The simplest, most powerful and meaningful way to find ourselves is to find our ancestors. It is extremely healing to understand more about who we are, where we come from and what our ancestors have gone through.
We all carry inside us, all the ancestors who came before us. We live their dreams and prayers, their hopes and aspirations. Our connection with our lineage is one of the most important sources of wisdom and guidance in our lives. The ancestors are powerful allies in healing on a personal, familial and cultural level.
On a personal level, forgiveness is the most common component of family healing, and it opens doors to harmonizing relationships with our loved ones beyond time or space.
On a familial level, when we engage in ancestor work, we have the opportunity to address intergenerational trauma. Just by remembering, accessing and bringing attention to the stories of the ones who came before us, the energy starts moving and healing takes place. Our ancestors feel heard and seen and limiting patterns that we might have been repeating are recognized and they start dissolving.
On a cultural level, the ancestors can help us transform collective pain and historical trauma related to race, gender, religion, war. Recent studies in epigenetics show us that in a very real way the pain of our ancestors can endure through generations.
There are several ways to honor the ones who have passed. Reverence, remembrance and ritual are the key ingredients of starting our ancestral healing journey. Here are a few things that you can do by yourself:
- Tracking limiting patterns in your family, reviewing ancestor stories and comparing them to your life story
- Becoming aware of blessings and ways in which you might be continuing one of your ancestors’ unfinished stories (by living their dreams and accomplishing what they couldn’t but deeply wished for - pursuing careers/ interests that they dreamed of, travelling the world, etc)
- Writing letters to your ancestors, expressing fully what you feel, forgiving them, releasing them
- Offerings and altars
The altar ritual shared here is a great starting point in creating a relationship with your ancestors:
An altar represents a sacred space in your home where you can strengthen your spirituality. Decorated with intentional items that are meaningful to you, your altar should be visited in prayer, meditation, when seeking support.
An ancestral altar can be used for healing generational wounds, deepening your relationship to well ancestors and your family lineage, and/or creating a consistent spiritual practice. Before making an ancestral altar, spend a few minutes considering any intentions you have for this practice.
As you consider which items to decorate your altar with, think of the ancestors that you would like to honor with this space. Make a list with their names.
You can choose a stone to represent the masculine lineage and one to represent the feminine one. You can choose on each lineage other stones to represent each individual ancestor you wish to honor. Use your breath to inform the stones and blow the memory of each ancestor in the stone you use.
My grandmother was always very elegant so the stone I chose for her has silver in it and looks ́fancy ́. My mom loved earth tones and atypical shapes so the stone I chose reflects that.
You will intuitively pick items that will celebrate their spirit, that have a meaning and that in some way connect you to the loved ones you are honoring on your altar. You could include candles, incense, flowers, small offerings like seeds or grains, pine needles or cones, found feathers, or even personal objects.
Once you’ve settled on your altar items, begin to arrange them in a way that feels conducive to energy flow. A bowl of water can act as an offering and serve to collect energy. Candles and incense and music can help set the mood.
Once you are finished arranging your altar take a few centering breaths and bring to mind the figures that you are honoring. State aloud the purpose of this altar and the ancestral beings you are inviting into this space. Thank them for the gift of life and their assistance on this journey. Ask them for blessings and guidance or speak to them though this ́portal ́ as they can always hear you.
Your practice at this altar could be simply one of feeling gratitude and love. It can also be a space where you can bring offerings and ask for blessings.
Make sure the altar is not in your bedroom. It can be on your patio, in a cupboard with glass doors, or in a room where you don ́t spend as much time.
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You can also find details of Cat's upcoming ‘Roots’ online course - a mix of lecture, meditation, visualisation, personal reflection writing, ritual and narrative therapeutic techniques to facilitate trans-generational healing in a securely held container