Why I Don’t Worship My Ancestors

Why I Don’t Worship My Ancestors October 11, 2013

I’d much rather return to the sea.

This post is going to have a lot of anger in it, so I want to start by saying – I don’t think it is wrong to revere one’s ancestors. Ancestor worship is simply not something I currently do, and this post is about why I will not ever revere my ancestors of blood and bone/biological ancestry. Working with the dead, communing with the ancestors – I am not saying those practices are worthless. This post is about why I, personally, cannot work with my ancestors.

Some day I may eventually revere ancestors of spirit, those dead who I look up to and honor, who inspire me to greater acts.

But I will burn before I kneel or bow to my ancestors of blood. I would rather face every trial my gods could set forth.

Often, when I tell people I will not revere my ancestors of blood under any circumstances, they are appalled and try to show me the folly of my decision. I am encouraged to worship my ancestors because, without them, I would not live. It is thanks to their heterosexual baby-making sex that I live today! They are the reason I look like I do, why I can move in the world at all.

Of course, single celled organisms are just as responsible for my being alive today as my human ancestors, but people seem to forget that.

Oh, it’s true – my ancestors influenced myself and my family. We bear the same marks and scars and patterns as they did. We wear them so well.

Rampant disgusting racism.

Incest and rape.

Violence and abuse.


I’d rather revere the single celled organism, thanks.

What people don’t seem to understand when they say that I should revere my ancestors regardless of how awful they were was that my ancestors’ actions affected my life. They didn’t just create my life – they created a family environment in which our women can expect to be raped by our uncles or cousins. They gave me life, and they gave me a history of sexual violence. You don’t get to say that the ancestors are responsible for life while ignoring all else they are responsible for.

How far should I go, I wonder? How far back should I go in order to fulfill some ‘duty’ to those that created my family lines? How far back – to a nebulous blob of humanity, a sort of collective human ancestor? Should I go with the lines I can follow – only one, and that one is the one where we see the rape, the death, the abuse, the racism – and what of issues of adoption?

I thought of ancestor worship once, and I went diving into the history of my family, and I knew then that my blood ancestors didn’t just give me life. I’m not going to fix their wounds when I’m too busy trying to patch my own. Another one, someone stronger, may one day honor my ancestors, but not me.

There is nothing in my faith that puts me under obligation to revere my bloodline, and I would rather rip apart everything that forms my family – silence, shame – than hold it up.

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