Ancestor work is a two-way process. As spiritual beings, we search for answers from energies outside of ourselves, whilst the ancestors have a special interest in us fulfilling our life’s purpose. Perhaps over and above that of deities, elementals, or fae we may invoke as neo-pagans. Their energy lives in us. We’re often continuing what they started, even if it’s just seeing the energy they created still moving forwards.
The ancestors also rely on us to keep them alive through memories, and stories.
We can ‘feed’ them with offerings of incense and cakes etc but what they really want is for us to remember them, all year round not just at Halloween. They like us to put aside time to say their names, to feel their energy, and to feel that connection.
In return we feel immense love and support from them. Their energy lives within us.
For me the ancestors are more than simply a part of our genetics. We can also find ancestors in those who came before us in our spiritual paths, our professions, or who are linked to our cultures and places we live.
As we nurture the energy they passed to us, we feel our own connection to them, and to each other.
That co-regulation we seek as social beings can be found both within us and outside of us in connection to those who have gone before.
We understand what shaped us, either through repeating of patterns or through distinct decisions we made to move away from those patterns.
Our ancestors know more about our past than we do, but if we believe that time is non-linear, maybe they also know more about our future than we do too?
“Is it right to “call up” your ancestors? Why not let them rest?”
You definitely need to consider consent when calling on ancestors. Is it right for them at this moment to come and talk to you, or would that limit their progression?
If we’re working with ancestors, rather than recent dead they seem to be more settled in their roles. I would personally avoid ‘calling up’ individual ancestors by name to give wisdom, but when we think about the ancestors and tell their stories are we not invoking their energy?
When you start reaching your energy towards the ancestors, you’ll find specific energies are more receptive than others. It’s a good idea, at least when you start, to work with those who come forward rather than seeking out names and identities to learn more about them.
Like other energy work you’d do, always invite rather than invoke.
“But if Aunty Maureen wasn’t that wise in life, how do we expect her to be that useful when dead?”
I always find this a strange concept. Do you feel you’ve learnt more as you’ve got older? Every year I understand more, study more, experience more. Years really do make a difference, especially if you have time during those years to process and sit with your emotions.
And what are we calling wisdom? There are many kinds of intelligence, and ways of looking at problems. If Aunty Maureen didn’t have an accounting qualification we maybe shouldn’t be asking her for help with our taxes, but if we want to know why we feel a particular affinity to oak trees she may have a theory or two.
Besides, I find that ancestors (as opposed to more recently dead) have a different kind of energy and wisdom, there is less personality, less preoccupation with the mundane. I guess, one way to describe this is less emotional clutter.
If we approach the ancestors in ‘self’ energy, we’ll connect with more of their ‘self’ energy
What do I mean by this?
There’s a concept in lots of religions of a person having a ‘higher’ or ‘soul’ version of a person. That could be the version of you where you feel most strongly yourself, or when you are your most calm. For those of us who are practising pagans this could mean our ritual selves or the self we are most likely to be conscious of when we’re in ritual.
IFS Therapy sees the personality as being fragmented into ‘parts’ – different aspects of our personality which come to the front to fulfil different roles. It sees the self as being the core of our personality, non-judgemental, non-blaming, not triggered.
When we work with the ancestors, we want to work with their most authentic, core selves. To bring these energies, we approach them as our core self rather than using a part of us which might be reflected by an aspect of them.
For me, working with the ancestors has always felt very congruent and normalised. It’s a big part of what defines me as a witch.
I’ll be running a four week ‘Working with Ancestors’ course online via Treadwells Bookshop starting in February