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An Ancestral Teaching: My Body of the Ancestors

Posted on:  Nov 18, 2017 @ 19:33 Posted in:  Goddess

A Spiritual Journey to the Land of the Ancestors

As the season shifts toward Winter, and the mysteries of death settle upon the land, my mind turns to the Ancestors, and the insights that came to me during a week-long spiritual retreat in the wilds of British Columbia.

My body is the body of the Ancestors: the Ancestors are alive in my body, and through my body and lived experiences, I can heal and transform my ancestral line.

It’s day one of my spiritual retreat, and time for our morning learning circle.  I’m part of the Ancestors Path that meets in the shade of a mighty willow tree, with a pristine mountain lake and craggy peaks to one side, and untamed West Coast rainforest to the other.

Our teacher leads us on a guided trance. We’re going to meet our psychopomp: our personal spiritual guide in the land of the dead, and then journey with this ally to connect with the Ancestors.

In the trance, I come to an ancient wooden door. There’s a key in a lock, the key of conscious choice, that I turn and then enter the space beyond.  I find myself on silver, shining path suspended in a black void — a vast, fertile emptiness of infinite possibilities.

My psychopomp meets me on this silver path. She takes the form of a sleek black panther who greets me by placing a paw on each shoulder. Even though I’ve never worked with a psychopomp before, my soul immediately recognizes my spiritual guide as an old ally and friend.

The teacher continues the guided trance, and tells us to seek out the land of our Ancestors with our psychopomp.

So I climb onto my panther companion’s back, and as we begin to walk, she says me: “the land of the Ancestors that calls to you is your own physical body. Your body is the body of the Ancestors, and each part is connected to a different piece of your ancestral story.”

Although there’s more to this guided-trance experience, this one, crystal-clear insight stayed with me: my body is the body of the Ancestors.

My Body is the Body of the Ancestors

On a surface level, this may seem like an obvious statement. My physical form is the result of the coming together of the DNA of my parents, and this DNA holds the material characteristics of the generations that went before me.

But below the obvious is something far more profound and life changing: the Ancestors are still alive in my body, and through my body and lived experiences, I can heal and transform my ancestral line.

In simple terms, this means who I am, how I live, what I give my attention to, how much I let the past and my family patterns determine my now thoughts and actions, and the myriad of other big and small life choices and experiences that make up my everyday existence matter deeply.

Each of us inherits not only the physical DNA of our family lines, but also the energetic DNA of generational stories and experiences, especially those of trauma. For many of us, it’s the unacknowledged trauma, passed on generation after generation, that’s our shadow partner in life. These things live on in our body and life choices.  And they can also end, be healed and transformed, through our body and life choices.

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Making Magic: A Tender’s View of a Samhain Ritual

Posted on:  Nov 2, 2017 @ 10:29 Posted in:  Sabbats

We gather in a heritage hall on my island home for our Samhain ritual.  Warm bodies squeeze close together to form a circle of pagan and non-pagan folks, grownups and children, and even a couple of dogs, with the room filled to capacity.

As a Tender for our community ritual, my role is to be a guardian and observer as we enter the mysterious, powerful, sorrowful experience of Samhain.

It’s been a hard, heartbreaking year for our community. The Ancestors altar is covered with photographs and mementos of those that have passed. There have been many deaths, and the tragic loss of two precious youth in one September weekend that shook this island to its core. I feel this collective grief in my own heart, and in this gathering. Samhain is the time when we honor and name those we’ve lost this year, and commune with our Beloved Dead.

Yet there’s more than grief and loss in the room. At the opposite end of the cycle of life are the youth, our children, and the souls waiting to be born. These beings we honor on the Descendants altar, and through the naming of the newborns this year.

I stand beside the Ancestors altar with another priestess. Across the circle from us, two priestesses stay by the Descendants altar. The four us will be calling in the Ancestors and Descendants, and then shifting into paired partners of Deep Witness and Tender.

The Deep Witnesses don’t actively participate in the ritual. They sit — veiled, empty and silent — acting as anchors and observers of the deep dream of our magic. I’m one of the Tenders. Our priestess role is to support and protect our Deep Witness, and to stay by her side for the duration of the ritual.

As the ritual begins, I notice that I feel different than my usual, high-intensity magical engagement. I’m somber, watchful and empty present — a guardian and observer of the Deep Witness and our community as we enter the powerful, mysterious and mournful experience of Samhain.

Together we create sacred space. The circle is cast. We ground.  The Elements are called in through song.  Goddesses and other Mysteries are invoked.  Our priestess group calls in the Ancestors and Descendants.

I listen from the edge of the circle, attuned to the movements of bodies, weaving of energy, and quality of presence, more than the individual words and actions.  I step forward to do my calling in task, and then settle into my role as Tender.

I notice the seamless sharing of leadership, power and space — the many priestesses working together to co-create this magical experience for our community. The talent and expertise in this room are immense, diverse, breathtaking, yet I don’t sense inflated egos, jealousy or competition. 

We move on to the reading of the names of the dead who have passed this year — what is remembered lives. And the dead come, slipping past the veil that separates us, to drink of our grief, our love, and our honoring.

I notice how natural this is, how right for us to be with our honored dead in these ways. They move among us, touching the faces of their beloved kin with their hands of light, soothing the broken hearts of those left behind, letting us know that they are still with us, just a thought, a name, a song away.

Two priestesses begin to trace a path in the center of the circle, one drumming and together weaving a hauntingly beautiful guided trance to the Isle of Apples, the Pagan Land of the Dead.  Everyone settles into a comfortable position, and makes their way to the blessed Isle to commune with their Beloved Dead.

The “read more” link below will take you to the SageWoman Blog page.

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Ritual Credit: This Samhain ritual practice arises out of the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft.

Photo Credit: Janko Ferlič on Unsplash