When eight years ago I set on a journey to find out about my ancestors, how they impact my life and how I can work with that, I had no clue where to go and what to do. I googled, I met people, I researched and mainly what I found were practices where somebody else would do it for you – I needed to pay the fees, and attend ceremonies, or workshops, sometimes even cook a great deal. Now as I am one of those practitioners I am also deeply interested in empowering others to begin their own connection with ancestors. I spoke about it to various ancestral practitioners, asking them first of all - what is a simple way anyone can begin this journey. After all they are your ancestors, so you should be the one building this relationship, and then when it gets difficult turn to a practitioner for support. Here are 7 answers I received, simple steps to set on this path of ancestral connection:
Start with what is known. If you are adopted, if you don't have any knowledge of your family, you can start with recognising who your known ancestors are, your mentors, your guides, your elders, your old teachers or caregivers and including them as part of your ancestral support. Then when you have allowed yourself to really rest into that, you can start to open up to the fact that you have biological parents and grandparents and great grandparents, and that they are living in you. Part of who you are and how you are in the world is a result of them. Then you can start to go on this journey, this incredibly exciting supportive journey of recognising these connections. I would suggest continuing to establish the known and being curious about the unknown.”- Sian Palmer, founder of Expressive Movement, co-founder of Ancestral Connections
But to be really aware of my own strength and my own resilience, there is something amazing that comes from just being able to have a sense of that inheritance. Think about, in all humility, honestly, what are the gifts that you have been given? In a lot of indigenous traditions there's a different concept about gifts: that we all come into the world with a gift or gifts that are really not for us at all, have almost nothing to do with us. They are there for a purpose; they are for service, they are for us to share in a generous way. And very often those gifts are part of a family legacy. So feel into what are your gifts and invite all those who are behind you, those you come from, who knew how to use this gift in a good way, ‘please come stand with me’.
It's a very sweet thing to be able to have this exchange acknowledging the lineage of these different beauties and talents, and just treasures that you carry, that you have always had. To be able to invite an exchange with those ancestors through whom those treasures have been passed down.” – Francesca Mason Boring, family and systems constellations facilitator, teacher, author
The other thing is if you have a treasured item like your grandmother's favourite serving dish, where she would present a meal, or a necklace or earrings or your grandfather's pipe. Hold the pipe and just think of your grandfather and tell him how much you love him and how grateful you are for all the gifts and his insights and go into a gratitude stream. And for those who are adopted, you can imagine and say, ‘I'm calling in my birth parents and grandparents, who might not even know that I exist; please support me in my life now’ - and ask for help. Focus on the object, give gratitude, and then ask for help, and then watch and see, it's a wonderful way to start and you will feel it. You can even say ‘please give me a sign that you've heard me.’
And then watch for the sign. Your ancestors, your grandparents, your great grandparents, they're your guardian angels, who sometimes don't have permission to touch your lives. So you have to ask for the help before they can come to you. So ask for the help and then trust that it's going to come.
Also, begin with dreams. Before going to sleep at night ask for a dream from the ancestors, to help understand the challenges they had to overcome - what was the most difficult thing for them and how you can honour them? We are carrying in our blood, in our DNA, all the stories of the ancestors; we've gotten all our strengths and gifts from them. We've earned the benefit from all the challenges they've surmounted. We have four grandparents so maybe one night ask your father's mother, then ask your mother's mother, then mother's father and father's father. Ask and wait until you get a dream from them or understanding of what happened to them and the gifts that you've received from that. Ask for healing stories, ask them to talk to you, ask them to connect with you and tell you what you need to know now to help you move forward in your life; and begin a dialogue, just because they're not physically present, doesn't mean they're not with us, and it may even be that it erupts from your own inner knowing because their memories are in your blood. But you might actually have a dream where you're connecting with an ancestral energy, and through your dream it might feel safer than in a ceremony.
If you don't remember your dreams, just relax and daydream, meditate. And then, go with what comes, even it feels imagined; keep a journal, write down the information you have.” – Chetna Lawless, co-founder of Laughing Rainbow Mystery School, shamanic teacher
What are the stories and who are the people in the seven generations before you, that have a quality that you don't have, something that you want more of. And how can you develop a relationship with them, and stand next to them. Go up to them and say – ‘hi, I really want to come and stand here with you. Can I hang out with you a little bit?’ And that is the power of it. All those people are little bits of you, they all exist within you, and they all have qualities that are running through you, and you can consciously connect with certain qualities by connecting with those people. It doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to be out there or weird or strange. It just means paying attention to the things that came before you, caring about them, talking about them, and acknowledging them, including them.” – Anel Hamershma, African tradition diviner, systemic facilitator
So that could be the first thing. And then, begin connecting to various resources or strengths, gifts that you may receive from the ancestors. As soon as you start connecting to ancestors your ancestors find ways to connect to you as well. And they do it in whatever ways they can, whether it's photographs or sort of synchronous meetings with people in the park. Put objects that represent those gifts and resources to this place of the ancestors so that you can remember - use stones, figures, leaves, little bits and pieces from nature. Everybody's relationship with their ancestors is a deeply personal process, so listen to your own guidance.
For those of you that are not into the ritual way of working, then we just do a list.
Write down your mother, father, your grandfather and grandmother. What are their beautiful qualities, what were they good at? Even if your mind first goes to all the terrible things they’ve been through or did. It's a real exercise to work out what actually were they good at, and to list that. You can thank them for those qualities because it's possible for you to switch them on in yourself.
That's an easy way to connect and to open up the channel by being grateful for what you did receive.” – Tanja Meyburgh, founder of African Constellations, co-founder of Ancestral Connections and of Real Academy
Full interviews available on Youtube
I am fascinated by the Systemic Family Constellations work and everything shamanic. I study it, practice it, research it. Here, I am sharing what I learn and hope it can be of use to somebody interested in healing their families, communities and lives.
In 2019 I published some of my poetry inspired by systemic work in this journal. It is available as PDF, Kindle or printed at the link above.