During this time of year, the veil that distinguishes the world of the living and the realm of those passed becomes increasingly thin. Towards the end of the month, it become so transparent that for a brief time it disappears altogether. Drifting further into the dark months, we find ourselves in a particularly powerful time of the year to cultivate connection with ancestors.
Most of us exist as an amalgam of several places, traditions, and origins – all while developing our own individuality. Connection with those who have brought us to where we are can happen even if we're not sure exactly who our ancestors of blood or culture are. We have been invited to use our intuition, as well as dive into research- whether we get our information from books, aunties, websites or gatherings. Intuition guides us. It presents itself as a result of contemplative listening. Here you may follow your inner guidance, welcome and hear your ancestors who love you and have only their best intentions for you, and discuss with trusted others too if you wish. This is, all at once, an individual journey and a shared advancement, moving closer to thriving in the heart.
Connecting to ancestors is an endeavor of the senses. There are certain comforts shared by the living such as the warm company of loved ones, foods that are savored, and drinks to quench and soothe. Each of these attributes of life ignite our smell, sight, taste and touch. In several traditions the world over, these are the foundations of offerings to the dead, meant to support their presence and enjoyment in the thinnest moments of the veil between us and them. We leave tokens of what they enjoyed eating and drinking, and photos to remind them of life earthside. We burn incense and bring flowers to create enjoyable and comforting space. These traditions and activities are an essential part of keeping our ancestors with us. In sharing our senses, we are capable of sharing sacred space with our ancestors.
When connecting with ancestors and future generations to come, visual meditations are often a powerful tool of wide recognition- perhaps one of the first true spiritual tools of our species. What was it that your ancestors saw that made them who they were? That made them who you are? These could be the plants of your homelands, or even photographs of structures, living spaces, or nature of a respective region. What beauties and atrocities alike were witnessed? Joy and grief both can and should be honored as part of the experience of your lineage. What art heralds back to your ancient core? How could you now partake in it? Use your eyes to drink in these details, and perhaps create some yourself. Decorate your home with the colors, textures, and flora of your ancestors.
What are the sounds of the people you’ve been, and places your blood and spirit have called home? The music? What songs did they sing, and when? What instruments were common, and how did they apply to ceremonies, rituals, or play? Which animals could be heard during the day, or at night? What does language sound like? Has time given it a new shape? Perhaps take moments to intentionally speak some words of your ancestral tongue. If you do not speak this language, whatever it may be, take time to learn a phrase of gratitude. Dance to the music and feel your body change, activated with the heat of beating hearts, all which now live within you – and which you will also pass on.
What grew in the lands of your lineage? Specific flowers or even dry dirt or wet animal hide may ignite strangely shared memories. Which cultural and natural embellishments carry this power for you? Does the dewy fragrance of wet marshlands conjure your creative mind? Or cinnamon and rice? What traditional resins or plants were burned in these lineages? Fresh flowers and crushed herbs can be used to create a warm and welcoming space for ancestors, as well as prepared meals that were once and perhaps still enjoyed as customary. Fill your home and your lungs, and feel the breath of your lineage expand once again.
Smell and taste are so closely conjoined…but rather than simply ingesting something through the lungs, you are physically making it part of your body. It is now an aspect of your living form, which is a single letter of your lifelong story, reaching back to before you were born. To taste is powerful enough, as is ruminating on the revolution of flavor to a place and its people. Deeply consider what it does to our psyche and spirit. However, I recommend taking this a step further and prepare what you consume. You not only learn about the flavors and textures, but you physically find awareness of the past in your present actions. Ancestors love to experience through us once again, and to cook is to pay the deepest respects for the work that went into keeping a people alive. As the wheel of the year changes, it may be worth considering growing some ancestral herbs, too.
Textiles can tell stories. Colors create webs of light, reaching back in time and forward to the future. What customs were necessary to create these a given garment or goods? Weaving? Tanning? Dyeing? Carving? What crafts were developed and maintained over generations to make these things possible? Are you willing to take them on, and keep them alive? We are blessed to now have access to so much, yet often are bogged down by options in the modern world. What if we accessed even a portion of the old ways? Even ruminating on the feeling of a flower petal or the curve of a hand carved spoon is sure awaken awareness and respect. These connections have always been there, but waited for us to meet them halfway.