Honoring Our Ancestors
We are part of a lineage, a stream of intention and creation whose fountain springs from our ancestors. Their lives have been lived and completed with a beginning-middle-end. And yet, something of them lives within each of us. Their forces have had a hand in shaping us. It’s a beautiful idea, to see ourselves as a stream, as a lineage, and important to remember and honor those who came before us.
We have in fact, many lines of ancestors that we are connected to:
- the land, earth and elements themselves
- the lineage of all beings
- the lineage of all humans
- the lineage of your spiritual beliefs
- the ancestors of the first people, the indigenous people of the land you are on
- your specific blood line and ancestry back to your homeland
- and more.
From time immemorial people have honored their ancestors, connecting to their light. There are many beautiful cultural traditions that teach us as children and guide us so that we hopefully never forget and continue to remember that we stand on the shoulders of all those who came before us. And we can learn and create new traditions as adults.
We do not need to know who our ancestors were, nor the story of their lives or the decisions they made. It might be difficult for us to understand them, because we do not live in their context. Each time is so specific – just think of how you’d explain to someone from a different era what it’s been like to live in a global pandemic.
When thinking of our ancestors it important to go beyond the ‘stories’ of what happened, honoring that they may have had difficulties, however what is more important to remember is their bright spirit and light. Perhaps imagine your ancestors as children. And imagine your ancestors as wise sages. Imagine and feel your ancestors hearts as a live spring of love that flows to you and your descendants.
I have heard Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh say that when you sit on your cushion to meditate, you are doing it not for yourself but for your ancestors and your decedents. For the calm, clearing and spiritual evolvement that happens within your practice flows back to your ancestors, and also travels forward to your decedents to help them on their journey. This has given me so much more energy and volition to practice!
My Romanian-Ukrainian-Canadian family observes the annual Blessing of the Graves this weekend. I am likely related to everyone through blood or marriage in the graveyard at our church in Alberta that is now a historic site. It’s such a beautiful event and a reunion of joy.
Braided circles of bread are decorated with beeswax candles, fruit and candy, and laid upon family tapestries on the graves of our ancestors. Holy water and prayers are offered. Then the bread offerings called kolach, representing the wholeness of our connection, are given in memory of our deceased to one another.
Then a big feast and joyful celebration follows, which is a great way to connect to the living members of our family! Plus we get to eat all the traditional foods. Although I cannot be there this year, I will offer my blessings at home.
Here are some ways to honor ancestors. the important thing is to do it. There is no right or wrong way:
- Feast: prepare a feast or potluck with your traditional foods with friends and family and hold the intention together to celebrate our ancestors from all our lineages.
- Fire: light a fire or candle and gazing into it, speak to them.
- Water: offer water to the ground as a way to cleanse, purify, honor ancestors.
- Touch the Earth with your hands: give your blessings.
- Sing or play a song for your ancestors.
- Words: give simple words of recognition and thanks.
- Metta Meditation: May you be well, happy, loved…
- More: find others ways.
In gratitude, I bow to all generations of ancestors in my blood family; my spiritual family; the Earth and all the Elements; the Mohican ancestors of the land I reside on.
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