How To Do Ancestor Work When Your Ancestors Were Assholes

By this point in this Ancestor Work blog series, you’ve gotten a crash course in: why ancestor work provides a fundamental solution to feelings of disconnection, disempowerment, and disenchantment; how ancestor work can be a vital practice in achieving your magical goals; and how to ACTUALLY DO ancestor work the quick and easy way. Maybe all that sounds great! But you can’t see it being for you – your ancestors weren’t good people.

Got asshole Catholics in the family past? Me, too.
Photo by David Dibert.

But that’s the FARTHEST thing from the truth. In fact, in some ways, this work is ESPECIALLY for people whose ancestors were terrible people. As I covered in my first post ancestor work is a birthright. It is something found all over the world. If you had human ancestors, you have a tradition of ancestor work to reach for. And that doesn’t change simply because your ancestors are very far removed from that tradition or because your recent ancestors did very bad things.

Ancestor work is about healing the roots of disconnection and disempowerment. Your ancestors did bad things because of the very systems of disconnection and disempowerment that ancestor work heals.

Here are my top 3 reasons that if you’re feeling the call to do ancestor work you should be doing ancestor work, even if you’re ancestors aren’t ‘well’ or if they did bad things in life.

  1. This isn’t about you. It’s not about your feelings about who your ancestors were and what they did. You will have to grapple with your feelings but this work is not about your feelings. It’s about your lineage and the collective and healing the trauma of harm. Whether that harm is slaveholding, capitalism, genocide, or abuse, alcoholism, interpersonal harm. No one who can do those thing is a healthy person. And ancestor work creates that healing. For your ancestors and for you and for your world. Denial, on the other hand, creates no healing.
  2. The harm started somewhere. Whatever harmful dynamics that are the reason you are shying away from ancestor work STARTED SOMEWHERE. Your lineage has not been cursed since Homo sapiens first began to walk upright or whatever. Your people at one point MADE MAGIC. Your people at one point WERE CONNECTED TO AND IN RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EARTH. To say that well, I’m disconnected because they were disconnected, but they did things I think were too bad and so I cannot even begin to heal that connection is just so self-centered and short sighted. And that’s not even to mention that it is a continuation of the pattern of thinking that caused this problem. Would you risk everything staying the same to avoid grappling with this lineage of harm and shame? Would you forfeit your role in crafting and visioning a new world? Would you say no to participating in the creation of a re-enchanted world, where humans are existing in right relationship to nature in spirit, because your recent ancestors did not live in right relation? You and your ancestors are exactly who need to be engaging in this work. This mindset is exactly what needs healing.
  3. You don’t actually have to work with your blood lineage ancestors. Your ancestor work may not be about your ancestors at all. Even if your ancestors were these bad people. Your path to healing may not involve direct engagement with these human ancestors. Your ancestor work path may be one of plant ancestors, queer ancestors, or other ancestors of affinity. You do not have to work with harmful, or “unwell” ancestors or any ancestor that you don’t want to work with. No one who does ancestor work is obligated to work with any particular ancestor or set of ancestors. That is 100% up to you. You might be called to the path of ancestor work, but you get to decide how you travel this path.

When I say ancestor work is for everyone I mean it. Magic, connection, and enchantment are your birthright and ancestor work helps you connect to that. It doesn’t matter who your ancestor were or what they did in life. There is healing to be found on this path for everyone, including you. Check out this post for a quick and easy guide to beginning to work with your ancestors!

Ready to go deeper into ancestor work? Over the next few months I’ll be sharing weekly blog posts about the what, why, and how of ancestor work. Stay tuned by subscribing to the FREE Liminal Letters newsletter! Or if you can’t wait to get started download the FREE Journal Your Ancestor Journey journal prompts to help you get started establishing your practice! Or if you’re ready to jump right in book an ancestor tarot reading with me and get one-on-one guidance for beginning your ancestor work journey!

Other Posts in the Ancestor Work Series:

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