Early morn before anything needed done I rose and left my home.
State route, county road, gravel, then leaf deep path.
Thirty three miles further into the mountains than I already live.
Past rivers strewn with the marbles of giants.
Mossed birch stands as mist's sentinels.
Path narrows, washed out becoming streams under reaching waterfall fingers.
Impromptu despacho of the found,
Earth gives to be honored.
Square within circle,
Singing is heard, "My name is Kporoye."
Praise to the ancestors.
Respect to the lands.
Reverence to the sweet waters.
I pray for determination.
I can only read so much of Malidoma P Some's writing at one time. I find a line or concept that niggles at my brain and I have to set the book down and move, do something, let the activity and my thoughts help percolate what I read.
Earlier today I started reading Of Water and the Spirit. I've had the book for ages, just hadn't gotten around to reading it. Within pages I found a line, a question really, that got to me.
The question is simple, "Why is it that the modern world can't deal with its ancestors and endure its past?" What a blazing query. This touches on more than just the glaring spiritual vacancy Turtle Island endures as its denizens turn their collective backs on their own indigeny and ancestral heritage. This is more than just forgetting or avoiding our ancestors and our ancient rites of veneration.
This is about the West's habit of revisionist history. Not only as a political nation but as individuals. We carry some kind of dysfunctional shame and rather than looking this monster in the face we ignore it, stuffing it under the pillow and allowing the bad dreams and guilt to rise. We choose to pretend each day is a bright new day but that just doesn't work. Each day is built upon the foundation created by the last and so we continue on, ignoring the voices of our heritage, turning our backs on the mistakes of the past, and desperately try to balance on the shifting sands of hypocrisy.
I have no answers here. This is an individual issue. Each of us has an imperative to face our own past, face our own ancestry. We can't ever fully reclaim our indigeny, the world is different now. But as whole individuals and then as sound communities we can initiate healing.
Why do so many people go into working with the dead, even to the point of making businesses out of helping them pass over, yet have no strong habit of ancestor veneration themselves? How can they claim to respect someone else's dead when they don't respect their own?
This just continually boggles me. Just honoring one's dead on Samhain isn't enough. When it comes down to it, that's virtually an insult. 'Here Grandpa, I'll give you this day. But the rest of the year I'm going to focus on spooks and shades and unrested dead of everyone else 'cause hey, I did my feel good moment with you already.' It's like one's own ancestors aren't sexy or interesting or exciting enough.
Yeah, and we wonder why our American culture lacks any depth and has a horrific sense of loss regarding our roots.
*Pic of Camilla Jane Smith (infant), daughter of Alexander Smith and Mary Jane Martin. Camilla (1861-1936), my great great grandmother in my mother's mothers line.
Your ancestors are like the house around you.
Imagine not having a home, that is life without your ancestors.
If you haven't yet, build your house.
I am feeling the need to apologize to my four readers. I haven’t been writing as much lately and, at this time, don’t think I will be anytime soon. I understand there are those who enjoy my blog and other similar sites- the writings give them a sense of connection to deity and others, the writings help them evaluate their own experiences so they may judge their own and have a better understanding, the writings let them experience the views and realities of others. But at this moment my work being the spring board for another’s experience just creates an acid taste in my mouth and my reply to this is, ‘Stop reading the damn blogs! Get out there on your own knees and pray to your own Gods, pound the rocks to your own ancestors, pour the cream and whiskey to your own land vaetter and have your own experiences; stop living vicariously through mine!’
But that’s just the grump in me talking here. I’ve been biting my tongue harder and harder lately, I’m told patience is needed, people open at their own rates, yet at the same time I think ‘but sometimes we all just need a kick in the ass’ as I ice my own bruised bum.
I do feel kicked though I actually haven’t been. I’m in an odd space right now hence my declaration of closed shop for a time. You see, I was given some boots a few weeks ago and told, ‘You can wear them when you are ready to walk in them.’ Problem here is I’m not sure where I’m to walk, I’m not even sure I know what ‘to walk’ means. So I have the boots tucked away waiting for when I decide, like an infant, to grab onto the couch and rise up and take a few tentative steps. That’s called walking, isn’t it?
I don’t really see a couch to grab onto though. Loki and Heimdallr, my usual go tos, are distant right now. They often play bad cop good cop and right now Loki is the harsher. At this point, other than the rare nudge lasting only a second, I can only tap into either in front of the altars. Loki, hackles up standing straight and demanding more ritual so there I am on my knees being firmly told, ‘Why is it that anytime I ask you to do what you don’t want you decide you didn’t hear me right? You’ve heard me. You know what you are to do. No go on.’ I won’t say I don’t do that, I won’t say I don’t deserve the chiding.
Then there is Heimdallr, He’s good cop right now but still distant. ‘It will be fine. You just need to focus on these other things for a while. Now go on, you know what you need to do.’ At least His lines are with a smile. So I go on and try to focus on my other things for now feeling out of sorts and off kilter.
For now I’m to focus on my ancestors and a new guide. I won’t say I’m not learning nor that there amazing wonders and joys- it’s just all a bit sideways right now. Either everything is swirling into a confused mess in my mind or its all crystal clear and just hard to accept. I’m not sure which and what’s truly pathetic here is I’m not sure which I want the truth to be. So until I decide or know I’ll just go with this seemingly random flow of synchronicity… but isn’t synchronicity just a nice way of saying, ‘You’ve been set up?’ Probably. I was grumping about being set up to Loki last week (hence His chiding) and then found that very line in a book the other night. Synchronicity again.
Yeah- right- let’s just call it what it is.
During all this I read about Z Budhapest and her latest adventures and am forced to giggle. I find her ideas so infuriating that it becomes funny. I note that one of her students lives near me and is co-holding an open Beltane ritual. I think to myself I could go, may be interesting to hear her views; she proudly announces on her web profile she is a student of Z’s which in this day is a sheer invitation for commentary. We’ll see, it isn’t a priority for me, I don’t define my womanhood on the fact that I take the intermittent ride on the cotton pony* nor do I wish to get into any verbal bouts over the concept.
But anyway, so until things are clearer I feel the need to strip some burdens. I touched base last night with Hela, the Northern Death Goddess. Not a bad thing to do when dealing with ancestral lines. She was kind in Her cool way but did grumble a bit about my having too many obligations. “It’s unreasonable to expect you to do all of this,” She commented almost to Herself. So for now I’ll not worry about this blog. I’ll write when the time comes whether it be tomorrow or three months from now. At this moment I don’t care if I ever write again but I’m sure I will.
I’ll wake up some morning with that soft, strangling pressure inside my skull knowing there is something that needs pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. At that time I won’t be able to ease that anxiety till the words have been formed and sent into the world. That pressure is like the need to take a piss with no bathroom, or the feeling one gets during those slow, languid, afternoon lovemaking sessions when for some reason you just can’t orgasm but you know you can’t stop till you do. Finally I’ll have my creative rush and write, I have a ton of ideas, but till the time comes they will sit in their little cocoons and just have to wait.
So until then I’m slipping into a routine of multiple meditations a day, reading, and looking at Wyrd through various lenses. I’ll honor my Gods, ancestors, and land wights, and think on the passage of life. I’ll dance, laugh with my children, and drum to the dawn.
Maybe that’s what we all should be doing.
I stood on the plain before the ancient Disir. She’s from so long ago in the past she has nut brown lined skin and stands before me in a coarse weave of blanketed wrap, her head covered as befits her status. She is elevated, near deity herself, other ancient disirs extend her the highest of honors.
As she steadily looks within me, a tendon strong man of worn face approaches wearing but a shaggy loin cloth. His skin is also nut brown and he has peppered hair and beard. He holds a wooden bowl and without looking she reaches out and it is placed in her hand.
She holds the bowl before her. It is full of crisp dried, brown leaves. She takes a few and with the slightest of nods from her I extend my arm and she places them on my hand. She then swirls the other leaves in the bowl and all of them, including the ones in my hand, turn to birds. They rise up in swirling flight with a wild grace and beauty that only nature and magic provides.
As they disappear into the sky she looks at me and says, ‘It is time for you to fly.’
* See the I'm a Woman! post
This isn’t an educational post per se. I’m no expert on ancestor work and have actually had to be pushed at them. I’ve heard people bemoan adoption issues in regards to ancestor work so I wanted to share my experiences, a case study if you will, to encourage people to go ahead and do the best they can even if the circumstances seem insurmountable.
I’ll openly admit I’ve not been the most successful at consistent ancestor veneration. I have a hard time remembering to make the time. I have a ton of other life demands so haven’t read any books on ancestor veneration, the whole topic sadly ends up at the bottom of my priority pile again and again. But even so, and I hope my case bears out, ancestor work can still happen. Good things can be accomplished with a little effort. Don’t be disheartened, you just need to be open and try, hence the picture on success. This case study mentions a few techniques that may or may not work for you, what is important is the effort.
See, I have an adopted child. There is no hiding his adoption as he is as African as one can look while I and my other son are pasty white between our European ancestry and home in the land of little sun, the Pacific Northwest. I proudly claim him as my son, he as mine as surely as is my biological child. I’ll call him Hope here, that’s what his name means in his native tongue.
This brings its own issues when one deals with faith from the angle of heritage and spirit work. I’ve never been one to hold firm that one’s bloodlines or genetics will determine what Gods are interested in them. There are too many people of mixed races; too many people called to Gods from outside of their cultural heritage that just don’t makes sense within that paradigm. Yet, I found a stumbling block to my little Hope. My Nordic Gods don’t really pay him much heed. Some have an interest in my biological son, but sweet Hope doesn’t seem to elicit more interest than a shrug and a passing glance. I felt a vacancy with him, a hole that I desperately wanted to fill.
But life moves on. Hope came from somewhere in the Horn of Africa, found in a refugee town called Nazret AKA Adama in Ethiopia. He was threeish and had already had a rough life. So now he is eight and claims no memories of his past life. He is a happy go lucky kiddo with no thoughts or worries as to his next meal, where he will sleep, or if he or his family will be around the next day. Certainly he isn’t worried about spirituality in any form, he’s still enjoying having his basic needs, both material and emotional, met so I’ve had time to just sit back and think on what to do.
I had heard of something called bloodwalking. It triggered some thoughts in me and I spontaneously one night tried something. [NOTE- I did NOT bloodwalk here, that is not what is being described, the term just gave me an idea for something else] I spun Jera backwords and then viewed Hope in my mind – he was sleeping. I could see him in bed, watch his breathing. I zoomed in closer, to his skin, inside into his blood vessels. I found his blood, rode with the blood cells through his arteries. Then, when close enough, I spun Jera faster and it was as though I boomerang’d back.
I encountered grey, fuzzy, pain of such magnitude I kept going. Further back, I was able to see his great grandmother but felt the need to continue. I suddenly met a woman as though a brick wall. She was blazing anger, righteous disgust. She had every right, you see I’ve had problems in the past bonding with Hope. It happens with adoptive families at times, it is something one needs to work through and I have been and continue to do so. But she focused on this with an intensity that floored me.
She spit at me, cursed at me, raged at me. I tried to reason, I accepted her anger and hate to no avail. This woman reviled me. I stuck it out, I was determined. Then another came forward, she seemed to be ancient. She looked much healthier and was ornamented in beautiful jewelry. She was taller, had clearly had a better life materially than the ancestors closer in to Hope’s current life. She waved the other away telling her ‘that’s enough.’ She spoke with me, she was fair but firm. She would support me with Hope but I had things of my own to do. He needs to learn of his own heritage. This confused me a bit as no one really knows Hope’s heritage. Ethiopia has over 80 recognized languages and many more dying out as genocide and starvation continues in parts of the land and that’s only if Hope even came from Ethiopia. He likely could be Eritrean, the whole area is full of refugees. She urged me to start by finding a Goddess who “could be known as The Great Sky Goddess.” She said beginning there “would be a start.”
So I left with at least a tip. For me anyway, I’ve found I often don’t get full detailed answers. It’s probably my learning style. To find the answers to my tips I end up casting a broader information net which has always ultimately been useful and provided a broader foundational base of knowledge.
I did some searching, asked around, checked archeology, etc. I found something that seemed almost too obvious. I moved on, continuing my search. During this time though I continued to find myself thinking back to the pain I had felt in those first generations of Hope’s. Heathens don’t seem to be as heavy into working with troubled dead or healing ancestral lines, at least not openly, but I strongly felt I needed to go back. If anything I had to let them know Hope was safe, was loved.
So I did. I had finished meditating on Perthro one day and spontaneously reached out. Directly from my journal with only my son’s name being changed:
Then went back and was able to get in touch with Hope’s mom!! She was initially shocked and outraged that someone else was raising her boy. She had so much grief. I promised he would be cared for, I showed her what he looked like and that he knew love. I told her she would always be his mother but he was my child also. She was worried about him, she imaged me a bowl of rice (the refugee food really made me think she is his mother, not much further back). I said yes, he has all the food he wants. She seemed a bit relieved, still with grief but better. She reached out and we held hands briefly. She was so emaciated- it was hard and I cried.
My journal entry doesn’t really detail the emotion in any way. Such pain, such bewilderment. Such fear in her eyes for her son. I knew there was far more work to do in this.
After a few weeks I went to an ancestor circle. If you ever have the opportunity to go to one I fully suggest going. The one I’ve gone to is simple really, someone drums and people seek out their ancestors. We take a break, talk about the experiences should we choose to, and do it again. A good group is a safe, conducive environment to this work.
So I went knowing I would be focusing on Hope’s ancestors. I initially went to an ancient ancestress of mine to thank her for some help she has given previously. I also asked for her support in working with Hope’s line. She smiled, basically said I was doing fine but then did introduce me to a man who I believe to be four generations back. He showed me a village, told me many there had encountered starvation. He gave me images of Hope’s father and how he died- violently with a bag over his head. The word I got was that he was a wastrel, a good for nothing. But the ancestor then looked at me sadly and said, ‘It was a time when many were lost.’ We then had a break but I’ll remember that line and image for a long time.
When the break was over I went back to Hope’s mother. When I got to her there was anger again, she aggressively confronted me, I actually thought she was going to hit me. I had brought a mixed bean assortment as an offering, she took it and calmed a bit. I reinforced to her that Hope was and always would be her child, but he was mine also. I reinforced he had food, clothes, and love. I told her he went to school and that stopped her seething rage. She looked at me, ‘School? He learns?’
I ended up sitting with her on the dirt, squatting in front of a jimmy rigged cooking element with a pan of rice from which she was eating. I shared with her pictures of her son, him laughing, eating at the table, doing homework. I showed her the ancestor altar we have with a picture of an African woman to represent not only his ancestors (her) but mine from ancient times. She saw images of my other son and asked who he was, I told her and showed her how they love each other, how they play and argue as any siblings do. I’ll never forget the wonder on her face, the sense of relief I am slowly gaining from her, the kinship we are beginning to tentatively share in our love for this boy.
The group took another break, it was good as I could tell my time with her was done. I was truly not sure I was ready for another session but the rest of the group wanted to so I went. Well, not quite. I actually just decided to meditate, I’d made enormous headway and am often one to count good as good. But I found myself in an odd surrounding facing a large statue of an animal like woman. I was surprised and as I looked up I noticed sitting on one of the statues raised arms a woman staring at me. She was beautiful but almost in an animist way. She wasn’t animal, but wasn’t human either. She looked at me aggressively and jumped down from the statue with movements as feral as a cat.
Striding forward rapidly she stared me in the eyes and demanded, ‘What right do you have to the child?’ I stopped a moment, she was imposing and I realized that to her I may have no right but I answered, ‘I feed him, cloth him, and love him. That is my right.’ She stared at me intently, almost scowling. I’m looking at her realizing this was deity, this was a make or break moment. She softened and I realized that though I didn’t see them, I sensed wings or cloak or air or sky. Something about her. She glinted a bit, one could see sparkles or subtle twinkles about her.
She then asked if I wanted to know of the Sky and I nodded and she took me to her breast and I felt the sky in a way I’m not yet able to describe. It was grand and broad and swirling and encircling and comforting and awe-invoking and I finally stepped away from this Mother, from Nuit, and She looked at me and said, ‘I will take your son in my nurturing embrace.’ She asked me of how I would teach him of Her, I told Her and She was satisfied.
Then She instructed me to teach him a water ritual which I will share with you, reader. Outside is best but inside is fine. You take a bit of water in your hands, only a drop is needed. Raise it high in an arc being thankful to the sky for this bounty. As you drop a bit on your head you recognize the cycle of water, nourishing the earth and its inhabitants and then being taken back up into the Sky’s embrace only to begin this cycle again. I’ve realized that this has enormous symbolism and meaning. There is a beautiful way to this that only takes a moment of thought to embark upon.
I feel better about my son Hope. I didn’t even realize how much better till the next day when I was struck in emotion and gratitude for what had happened. His ancestors know he is alive, well, and loved. There is more work to do with them, far more, but they will be there for him, they will understand his life should he ever desire to reach out to them. Hope also now has a Goddess he can turn to should he choose. Nuit will look over him and pour nourishment into his heart and his soul if I do my job and guide him appropriately into knowing Her. I can’t rest on my laurels now, there is still much to do, but I’ll keep trying.
What’s important about this story is to realize that in adoptive issues there can be pain. There can be confusion and anger that needs to be addressed with a firm delicacy. It isn’t easy- there will be tears. But it can be done. When one adopts or is adopted, there is a joining of ancestral lines, whether willing or reluctant. This has to be recognized and acknowledged.
I want to thank Laura P for answering a few questions for me as I sought out The Great Sky Goddess and her referral to the final person I wish to thank. In gratitude I will briefly mention Laura’s book: Weaving Memory: A Guide to Honoring the Ancestors and it can be found here: Lulu
Most of all I want to thank Queenmother Imakhu Mu Nefer-t. She was willing to spend her valuable time with a perfect stranger and gave me wonderful support, encouragement, and advice. Her sites are here: Queen Mother Imakhu
or here: Akeru Nu Afrakan Ministries