and what they did, no matter how grand or humble you begin to understand their journey and forge a bond with them. You have names and stories of your ancestors that form a personal bond between you and them. For those inclined it can be a rewarding journey to creating a stronger bond with your ancestors.
The third of the articles discusses the problem that some people face when dealing with the Three Kindreds, that they don’t know anything about their ancestry or for those like me whose family is a source of trauma. Honoring the ancestors can be hard in situations like this, the author raises some interesting points, some of which go with my own thoughts I had been cultivating on the matter.
Ancestors do not have to be blood relations, they can be historical figures, the dispossesed, the forgotten or others. You do not have to suffer quietly when dealing with ritual work and personal practice, if it makes you uncomfortable or upset to work with your own ancestors there are options.
I went to a Samhain ritual last year where I experienced a similar distress to that the author underwent. I realised that I had foolishly gone to a ritual that was focussed on the ancestors. We were expected to write names on ribbons that were to be woven into a large chain of ribbons and hung from the High Priestesses ‘ancestor tree’ later. Apart from my twin sister there was no-one I wanted to think about during the ritual. Everyone else had many many names written out and here I stood with one, I considered writing names of other family members on there but felt a heavy hostile energy settle around me at the prospect. I ended up realising that we were standing in a park that had a monument to the native Aboriginals of the area and that it would surely be acceptable to pay respects to their dead, so I did.
For weeks afterwards I fretted about the experience, internalising my discomfort about it before finally discarding it as a bad experience. Then I met someone at a pagan gathering who said that they often paid respects to the dead of the original owners of this land and that as long as you went about it right there was nothing wrong with it, it was a matter of being respectful without culturally appropriating something that isn’t yours.
I think ultimately what the article tells us is that we need to be comfortable in ritual and since every ritual honors the three kindreds, even if they don’t all focus strongly on the ancestors, you will always be working with them. So you need to find what works for you.
Finally we come to the homework for this week, how we can honor the dead, the ancestors.
We are encouraged to think of stories we like to tell of the dead, of things that our family might like to do to remember the dead and whether we think our ancestors watch over us. How do we think they might like to be remembered? Honored?
I have a candle holder that I keep, that I burn a candle in when honoring the ancestors for special occassions and I try to put something symbolic out for particular people, some people get a photo, others get a valued treasure I have from them. As it presently stands most of the people I honor are not blood relations but I still feel they deserve remembering. At some point I am going to start a cairne under one of the trees on my property where I can make offerings, lay flowers and other things for special occassions and sit and reminisce about them. I plan to hang chimes from the tree and maybe some solar lights and colourful pennants. The chimes are so that when the wind blows it sings to them if they are nearby, the colourful pennants are because we celebrate them and the cairne is because it will be a great place to leave offerings and mementos.