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Author Topic: Ancestors of multiple faiths  (Read 95 times)

EnderDragonFire

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Ancestors of multiple faiths
« on: December 04, 2017, 07:50:06 pm »
So, I have been considering this for a while, and decided to post it here. How do you address ancestors of multiple religious backgrounds? Unless you come from an unbroken indigenous religious tradition, (such as the Yoruba religion, Shintoism, Australian aboriginal religion, or tribal forms of Hinduism), you almost certainly have ancestors who practiced different beliefs from one another as religious traditions change and shift over time. I know for certan that I have ancestors who were:

1)Proto-Indo-Europeans (Corded Ware culture)
2)Celtic Pagans (Pre-Christian Scottish and Irish)
3)Germanic Pagans (Pre-Christian Saxons and Normans)
4)Roman Catholic Christians (Post Conversion Irish, Scottish, English)
5)Anglican Christians (Post Reformation English)
6)Presbyterian Christians (Post Reformation Scottish)
7)Indigenous Cherokees (Indigenous Cherokees)
8)Pentecostal Christians (Scots-Irish Kentuckian Converts)
9)Baptist Christians (Anglo-Saxon American Converts)

So, my ancestors are a theologically diverse group, and that's just the ones I know of! I am sure that if you trace my Cherokee ancestors back to older indigenous traditions, you would find different beliefs, and that you can go back further with the Corded Ware Culture as well.  Not to mention that I probably have trace amounts of other ancestry; one of my great grandparents *might* have been part African-American.

Bearing all that in mind, I am not sure how I would go about approaching my ancestors. None of them are Hindu; the closest would be the PIE people from whom my European ancestors are descended, and even they would have major theological differences from a modern post-Puranic Vaishnava Hindu.

I have read lots about ancestor worship, but I can't see how I could possibly maintain good relations with all of my ancestors, who would have vastly different values, morals, and cultural convictions. So, how do those of you on TC, especially those of mixed heritage, approach your ancestors?
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." - Sri Krishna

Darkhawk

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Re: Ancestors of multiple faiths
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2017, 09:21:59 pm »
I have read lots about ancestor worship, but I can't see how I could possibly maintain good relations with all of my ancestors, who would have vastly different values, morals, and cultural convictions. So, how do those of you on TC, especially those of mixed heritage, approach your ancestors?

I mean, I'm not at all sure what their background has to do with anything.

Even if we set aside the fact that lots of people say that the dead have a very different perspective than the living, their beliefs aren't a part of my ancestor veneration.  I set out my offerings, I burn my incense, it's not bothering anything to say 'here, have some cake, have some bread, have some water'.  I'm not going to set anything out with nothing to drink but alcohol, 'cos my grandfather was an alcoholic who worked damn hard to be stronger than that and it would be unkind to leave him with nothing (especially since he is foremost of my beloved dead), but that doesn't mean I'm not going to serve beer at the party.  He can look out for himself.

It's not about theology.  It's about the way living now emerges from the gifts of the dead, because we came about because of them, and their work; it's about giving them love and honor for being part of that everbreathing stream of life, back and forth across the worlds.

My grandfather, foremost of my beloved dead, was as solid a Boston Irish Catholic as you might ever think to meet - I once asked a seer to find him for me in a seidh.  So that's me, a Kemetic, asking an Asatru to go looking for a Catholic, and none of us likely have the same understanding of where the dead reside.  And it didn't mean she couldn't find him.

Theology isn't the thing.  It's just the flow of life.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

CoyoteFeathers

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Re: Ancestors of multiple faiths
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2017, 11:56:44 pm »
I mean, I'm not at all sure what their background has to do with anything.

Even if we set aside the fact that lots of people say that the dead have a very different perspective than the living, their beliefs aren't a part of my ancestor veneration.  I set out my offerings, I burn my incense, it's not bothering anything to say 'here, have some cake, have some bread, have some water'.  I'm not going to set anything out with nothing to drink but alcohol, 'cos my grandfather was an alcoholic who worked damn hard to be stronger than that and it would be unkind to leave him with nothing (especially since he is foremost of my beloved dead), but that doesn't mean I'm not going to serve beer at the party.  He can look out for himself.

It's not about theology.  It's about the way living now emerges from the gifts of the dead, because we came about because of them, and their work; it's about giving them love and honor for being part of that everbreathing stream of life, back and forth across the worlds.

My grandfather, foremost of my beloved dead, was as solid a Boston Irish Catholic as you might ever think to meet - I once asked a seer to find him for me in a seidh.  So that's me, a Kemetic, asking an Asatru to go looking for a Catholic, and none of us likely have the same understanding of where the dead reside.  And it didn't mean she couldn't find him.

Theology isn't the thing.  It's just the flow of life.

Personally I understand OP's wish to honor ancestors in a way relate to how they may have worshiped. A lot of my personal path has been about tracing back my own roots as far as I possibly could, even further back than the names that are written down. Even if in the end my practices don't look like PIE people's, knowing more about them and trying to incorporate at least a little of their culture, or imagine who they might have been/how they might have lived can help me feel closer to them. Or, doing something a little more individualized and thoughtful for a certain group or person just feels a lot better, rather than lighting a couple candles for a faceless mass of people born thousands of years ago. Talking to a bunch of dead people who I don't know anything about or feel any connection to is a bit difficult for me.

But I do also understand your point- it's not necessary to try to mimic the practices of those people, whose religions we can't even reconstruct a large chunk of. 

I will also correct the OP that no religion develops in a vacuum. The Jomon culture of ancient Japan, while being a director ancestor, is not the same as Shinto, and Shinto has plenty of influence from Buddhism and has mingled/coexisted with it for centuries. In fact, Japan's borrowed quite a lot of technology and culture from China over the years. Hinduism, as well, has influence from other religions around it, despite having some of the oldest religious scriptures in the world. Buddhism has entered there, and the religion itself is a fusion of many regional practices. While the Indus Valley people were clearly practicing some proto-version of Hinduism, like Shinto and the Jomon culture, it is not the same.

Anyway, as was already said, you don't need to try to reconstruct the PIE religion to honor those ancestors. For me, adding a light touch of that culture to my prayer/ritual/altar/whatever is enough to make it feel a little more like it's for that group and not just a large generalization of "my ancestors."

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Ancestors of multiple faiths
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2017, 06:52:12 am »
I will also correct the OP that no religion develops in a vacuum. The Jomon culture of ancient Japan, while being a director ancestor, is not the same as Shinto, and Shinto has plenty of influence from Buddhism and has mingled/coexisted with it for centuries. In fact, Japan's borrowed quite a lot of technology and culture from China over the years. Hinduism, as well, has influence from other religions around it, despite having some of the oldest religious scriptures in the world. Buddhism has entered there, and the religion itself is a fusion of many regional practices. While the Indus Valley people were clearly practicing some proto-version of Hinduism, like Shinto and the Jomon culture, it is not the same.

I do realize this. What I mean was that there is an unbroken line of religion; things change, certainly modern Hinduism is a testament to that, but there are no hard breaks like you see when a people are converted entirely to a new religious tradition. For example, Hindus more in common, theologically, with a Vedic era Hindu, than modern Greeks do with a classical era or Minoan era Greek.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Ancestors of multiple faiths
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2017, 07:40:04 am »
Anyway, as was already said, you don't need to try to reconstruct the PIE religion to honor those ancestors. For me, adding a light touch of that culture to my prayer/ritual/altar/whatever is enough to make it feel a little more like it's for that group and not just a large generalization of "my ancestors."

Here's the thing though - of the religions I know about for my ancestors, following their particular traditions (beyond some more general things) isn't possible.
My ancestors are Jewish (of varying degrees of actual religious practice, which also complicates things rather a lot), Catholic, Church of England, and it takes a good few centuries before there's anything else.

My gender is a significant issue in ritual roles for three out of three of those religions at the time all but two of my ancestors were alive. (My father and one grandmother, who both died in my lifetime.)

A significant number of other prayers expect a degree of belief on my part in theological tenets which are not mine. I'm happy to say some prayers, but I won't say things that commit me to religious tenets that aren't mine, or that are actually counter to my own beliefs, practices, and most importantly, religious oaths. (And my ancestors don't expect me to, but a bunch of the prayers in their traditions would. If I actually am in a religious service that isn't mine, I don't say the things I don't agree with, but that doesn't work as well in private work.)

Some religious acts (lighting a candle in a church, in the Catholic tradition, for example) require access to a physical space that is not a regular part of my life. (I do actually light a candle for my father when I'm somewhere that has them, which happens once or twice a year. But I do it at least half because he'd have made tremendous faces, so it's definitely not an honouring someone with their preferred ritual... he thought it was very silly.)

For more distant ancestors, my tradition honours them as ancestors of blood (where the kinship connection is sufficient) or sometimes by category ('farmers of old', 'teachers of old', etc. where then the appropriate offering is something related to the thing they did, or the thing we're inviting them to help with). Farm families appreciate a suitable bit of food. Teachers like an offering of teaching or learning.
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