. . . Starts With Forgiving Yourself
Connecting with ancestors gets a lot of attention in the pagan world this time of year. So does the conundrum of what to do if your ancestors weren’t so nice in their living years. My simple approach is to forgive them, absolve them of their sins and energetically remove the energy of trauma from your family line.
Ancestral healing is the practice of sending healing energy back in time to those in your family line who suffered, or caused suffering. It can be beneficial work. After all, if energy never dies, our ancestors’ traumas sift down through the generations, potentially blocking our own endeavors to live an authentic life.
Many spiritual traditions put great emphasis on honoring their ancestors. I was told by an Indigenous American friend and mentor that the lack of ancestor veneration in modern culture is at the root of many of our social problems. Perhaps she is right.
“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly, all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” ~ Linda Hogan
We may each be the result of thousands of couplings, but they weren’t necessarily all manifestations of love. What about those that were, instead, acts of war and oppression, of slavery, of violence against women, even of desperation? For some today, those are close realities, but if any of us travel far enough back along our ancestral lines, we all would encounter this energy somewhere. I believe it’s all the more reason to consider sending healing to your ancestors.
Healing Begins With Forgiveness
In working your way into the branches of your family tree, your first encounter is with the departed souls you knew in this life, some who perhaps harmed you directly, even grievously. Suddenly, the idea of healing their wounds, when those they inflicted on you are still open and angry with infection, loses its appeal.
We are each links in the chain. I am only one link, and I know I have caused pain and suffering, whether intentionally or not. How can I possibly expect my children, my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren yet to be, to forgive my transgressions if I cannot forgive those committed against me?
My journey of forgiveness has not been an easy one. I still struggle with resistance to letting go of my storyline. I want to cling to the injustices I’ve suffered that derailed me, because they explain the trajectory of my life. I want others to know, it wasn’t my fault. More so I want to hang onto my belief that it wasn’t my fault.
Until recently, I thought forgiving others was a free pass, excusing the people and condoning the behavior that hurt me. Doing that felt like admitting I didn’t deserve better treatment, or worse, that I deserve every bad thing that’s happened to me. That is the foundational lie of trauma that binds us to the past and to the pain.
The more work I do with forgiveness in the here and now, the more I’ve come to understand forgiveness not as excusing the harmful actions or saying they were okay, but as unplugging from the energy circuit that was switched on when the harm was done.
Forgiveness is about letting go, releasing all the harm and residual anguish it causes. It’s not easy work, and the going can be slow, often with the proverbial one step back for every two steps forward.
We are taught, when working manifestation magick, to create and hold the energy of what we desire to attain as though we already have it. I believe most of us envision that in linear time, as an outcome in the future—I don’t have this thing that I want now, so I’ll do the magickal work to manifest it in future, while believing I already possess it.
But linear time is not a boundary that exists in magick, otherwise what is the point in holding the energy (or belief) that we already possess what we want? If it works in one direction, it has to work in the other direction as well. Why not manifest your desire in the past—I wanted this thing in the past but didn’t receive it, so I will work my magick and hold the energy as though I had it then, and so it will have been.
I’m not talking about bypassing, nor pretending what happened didn’t. I’m suggesting going back to the point of origin, and removing myself from the energy exchange, breaking the circuit, and choosing, this time, not to carry the pain forward. I’m healing the pain then and there, manifesting whatever was needed in the moment. I’m choosing to stop pain from festering and rotting my family tree, from roots, to trunk, to branches, leaves, and buds.
I’m discovering that this process begins at ground zero, with myself. I have to go back through the versions of myself in this lifetime, and forgive not only the wrongs I suffered, but also those that I inflicted on others. Then I can begin sending love and healing to my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and so on, to where each painful circuit was first connected.
I personally believe you don’t have to know who your ancestors were, or trace your family tree to begin the healing process. My father was first generation American, my mother’s family has indigenous roots in Canada. For many reasons, tracing my ancestors would be arduous work, if not impossible in some instances.
I’m not going to let that stop me. I’m beginning with those who loved me into being, and I’ll keep working my way back one generation at a time, named ancestors or not, traumas known and unknown.
Another of my respected mentors shared her belief that the afterlife is created by the simple energy of longing to be with family and loved ones—not just our living desire to feel connected to those we’ve lost, but the equal desire of those who have passed over to be with loved ones they left behind.
Surely if such a spirit world exists, my ancestors know who I am and will be watching and waiting for the healing to work its way back to them, to wash over their wounds and set them free, to set us all free.
Here is the simple format, beginning first with harm I caused myself, and then harm I caused others.
Dear Me at (age or stage of life). I forgive you for ________. You did the best you could with what you had, knew, or believed at the time. I love you. I’m sending healing energy to break the current of trauma so that I may know peace.
Dear me at 18 I forgive you for not listening to your doubts and fears that were valid, and for all the harm it caused going forward. You did the best you could with what you believed to be true at the time.
Dear Me at 23, I forgive you for being so mean to your sister and saying all those awful things to her. You were doing the best you could with the resources you had.
When you’ve written your forgiveness, take some time to envision the pain and trauma that manifested from the incident as an electrical current, and switch it off. Send healing energy in its place.
Wait. Shouldn’t my sister forgive me? She already has, but even if she hadn’t, I need to forgive myself, I need to stop plugging into that circuit of guilt and pain if I don’t want it to travel through me to all those I touch.
These short statements are enough; at the most write a couple of paragraphs if you need to include details, but anything beyond that is likely focusing the energy on the wrongs done and some sense of justice yearned for. Ruminating only breathes life back into the pain and trauma, keeping it alive to pass down the line.
It might take a while to work through all the pardons you have to give yourself. When you have, use the same format to start forgiving others. If you want to forgive family members still here with you in the world of the living, that’s okay, but don’t share it with them. This is energetic healing, not resolving and reconciliation—though you might be surprised that those rewards come about.
Dear (name of person), I forgive you for __________. You were doing the best you could with what you had, knew or believed to be true. I love you. I’m sending you healing energy to break the current of pain and trauma so that you and your descendent may know peace.
When you’re ready to move on to those who have passed over, the format is the same. Start with forgiving the ancestors you know for the wrongs you know they committed, against you or others.
Dear Dad, I forgive you for being so controlling and hard on us kids. I know you had a tough time growing up, and you did the best you could with what you knew.
Dear Grandpa, I forgive you for forcing my dad to grow up too soon and take on too much responsibility. I know you were doing the best you could with what you had.
Include aunts and uncles that had any direct influence to your immediate family line. Remember to end each statement with I love you and send the healing energy to break the current of trauma.
As you move further back along your family line, and you no longer have names or specific information, grant absolution for any and all harm they caused others.
Dear Great-Great Grandmother, I forgive you for any and all wrongs you committed against others, knowingly or unknowingly. I know you did the best you could . . .
My great-grandparents are mostly an unknown quantity to me. So when I reach these branches of my family tree, I actually write one message for all my great-grandmothers, and one for all my great-grandfathers. And then the same for great-greats and so on. As I said, if some energy of their spirit exists on another plane, they will know I’m doing this work and receive it if they are willing.
I suggest you write your messages of forgiveness in a notebook or journal kept for this purpose. Don’t worry about keeping any sense of order in the beginning, Memories will be randomly triggered as you do the work. Just follow the formula for each. The important part is envisioning the current of pain and trauma being disconnected and unable to reach down through the generations.
Take your time; this isn’t a race. Don’t try to write more than a few messages a day. Set aside a time when you are relaxed and won’t be disturbed. Light a candle and invite your ancestors to gather ‘round and let the healing begin.
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