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Author Topic: Honoring ancestors  (Read 685 times)

EclecticWheel

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Honoring ancestors
« on: December 25, 2017, 11:27:42 am »
Unfortunately I do not know the names and identities of many of my ancestors, so my prayers tend to honor the dead in a more general way like categories as to how they died or their relationship to me ("great great grandparents"), and then at the end of the prayers I can focus on ancestors I do know of and need to speak to.

Anyone have this same issue?  How do you address it in your practices?
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

EclecticWheel

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Re: Honoring ancestors
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2017, 11:29:14 am »
Unfortunately I do not know the names and identities of many of my ancestors, so my prayers tend to honor the dead in a more general way like categories as to how they died or their relationship to me ("great great grandparents"), and then at the end of the prayers I can focus on ancestors I do know of and need to speak to.

Anyone have this same issue?  How do you address it in your practices?

Edit: I do ask about family history with family members, but even then the information is pretty limited.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Jenett

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Re: Honoring ancestors
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2017, 01:31:39 pm »
Unfortunately I do not know the names and identities of many of my ancestors, so my prayers tend to honor the dead in a more general way like categories as to how they died or their relationship to me ("great great grandparents"), and then at the end of the prayers I can focus on ancestors I do know of and need to speak to.

This is quite common, honestly, and the solution you have found is also a common one.

My tradition works with ancestors in multiple forms: we often refer to 'kith, kin, and kind' where kith are chosen family, kin are blood family, and kind are people we have things in common with, or share a connection to somehow (for example, by profession, or experience, or specific communities - at one point, I invited alumnae of my college for a ritual for something specific and it was very effective.)

Sometimes you have names, if you have names, use the names. If you don't have names, use whatever is reasonably polite and accurate, so that you're inviting or honouring or whatever the people you intend to be inviting or honouring or whatever.

For me, the important part is figuring out who I want to invite, and why - the names are helpful in that, but they're not the essential part. The essential part is understanding what the relationship is, or what the help I want from them is, and how to ask for that in a way that will make sense to them (and be respectful of their customs, as feasible) and also make sense to me.
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Altair

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Re: Honoring ancestors
« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2017, 02:18:31 pm »
Unfortunately I do not know the names and identities of many of my ancestors, so my prayers tend to honor the dead in a more general way like categories as to how they died or their relationship to me ("great great grandparents"), and then at the end of the prayers I can focus on ancestors I do know of and need to speak to.

Anyone have this same issue?  How do you address it in your practices?

This problem is very common for us African Americans, since slavery too often sundered family ties. I use the same solution Jenett describes. Speaking of which...

My tradition works with ancestors in multiple forms: we often refer to 'kith, kin, and kind' where kith are chosen family, kin are blood family, and kind are people we have things in common with, or share a connection to somehow

I love how you've put the expression "kith, kin, and kind" to good use and am promptly stealing it. "Kith" and "kind" are especially important to us LGBTQ folk--I count among my "ancestors" Frank Kameny, whom I was lucky enough to spend a little time with before he died, and Bayard Rustin among others I only know from history. And when looking ahead to my inheritors (the term I've taken to using for generations after me), kind becomes even more important. Yes, I mentally reach out to kin; although I won't have children or grandchildren of my own, other branches of my family will go on. But I can also look ahead to those who hopefully will have been touched or inspired by something I've done or written, and to those like-minded folks who will take up the work after I'm gone.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

EclecticWheel

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Re: Honoring ancestors
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2017, 07:24:54 pm »
This is quite common, honestly, and the solution you have found is also a common one.

My tradition works with ancestors in multiple forms: we often refer to 'kith, kin, and kind' where kith are chosen family, kin are blood family, and kind are people we have things in common with, or share a connection to somehow (for example, by profession, or experience, or specific communities - at one point, I invited alumnae of my college for a ritual for something specific and it was very effective.)

Sometimes you have names, if you have names, use the names. If you don't have names, use whatever is reasonably polite and accurate, so that you're inviting or honouring or whatever the people you intend to be inviting or honouring or whatever.

For me, the important part is figuring out who I want to invite, and why - the names are helpful in that, but they're not the essential part. The essential part is understanding what the relationship is, or what the help I want from them is, and how to ask for that in a way that will make sense to them (and be respectful of their customs, as feasible) and also make sense to me.

The one thing I wonder about in honoring the ancestors in general categories is whether I really want to honor everyone in that category.  Right now I err on the side that, good or bad, those ancestors have contributed to who I am, so I can give honor in a general way.  Perhaps this practice might even help some of these ancestors become better people -- at least in my mind.  I just wouldn't work with them specifically.  There is definitely one person in my life that I know damn well I will not be honoring in any specific way after (s)he has passed unless (s)he sought my forgiveness which is unlikely in the extreme, and I don't honor her now, either.

Does your tradition honor ancestors regardless of what they were like?  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they have to be perfect, and we should take into account their time, place, and circumstances and err on the side of understanding.  But it comes to mind that when I am honoring the dead generally -- not just people in my own ancestral lines -- I might accidentally be honoring someone horrible like Hitler.  I'd have to go over my categories for the dead in general to check.  I don't think the categories would include him, but it's something to think about, and some of the categories almost certainly still include some nasty people even if they aren't guilty of genocide.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

EclecticWheel

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Re: Honoring ancestors
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2017, 07:48:50 pm »
The one thing I wonder about in honoring the ancestors in general categories is whether I really want to honor everyone in that category.  Right now I err on the side that, good or bad, those ancestors have contributed to who I am, so I can give honor in a general way.  Perhaps this practice might even help some of these ancestors become better people -- at least in my mind.  I just wouldn't work with them specifically.  There is definitely one person in my life that I know damn well I will not be honoring in any specific way after (s)he has passed unless (s)he sought my forgiveness which is unlikely in the extreme, and I don't honor her now, either.

Does your tradition honor ancestors regardless of what they were like?  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they have to be perfect, and we should take into account their time, place, and circumstances and err on the side of understanding.  But it comes to mind that when I am honoring the dead generally -- not just people in my own ancestral lines -- I might accidentally be honoring someone horrible like Hitler.  I'd have to go over my categories for the dead in general to check.  I don't think the categories would include him, but it's something to think about, and some of the categories almost certainly still include some nasty people even if they aren't guilty of genocide.

I came across the idea in another thread that some of the ancestors can be honored simply for being dead, for getting the hell out of here.  Hmm...something to think about.
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Sobekemiti

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Re: Honoring ancestors
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2017, 11:59:52 pm »
Unfortunately I do not know the names and identities of many of my ancestors, so my prayers tend to honor the dead in a more general way like categories as to how they died or their relationship to me ("great great grandparents"), and then at the end of the prayers I can focus on ancestors I do know of and need to speak to.

Anyone have this same issue?  How do you address it in your practices?

I tend to just use generalities, if only because it makes sense for me at the moment. I was never close to the blood relatives of mine who have died in my lifetime, with the exception of one set of grandparents, so I don't tend to call on my bloodkin by name unless I'm asking for them. I'm also queer and so I call on queer ancestors and others who I feel called to include in my ancestors as well. To just call on the ones who want to help, I adopted the phrase, benevolent ancestors, so then I'm just calling on the good ones even though I'm calling on generalities. That tends to help the most. That, and setting your sacred space up properly.

I actually find it easier to call without names, because so many of the names I have are just names. I don't know what they looked like or what they were like, so I find it easier to keep things in groups and call to them all. I don't have to worry about trying to discern whether a spirit who claims to be an ancestor is who they say they are, because in a lot of ways, I have no way to verify that information. So I prefer to work that way.
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Jenett

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Re: Honoring ancestors
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2017, 01:56:20 pm »
Does your tradition honor ancestors regardless of what they were like?  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they have to be perfect, and we should take into account their time, place, and circumstances and err on the side of understanding. 

I'm pretty much with Sobekemiti on this: I go for focused invitations, plus ritual design that limits who can show up.

(Think of it like throwing a party: you probably don't stick a sign on the Internet for all and sundry to turn up at your house with no warning. You might throw a really big party with widely distributed invitations to lots of people you know only slightly or in one setting, though, in some situations.)

My specific practices include:

- Known people who have died, and who I had relationships with before they died. (What some communities call 'beloved dead'). Focus can be all sorts of things. These are often the people I most explicitly ask for help, but it's usually a "this thing is in your particular wheelhouse, please advise?" that relies on specific personal knowledge.

- Known people who have died, who I didn't have relationships with, but someone I know did (Comes up at things like Samhain rituals remembering people who have died in the past year: in this case, the focus is on 'may they pass on to the next thing peacefully and as well as possible'. General good wishes, I don't ask them for stuff, and the work is pretty limited in scope.)

- Known people I have connections to, but didn't have a personal relationship with (three of my four grandparents died before I was born, further out direct ancestors: in all these cases I maybe have a few family stories, but not a lot of detail for Reasons). In this case I normally invite them to and/or ask them for stuff that's directly relevant.

- New category for me! We discovered (partly via genetic testing) that we're related to someone who wrote and was a semi-public figure in the 1800s (for very low-key values, but you can find moderate bios of him and his work online). There are definitely specific things that are part of my longterm workings where that would be relevant.

- People who share a particular focus - in my tradition, we invite ancestors at every ritual, but that might be 'farmers of old' for an agricultural focus ritual, or 'witches and priest/esses of old'. I've done 'librarians of old'. In these cases, the 'who shows up' is mediated by a specific focus of the ritual. It's a little like posting a post somewhere online, where there's a community, but you're not quite sure who's going to reply: there's some filtering and some tools.

The ritual invitation is usually fairly explicit about "Here to do this thing" with a statement of intent, the fact the ritual structure has been building to naming that thing in a particular way, and then a thing that is basically "X of old, if you are willing to help with this thing and share your wisdom/knowledge/experience/skills/whatever, please be welcome." The ritual structure and the framing help keep out people who fit the larger category but are not interested in being helpful. (Or helpful about the current focus.)
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Riothamus12

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Re: Honoring ancestors
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2017, 12:23:35 am »
Unfortunately I do not know the names and identities of many of my ancestors, so my prayers tend to honor the dead in a more general way like categories as to how they died or their relationship to me ("great great grandparents"), and then at the end of the prayers I can focus on ancestors I do know of and need to speak to.

Anyone have this same issue?  How do you address it in your practices?
I base my ancestor work and reverence around what can be gleaned from historical knowledge of many different cultures (especially those which I am directly related to in some fashion), but also around Espiritismo and similar practices.  I found Orion Foxwood's writing on Ancestor reverence and work to be particularly helpful in this case as well.

When being invoked during these ceremonies, one prays to the righteous ancestors and those deceased relatives you know would never seek to do you harm for assistance and to express gratitude. One also prays for those ancestors who were cruel or otherwise poor character to grow spiritually and find forgiveness on the other side so that they might join the righteous ancestors. In general, one calls out to the those morally upstanding ancestors, usually without naming specific ones, though one can do so.

Similarly to what Jenett described there are generally three kinds of Ancestors in my path. There are ancestors of the blood who one is directly related to someone via genes, no matter how distantly related they are. Then there are Ancestors who for some reason resonate so strongly with you so much that they may as well be members of the family for some reason.  These are souls that one has likely never crossed path with  life. The third are ancestor hosts one connected to via some shared adoptive group, particularly old Covens and Occult orders, Santeria/Lukumi God families, church congregations, certain secret societies, schools of martial arts, certain artistic lineages, and other similar groups. However having attended the same school or college does make one a part of these groups. This third kind of ancestor is brought into someones life via more intimate ties and acts that require a greater measure of familial bond between all members. This also applies to chosen families and the ancestors of adoptive parents
« Last Edit: December 30, 2017, 12:29:17 am by Riothamus12 »
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