Ancestor work is an amazing well of magical potential. If you want to heal the ways this world has traumatized you, if you want to heal the ways this world traumatized your ancestors, if you want to reclaim lost traditions, if you want to be in right relationship with the earth, if you want magic and enchantment, or a sense of connection to something greater than yourself… ALL of that can be found through ancestor work.
Unfortunately, ancestor work is only for those who know where their families came from, who know their birth families, who are on good terms with their blood relations, who think their ancestors were people worthy of respect, and who have the time/interest/resources to do the genealogy to trace their family tree…right?
Luckily for you (and for me because I’m anti-authority, gatekeeping, and elitism in my bones!) ancestor work is a practice for everyone.
Seriously. I mean, everyone. (Imagine that Oprah gif: “You get ancestor to honor! And you get ancestors! And you! And you!)
Ancestor work is a practice that was widespread in the pre-Christian and ancient world. I hesitate say that it was universal only because I haven’t read ALL the books on the ancient world about every single culture, but it is certainly a practice that was (and in some places still is) widespread.
Pre-Christian Norse pagans had the disir and the alfar. The Romans and the Etruscans had practices for working with and honoring their dead. There are Chinese and Japanese folk religions that include ancestor work practices. There were ancestor work practices in ancient Mesopotamia. In Africa, there’s are Yoruba traditions that include ancestors. Hell, even the Catholic Church has All Soul’s Day! And these are just the practices that I am familiar with!
Even if your ancestors were brought into Christianity and whiteness hundreds of years ago, you still have ancestors who would’ve honored their ancestors. Even if your ancestors are from many disparate places. Even if you have no idea who your ancestors were or where they came from.
If you had human ancestors, ancestor work is a practice that is for you.
You do not need to know where your family was from. You do not need to know your birth family. You do not need to like your family. And most importantly, you do not need an Ancestry or FamilySearch account or any fancy DNA test that casts modern racial bias back into the past.
If you are estranged from your family you can choose to work with ancestors of chosen family, ancestors of affinity (queer ancestors, radical ancestors, etc.), or even the ancestors of your blood lineage who were also estranged or hidden from the family record.
If you are adopted, you can work energetically with your blood lineage ancestors, or you can take a page from the Norse pagans who believe that adopted children became energetically enmeshed with the adoptive family and through adoption inherited the ancestor of the adoptive family.
If you don’t care for genealogical records or if those records don’t exist for your ancestors, that’s fine! Forget about it and work with your ancestors purely energetically!
If you think your recent ancestors were bad people who you don’t want to work with, then don’t! Reach out to your deep ancestors, your ancestors who knew what it meant to live with reverence to the Earth and the Universe. And with time you might find that your work with these ancestors has helped heal your more problematic ancestors.
Ancestor work is for everyone. Which means it is for you, too. This is not a prescriptive practice that starts with knowing your family tree and ends with you prostrating yourself before your ancestor altar in gratitude. Your family is your family, unique. And your ancestor work practice will be unique, too, depending on your ancestors and your own interests and needs.
So if you find yourself called to do ancestor work, don’t let an impression that ancestor work is conservative, genealogical minefield, focused on the questionable notion of your “blood” and lineage as provable by historical documents. How boring would it be if ancestor work just reified our fucked-up, white supremacist society by being about only those who owned property and fucked and begat heirs?
No, ancestor work is far more vital, far more diverse than that. Ancestor work is a tool for connecting to the magic that society separates you from. Ancestor work is a tool for finding the sense of belonging to a collective that society tries to deny you. Ancestor work is a tool for healing the traumas of this society both for yourself and your ancestors. Ancestor work is a reminder that other worlds have existed and other worlds will exist. Ancestor work is for anyone who dreams of that connection, that healing, that magic, that better world, and wants to take steps to make it a reality.
If that’s you, then I wanna invite you into doing ancestor work your way, whatever way that is. Check out some of the resources below for ways to start doing ancestor work – without the bullshit!
Ready to go deeper into ancestor work? Stay tuned and make sure you know when the next ancestor work post drops 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! 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:
- Finding Magic and Healing Through Ancestor Work
- Ancestor Work Helps You Find Authentic Magic and Spiritual Practices
- Ancestor Work is Easy – 4 Steps to Building Community With Your
- How To Do Ancestor Work When Your Ancestors Were Assholes
- Destroying White Supremacy Through Ancestor Work: An Authentic Spirituality
- Finding Your Path Through the Spiritual New Age Bullshit
- Ancestor Work Will Heal The World