Where are the ancestors? And what is our relationship to them? In a sense the ancestors realm exists within our ordinary life and everyday reality; the ancestor’s stories can be found in our very sense of visceral sensory grounded embodiment, they live in our blood, our muscles, our lungs and heart, our neurology our mitochrondria and in our bones.
The ancestors can also be found when we extend our phenomenological experience into this larger body of the earth, the sensory experience of rocks, moorlands and old growth forests and into the earth’s sensory experience or the earth’s ‘dreaming.’
By descending into the body (and the larger earthbody) and sensing the ancestors there we can sometimes heal our own trauma, the stress based responses in our parasymathetic nervous system, the unconscious emotions and beliefs in our limbic system and neocortex, and at the same time, in some magical and impossible way, we may also heal the ancestor’s trauma too.
Also, sometimes the problem is not that the ancestors are too distant, but that they are too close. The very fact that the ancestors are unconscious to us, that we have lost the means for communication with and witnessing of them, means that they interfere with our lives; sometimes we live through our ancestor’s perception and through their own complexes and historical trauma.
We may need to ceremonially connect with them in an embodied way in order to place a distance between us and the ancestors; to allow them their own space and their own stories, and to allow a ‘breathing space’ for us to live our own life
Sometimes the ancestors need honouring or witnessing and they need to be heard in a way that they haven’t been heard before, or seen in a way they haven’t been seen before. Sometimes their wounds needs to be touched with kindness or their unheard grief, struggle, stories, triumphs or adventures needs to be seen. If we listen to them this deeply then we may then also begin tap into and sense our ancestor’s powers, medicine and mythos.
To develop a relationship with more recent ancestors we may need the help of wiser earlier ancestors. These may be the ancestors from pre-imperial times or from the times before the bronze age and before we lived in large city states. We may need to connect with our ancestors from Africa 30,000 generations ago or more recently, or from the vast periods of time human beings spent as earth based tribal hunter-gatherers.
Sometimes we may need to connect with the non-human world of warm blooded mammals, reptiles, amphibians, the first creatures with a backbone, the first single celled organisms dividing, the mineral world’s dreaming or even the ancestors made of starfire and the light at the creation of the universe fifteen billion years ago.
These non-human ancestors also live inside us; our blood is an evolutionary internalization of the sea, our heart was given to us by a sea worm, our spinal column and skeletal structure come from primeval fish, our limbic brain is a gift from the reptiles and our binocular vision and our hands are a gift from the early primate.
In our hand’s skeletal structure and musculature there dwells the memory of our ancient ancestor’s learning to climb onto land, to grasp a branch, to knap flint, to make ceremony and to make fire by friction. In the sensory-grounded phenomenological visceral experience of our muscles, blood and bones the ancestor’s fire dwells.
Sometimes our non-human ‘ancestors’ are not direct evolutionary antecedents but those animals that our human ancestors cultivated a deep relationship with and lived alongside in the ecosystem. Sometimes they are neither human nor animal but vast inexplicable and wild spirit beings.
These earlier human and non-human ancestors often have an earth based wisdom that later ancestors, the ancestors of history, may not have always possessed.
The illumination and wisdom from more ancient ancestors can help to fertilize and cultivate the ancestral tree of life, heal the wounds of later ancestors, celebrate and bring forth the medicine and mythos of the later ancestors and bring forth the medicine and mythos of us, their descendants in the present too.
Connecting with these earlier ancestors allows the starfire, the liquid light of creation, the kindness of trees and the wisdom and strength of earth based humans to shine through the network of later ancestors and to flow into our veins.