Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Calling The Ancestors

           Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don't want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.    
                                                    -- Miller Williams, Poet

Santa Fe On My Mind by Charlie Spear
           When we moved to Santa Fe twenty years ago we discovered what every newly arrived traveler to Northern New Mexico experiences. A transformative psychic shift occurs sooner or later if you are open and if you stay long enough. And exploration of exterior landscape gives way to investigations of the interior scenery of the soul. As the palpable influence of the ancient multicultural influences took hold, I participated in unfamiliar cultural ceremonies and rituals including a shamanic dream group based on Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s belief that we become enlightened not by imagining the light, but by making the darkness conscious in that mysterious world of shadows and fog where questions and answers live in codes or images. I realized we each carry a specific set of personality aspects, ancestral lineage inheritance and genetically encoded behaviors that shape and color our waking as well as dreaming life.I woke up to heretofore undreamt of possibilities for transformation.

The Ancestral Fire Ceremony
             By exploring dreams and imagery, my own shadowy places became light in a friendly way that introduced me to my very much alive ancestral lineage.  I found a weighty, soul searching German engineer that forever asked “Why?” and I  met a wacky, out of the box, wildly creative spirit, an Irish elf who unfailingly answered “Why not?”  I recognized a deep and foreboding presence given to craven wanderings in the liminal times and places: My inner gypsy. She had a gift for resolving incongruities by shape shifting, so handy for survival purposes over the years. All told, there were quite a fascinating bunch of souls floating around in there. Still, I wondered, where had they come from? My lineage, my ancestors? There seemed to be a need to honor and give voice to these newly discovered connections and so I did one cold and snowy New Year's Eve at a friend's house in Santa Fe when I took part in a remarkable ceremony of healing.We gathered together around a fire with the honorable and respectful intention of furthering the liberation of everyone's soul, ours and the ancestors, by acknowledging our personal ancestral lineage.


       Some of my old, dead relationships had been less than happy, others completely unknown (I had no real knowledge of the person), while others were joyful and inspiring memories. The intention was a creative and strengthening process to nudge us into conscious awareness of how to hold a space for our own well being.  The completion of the ceremony promised to prove that connecting past with present is quite possibly the most powerful element there is to achieve integration in body, mind, spirit. 

Ceremonio by  Jose Luis Gonzalez-Nayarit
         An ancient breathing practice was first. Five minutes of in through the nose, out through the mouth, inhalation and exhalation connected with no control of exhaling, just a long sigh. Then we began the calling forth of the ancestors. I wrote the name of each ancestor I felt was important to the woman and person I had become and drew sketches by their names, visualizing them standing before me, looking into my eyes. I recalled  from memory what they looked like (although some people had brought along photographs as well). I wrote down a few of my experiences with them as well as stories I'd heard about them, funny and endearing or otherwise. I imagined them receptive to what I had to tell them. Once we had established our connection, I initiated an energy clearing with a sage stick for smudging (cleansing the proximity for negative energy). Then I addressed them directly: “What I want you to know is this....” I told them what I felt about them and wrote as quickly as I could, gratitude for gifts or positive genetic tendencies as well as forgiveness for lingering hurt or pain. I spoke calmly and honestly about my own part in the co-creation of our relationship  As this went on, I felt a kind of healing  taking place, a sense that this acknowledgement might well mitigate a potential devastation many years into the future, an event or an illness or a loss that would have been a result of holding on to something that should have been released and buried long ago.

         We concluded the ceremony by symbolically serving each ancestor his or her favorite food or drink, something I either knew for sure or just imagined they would enjoy. I visualized them taking the offering, consuming it and smiling. I drew pictures of the food, smiley faces and  interesting abstract patterns I felt they would understand and embrace on a symbolic level. Then I looked directly into their eyes and asked each of them to bestow a blessing. I wrote down these blessings...a wish for my success in life, an anointing as I found my path, release from further obligation, guilt, or grief associated with them, and encouragement to pursue
my own present passion and purpose. It may sound mundane, but in a ceremonial setting like this, such things take on great import. I can tell you that as the ceremony concluded I felt connected, not alone, shut out or removed from the good tidings emanating from even the most shadowy of  half-remembered ancestors, those long forgotten pieces of my own self.

           As the fire grew dim, casting long shadows, it didn't seem strange that people appeared to take on a glow from inside as they left to return home. Outside I thought I could dimly make out the ancestors walking away slowly, homeward bound as well. I whispered a little farewell to each of them, pulling my scarf and coat closer as I embraced the starry night. Clean, fresh blankets of pure white snow spread out across the ground announced a new day was at hand. I knew I'd share this experience with other seekers someday.

Gogo and The Ancestors by Marietjie Henning