Widen your circle: connect with ancestors and descendants
Spirit, soul and the sacred in nature
The Wider Web of Life
An African shaman said once to me, ’You people are very poor and alone. You have deadened the magical within and you don’t even have a connection to your ancestors.’ This West African healer, from a small tribal community in one of the poorest nations in the world, echoed the opinion of many shamans who believe that we live one-dimensional, spiritually poor lives because we have disconnected from the mystical and our spirit ancestors. Indigenous cultures see this loss of connection to our ancestors as a highly detrimental development: it turns us into individuals without roots, leaves us without direct access to the wisdom of our ancestral spirits and contributes to the disrespect of the old in modern societies. Critically, it adds to losing sight of the generations that will come after us.
On a soul level, we are connected to our ancestors, whether we are aware of it or not, and once we begin to value that connection, we begin to feel more rooted and develop a sense of belonging to a wider community.
In a traditional sense, ancestors are all the people who have lived before us. Close ancestors are those who are connected to us via bloodline, place and soul group. Place is important because indigenous communities don’t move much, so the ancestors who are connected to us via place have knowing about the place and its underlying spirit forces. A soul group is a group of people we have been connected to on our soul journey over many lifetimes. To put it simply, they have been on a similar journey to us. If we meet somebody from our soul group, we will automatically feel we have a bond with them, even if we don’t quite know why. We are more energetically connected to ancestors of the same soul group, so we can reach them more easily when seeking advice and support. All these ancestors form a network that we could call our wider ancestral circle.
It is the ancestors’ responsibility to hold the memories and wisdom gained from the beginning of humankind. It is the responsibility of the living to learn from them — their wisdom and their mistakes — and so to change and evolve.3 It is in this sense that indigenous cultures are in frequent contact with their ancestors, revere them, use them as role models, connect with them as helping spirits and learn from them.
Connecting to spirit ancestors
I work with ancestral spirits and have used ancestral connection exercises in groups and with individual clients, always beneficially. We all can connect to ancestral spirits who have wisdom and want to help, guide and protect us. It is worth mentioning in this context that for many people, the ancestors who carry the most wisdom and can act as role models are often not recent ones, but lived way back in time.4
One of my ancestral spirit guides, who came to me during a vision quest, is of mixed race, Native American and Caucasian. She is old and very wise in the sense that she went through much suffering and also knows the old and the new ways. I honour her and I ask her for advice, and she often just shows up, especially when I facilitate drumming groups or ceremonies.
Exercise: Journey to connect with an ancestral guide
Your intent is:
’I am going to journey to the upper world to meet an ancestral spirit who means well by me and can help me on life’s journey.’
· Get to know your spirit ancestor. Ask questions. Be with them. Learn, get advice, talk to them. They are usually very communicative.
· Come back when you hear the call-up beat.
Your ancestor spirit will often turn into a guide and teacher for you if you keep in contact with them. Or they may already be a guide and teacher, but you haven’t identified them as an ancestor. My partner was aware of a guide called ’Nana’ who sometimes came to him in dreams. It took a few years before he realized that this was his grandmother, who had died before he was born.
Integrating and working with your ancestral connections
Contact your ancestor spirits whenever you feel the need. They are close by and easy to envisage and communicate with once you have made the first contact through a journey. Craft something that has the qualities of your ancestor guide or paint a picture or write it down. Honour your ancestors by putting something on the altar that represents them — after all, you owe them your life. Attempt an ancestor ceremony, such as the tree ceremony or a fire ceremony, sending your gratitude up to the spirit world through the smoke. Include ’helping ancestral spirit’ in your spirit calling before ceremonies or journeys.
Connecting to descendants
Another aspect of an energetic cosmology is that the underlying fields not only hold all consciousness to date but also all potentialities of the future. In other words, all our dreaming, thoughts, actions and more influence this field and change the future. This means that we have a duty to take future generations into account, not only by leaving an Earth that can be inhabited, but also leaving them systems and values that ensure good, balanced ways of living. Oren Lyons’ famous statement ’What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?’5 describes the questions we, who rarely think further than one or two generations ahead, need to ask ourselves.
Part of shamanic work is to develop a stronger connection with future generations, not theoretically, but by experiencing the connection and beginning to take those who will come after us into account in the way we live now. I have found that the best way to begin is to journey to the future to meet a descendant, somebody who hasn’t been born yet. This could theoretically be anybody, but it is usually somebody who is close to you energetically either through bloodline, place or soul group.
Exercise: Journey to connect with a descendant
Your intent is:
’I am going to journey forward in time to meet one of my descendants and find out what I can do now to make their lives better.’
· With power animals and guides present, let the journey unfold, observing the life of one of your descendants.
· Listen carefully to what they say. Promise before you come back that you will follow their advice and take them into account.
· Come back when you hear the call-up beat.
It is not surprising that the majority of journeys to descendants lead people to rather alarming places that are often sterile, barren, poor and sometimes undercover because the natural environment isn’t habitable any longer. Most of us have an understanding that we need to change our ways, but we often don’t quite know how. It is therefore important to include ’and find out what I can do now to make their lives better’ in the intent. In groups I have found that every participant finds at least one concrete way to contribute to a better life for their distant descendants.
Integration work with your descendants
Whatever the outcome of your journey to your descendants, implement it. You can also create something to represent your descendants on your altar. You can remind yourself that there will be people coming after you and include them in your blessings. I often tune into my descendants before I make decisions, especially when they influence the generations to come, asking if the choice I am about to make will benefit or harm them.
Shamanism helps us in many ways to develop an expanded consciousness. Connecting to our ancestors and descendants is one of them. Whilst giving us more roots, it takes us away from our self-centred ways and embeds us consciously into the wider field of our family lines and networks, turning us into conscious co-creators of a positive future.