Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Ancestors

The foundation for everything spiritual we do begins with the Ancestors, those who came before us, paving the way, carrying their traditions, and continuing the bloodlines, so we can not only live but continue to keep open the lines of communication between physical humans and spiritual beings. There are three types of ancestors: ancestors by blood, ancestors by adoption, and ancestors by initiation. Everyone has the first type, many people have the second type somewhere back in their ancestry, and some people will gain the third type after they initiate into a traditional spiritual system. Regardless of the type a person currently has, it’s important to develop a strong connection to the foundation.

Whether our ancestors come from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas, or where ever, ancestors by blood are directly connected to us by that which flows through our veins. It’s because of this direct blood link that they are able to affect our lives, even if they have not been honored for generations, sometimes blocking our paths if they are not honored. The moment a descendant begins to work within a living spiritual system, they know it and become active, usually slowly at first but gradually increasing over time. It is also because of the blood connection that we can speak with our ancestors without asking permission or help from a gatekeeper, such as Legba or Ellegua. The connection is already there and always open.

Whether our ancestors were Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, or what ever when they were alive, there are ways to venerate and work with them all. In much of the Spanish-speaking Afro-Caribbean and South American countries, the Allan Kardec-based “espiritismo” method of creating an altar space, the boveda, and communicating with our ancestors and spirit guides, is used to work with a wide variety of spiritual beings. For those of us who come from the outside into Afro-Caribbean religions and African-based New World systems, the boveda is a very effective way to re-establish our connections to our ancestors, regardless of our ethnicity.

For those of us who carry these traditions and systems, it is up to us to ensure their survival, as they were handed to us by the ancestors, and to keep them intact and powerful for future generations. We are only stewards of these traditions, not owners, and it is not our right to change them based on personal bias, dietary choices, or any other selfish or egotistical reasons. They have survived the test of time and proven themselves effective for many reasons we will never fully understand. Although they do they do evolve, responding to changes in human civilization or environment (or both!), it’s by the direction of the spirits, who are wiser than we are and can see further than we can, do we implement any changes. Great responsibility is placed on those the ancestors have trusted to maintain these practices and teachings, and to fail in that responsibility brings harm to not only the individual but to the community. A depressing end comes to the legacy many ancestors sacrificed greatly to maintain.

Photo by Steven Bragg

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