Today, most people in the West only think of “family” in terms of immediate family, cousins and close friends. In a strange way, we can only see within a limited frame. There is no beyond “grandma or grandpa.” Children are raised to only see familial relationships as those who are close by.
But we all came from somewhere beyond our parents and our parents parents. I never really much thought of my great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents until I really started to delve into the study of Shamanism. All this talk of ancestors. Who was I? Beyond the reaches of what I already knew about my family–I was just me. There was no beyond. And seeing as I am very different than most members of my family–its always been hard for me to “fit in.” Add that to having depression and I sometimes felt like an alien in another world.
With my study of Shamanism, I finally became aware that there is more to family than just what you grow up with. Your ancestors are a part of you. The blood that runs in you is the same blood that has run in your ancestors for thousands of years. You are a part of them even now. Though they maybe long gone–you still have a deep connection with them. And, you can still make them apart of who you are now and who you are becoming.
I really needed to learn my “roots.”
I am extremely close to my maternal grandmother. She is my rock and the one I have I learned the most from about what forgiveness, compassion and strong will mean. Her parents were hearty peasant stock from Belarus. Lived off the land and believed in folk magick, hard work and resiliency. The understanding that our connection to nature and the understanding of natural cycles of our world can make or break us. My grandmother and grandfather were also a survivors of the Holocaust. If you can learn and teach others about compassion and forgiveness after living through that–then there is so much you have given to the world already.
My paternal grandmother-well….by chance I happened to find a website dedicated to her mothers family–the Spragues. I wrote the owner of the website a letter explaining who I was and he generously sent me over three hundred pages of genealogy. That to me was the most amazing thing. I learned that I come from a long line of strong women–including Anne Hutchinson–America’s first feminist (and there’s where my fiery nature comes from!). I also found out that I am related to Mary Dyer who lost her life fighting for religious freedom. And another relative who was tried three times for witchcraft and got off (I doubt I would be so lucky if the Burning Times ever came back!).
Knowing all this made me have a connection to my greater family. Now, I make offerings to them, ask their blessing and advice, and know–that while I never met nor ever will–their blood runs through mine. Knowing where you came from can make you have an even stronger relationship to the SPIRIT world. And yes, its completely possible to feel connected to your ancestors–even in our Western culture.
Shamanism is all about honoring spirit. And most of all, its about honoring your ancestors–remembering that their journey is what has started yours. You wouldn’t exist had it not been for them. And there is always someone from your family who you are most like–even if that person has long been dead.
After all, what is death if their spirit is within you?