To remember our ancestors is to discover ourselves.
The small gold necklace that adorned her neck was her grandmothers. Karin had worn it since she was a child. Her grandmother had whispered words of protection as she enclosed the charm around her granddaughters’ delicate collarbones. The trinket was etched with images as familiar as they were foreign to her a part of Karins heritage she had not explored.
Karin’s mother had worked hard to impart her native dialect onto her oldest daughter but despite her mother’s best efforts Karin could understand more than she could say. The old language sat clumsily on her tongue but still she tried. She kept her mother’s customs as best she could, the new world scoffed at the small but elaborate altar she had timidly placed at the hearth of her home. She often left it veiled from prying eyes when unaccustomed company came by.
Time did what it does best and flew. Karin had never moved out of her old neighborhood, simply down the street with her beloved. Like her mother and grandmother, he too was from the old world and encouraged her in their traditions, enchantress he would call her lovingly, especially when she was in the kitchen making food that whisked him away, back to the tropical sand dunes of his youth.
For a time, they owned a small florist shop together, a fire palm stood at the entrance from protection and hibiscus ranging in colors that immediately enchanted the eye upon entering the store. Karin cherished these moments when the shop came alive with visitors seeking reminders of the islands of their birth. There was always magic afoot in her tiny shop and time for the most part seemed to slow.
But eventually the recession took the store and everything that was good in the neighborhood with it. Karin lit candles and prayed to her ancestors; the bones of her people were here but to stay was to commit to a life that she could not. She traced the images on her necklace and knew her grandmother would have wanted more for her and for her daughter who she now carried in her womb.
And so, like so many that came before them, they packed up their belongings and moved where spirit sent them… Down so (as the elders would say) to Providencia, the streets were filled with energy, Karin discovered there was magic afoot there too.
Their new place was small, but her ancestors seemed happy there as they settled in and among their new neighbors they were welcomed with open arms. With great care she resurrected her altar, this time facing the east as one of the elderly women had suggested. Feeling more confident in her craft she left her altar uncovered. She gave birth to their daughter at home surrounded by her new family and the spirits of her dead. Candles were lit in ceremony and incense perfumed the air, warding off evil spirits. The spirits of the house made an audible sigh when her daughter was born. She looked like her father but smiled like her mother. Karin named her Elena “the bright one”.
As her daughter grew so did Karins longing for relics of her heritage, words that once felt clumsy came out lovingly as she held Elena in her arms. Her mother tongue felt like a gift from her ancestors. With great enthusiasm she showed her daughter how to care for her altar and make offerings to those who came before. They made a mess in the kitchen together and hunted fiercely for elusive spices in the outdoor markets. More than ever Karins could hear the voice of her ancestors, every ancient story she retold became a shared treasure and every ritual a celebration of what had come before. The day she gave Elena her grandmothers necklace Karin spoke the words that were whispered to her so long ago.
“May the goddess protect you and keep you close.
As it is above so will it be below.
This chain is unbroken and sealed with symbols of protection.
May you learn to plant your feet firmly in the earth so that your heart may grow wings and soar.
May the water carry your worries and cleanse your spirit.
Let the fires of passion and creativity burn forever in your soul.
Stand in power and celebrate your heritage, honor the old ways
in your home, your bones and your heart. “
**When practicing ancestral work, it is wise to remember that both treasures and terrors may be unearthed especially when we begin to sift through the compost of our history. It is important to treat our ancestors with great respect when calling on them for our practice. Do not enter this practice lightly.
As an offering I provide my ancestors with gifts of dried flowers from my tropical garden and light white candles dressed in flora on marked days and in guided moments. I call out to my ancestors when the winds are high, and pray as my voice is carried across the ocean. I feel their presence in my dream state and look for their signs and symbols in even the most mundane moments of everyday life.
Their messages are everywhere.
Through my stories I explore the past so that I may release old constructs and patterns. Ancestral work encourages all of us to ask the question “Who came before me?” What are the lessons that can be learned from exploring the decaying old world?***