Honoring the ancestors

In one of the Facebook groups I follow, a friend posted the following questions:

Wondering about everyone’s background… Where are you all from? Where are your ancestors from? What traditions do you represent?

I thought these to be excellent questions, and in preparation to my initiation into the Unnamed Path, I wrote:

My ancestors hail back to the Iberian peninsula, the south of Spain, the islands of Canaria, the far shores of Canton, and to the tropical regions of the Caribbean. I’ve journeyed through parts of Latin America and lived among the descendants of Mayan and Aztec ancestors. My family worships the Catholic saints and liturgies. My grandmother taught me divination and spiritual arts. I have embraced the Art of Peace; I follow the Tao; I have taken refuge in the dharma of the Buddha; and I study the healing practices of Oriental doctors, Qi Gong, and herbology. I’ll be bringing the flavors of guava, strong Cuban coffee, and salty Caribbean breezes to the West coast.

And that is all I know about my ancestors! In fact, I know next to nothing about where I come from and who I am.

When I was growing up, my mother told my sisters and I bits and pieces of her life in Cuba, her aunts and uncles, and her childhood. There were references to grandmothers and other family members people whispered about, but not many photos were shown and no visits were made because they lived in Cuba.

If my mother was vague about her family, my father was even more so. When asked, he spoke about his brothers and sister. I knew I had cousins on my father’s side, my grandparents of course, but that was about it. My father was vague because to speak about his family would mean revisiting old wounds about his exile and thinking about sins he’ll take to the grave with him.

Over the years, there were phone calls to the island, photos sent by mail I would glance at with little interest because I didn’t know who the people on the photos were. If a letter arrived announcing the birth or death of a family member, I listened to the news, nodded, and kept on going about my day. There was always homework to do, swim practices to attend, or a party to enjoy. Life on the island moved at a different pace and time from my own; it might as well been a different planet or dimension. I had no access to it, and the people there had no access to me.

My parents, also, didn’t make it a point for my sisters and I to connect with our family. Growing up, we didn’t have reunions or cousins to celebrate birthdays with. My immediate family consists of my parents, my sisters and I, and when they were alive, my grandparents on my mother’s side. They were the other family members I knew best, the ones I saw every summer when we came to Miami to visit from Puerto Rico or Mexico, and the ones we lived nearby when we moved to the United States. The one time we did have a reunion was in the late 1970s when the U.S. government, under President Carter, allowed Cuban exiles and their family to return to the island to reunite with family members. At that time, my parents took my sisters and I to Havana where we visited with family for 5 days so we could meet the grandparents, uncles, cousins, and great-aunts and uncles we’d heard about growing up.

When I lived in New York City, I saw even less of my family and heard little from the ancestors. I was in the City to make a life and a family of my own. I left Miami to escape my family in a sense, to recreate myself in a way that was appealing to me. Coming to Miami during those years was more of a chore than something I wanted to do. If I had had my way, I would have stayed and never returned, but irony runs such in my life that I now find myself back in the city I long to escape, trapped in the house I grew up, surrounded by memories of the ancestors I never met.

When I started studying magic and hoodoo, I began to hear about blood- and family ancestors. At first, I thought this meant my family history and the list of who-begat-who until my moment of birth. I never imagined that everyone has family, blood, cultural, and karmic ancestors. My studies in the Unnamed Path are now shifting to working with the ancestors of men-who-love-men — that tribe of men known for our capacity to love and heal others who are not like us and who vibrate to a different vibe.

As I read and continue to learn, I’ve begun to extend my awareness to these ancestors who watch, guide, and protect me, and whose attention I am trying to draw by lighting a candle to them every morning, reciting a prayer I wrote to them, and performing devotionals to the Gods and Goddesses of the Unnamed Path so they guide and connect me to these men.

MaoriIt’s my belief that in recent shamanic journeys I made contact with one of my ancestors. Although at first I believed him to be a warrior of the Maori in New Zealand, since my initial contact with him I’ve come to believe that he is much older than the actual Maori and that he may have lived long before the world became as we know it. Maybe, during his time the landmasses of the planet were different and the landscape, magic, and healing he performed was far more ancient and mystical than the ancient civilizations we know now. When I ask him, this ancestor points to a time further back in the timeline of human history, and marks the space Andrew Ramer writes about in Two Flutes Playing.

If this is so, my ancestry dates all the way back to ancient times. I have incarnated in many places and cultures that now appear to be lost to me and the history books, and that can only be recalled through spiritual practices and shamanic work. Because of my shamanic journeys and my recent studies for class, I’ve become more sensitive and aware to this ancestry. I now want to know more about where I come from and what runs through my blood.

Shamanic journey.jpgTwo nights ago, I ordered a DNA sampling kit so I can have my genetic background tested and identified. I want to know how much, if any, of my ancestry comes from Spain, or China, or Latin America. I want to know if there is any Anglo-blood running through my veins that may shed some light about why I’m so drawn to English history and literature. I want to know if my mother’s grandmother’s blood is thick in my blood, and the reason why I’m so drawn to Oriental esoteric philosophy. I want to know what other currents and traits are inherent in me so I can reach out to those ancestors an claim them as my own.

I won’t know any of this for a while, but as I walk further along my spiritual path, I wish to ask not just my family ancestors to help and join me, but all the other ones who know me and have a deep love for me to join me in my search for peace and joy. I don’t have to know or meet all of them; I’m sure there are so many they wouldn’t be able to fit in a room. But I would like to know the origins of my story before I reach the last line and the final period of this one.