Ancestor Veneration: Catharsis

Ancestor Veneration: Catharsis October 14, 2019

‘Tis the season for ancestor veneration, and while many of us are comfortable communing with those we love on the other side of the veil, there is a small, gnawing truth: we have some relatives and ancestors we would rather forget, not deal with, or just ignore. Should we do something about that?

Photo by Wikimedia

How to forgive those who caused you trauma? How to acknowledge those less-than-honorable ancestors? What if you don’t have any interest in contacting them at all? What if your uncle did something despicable and you have no interest in thinking about him, much less honoring him? What if there is bigotry, hatred, painful actions, hurtful words that you can’t forget? What if one of your ancestors did something horrific during World War II?

It’s a subject that can cause tremendous pain, and it is perfectly okay to ignore them, forget they exist, and skip contacting them. Think of catharsis. Would it feel better to lessen that burden you’ve been carrying? If you feel the strength and the determination to do so, there are a few things to consider and consider:

Prepare yourself: How many times have you thought you were ready, and you really weren’t? It’s okay to begin and then realize you’re still not ready. Give yourself space and time to process those feelings. If however, you feel ready, make sure you are grounded and centered before you do any of this kind of ancestor work. Walk barefoot in the grass, center yourself, get those protective shields up, practiceyour deep breathing. Use whatever is in your arsenal. Make sure you are well-rested, hydrated, and in a good head space. Write out all your turbulent emotions and thoughts on paper, or record them somewhere. Check yourself, see if you are clear, and if you feel strong, focused, and determined, then move forward with your workings.

Ready? Now begin.

Light a candle: Simple enough. The candle can represent the ancestor, the collective ancestors, or the qualities you don’t want to see continue onward within your family. Black is good for uncrossing, White for healing, Purple for protection. You know yourself best, so choose a color you resonate with, and certainly add other candle color is you resonate with them. Start with black to clear, purple to protect and yellow to radiate positive energy, or white for healing. Follow your intuition, and use the light and heat to help with this working.

Write & Represent: If you feel called to write down the painful parts you want to let go of, then do so. Or use symbolism to create the action. For example, use a wide ribbon on which to write what you acknowledge as part of your ancestor’s legacy. Write it on bay leaves. Use a small branch if you want to symbolize trauma, or a photo you no longer wish to keep. A piece of paper with their signature is useful, or a a written phrase they used to utter.

Release & forgive: Is forgiveness necessary? It will lessen the burden you have, but don’t feel as if you have to, focus instead on letting go. Due to your age, you may have perspective on your ancestor’s actions, and feel a lessening of the grip of what they have done or said. If so, then follow that feeling. Say the words you need to say, whether it be, “I forgive you” “I know this was a hard time in your life and you suffered from untreated mental disease.” Or even, “I can’t forgive or forget your treatment of xyz, yet I release the pain of this in my life.”

Action: Action is cathartic. Tear up the paper, burn the bay leaves, pour alcohol into the ground, cut a cord, snap the branch, bury it in the ground, throw organic matter into a river, away from you. What is important is that you find an action that resonates with you. Breathe deeply once done, and release that tension. Unlock your jaw, unclench your fists, and relax your shoulders.

Be gentle with yourself: This working won’t solve everything. It may lighten your burden, or it could be the ending you didn’t know you needed. It’s okay if those feelings return. This doesn’t mean your working failed. Just focus on the fact you did something. If you have to do it again next year or at another time, then do so, Be gently with yourself in the meantime. Hug yourself, find a trusted friend to hug you, take a gentle bubble bath, have a beverage that soothes you. This kind of work is difficult, but it can help.

May all your ancestor workings this season be fruitful, and bring you closer to peace. So mote it be.

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