Monday, January 18, 2010

Making it Personal – the triad of ancestors.

(As published in Serpentstar, Beltaine 2009)

I was once told in my training that when we acknowledge the ancestors we should consider three different types:

- those of our bloodline
- those of our tradition
- those of our land

I have found this triad of ancestors to be incredibly inspirational in finding balance in my own practice of Druidry, and I hope that by sharing my understanding of it, you might be able to do the same. Wherever you are in the world, this way of thinking about the ancestors can help you to understand more fully the unique nature of your own experience of the world as a Druid.

The Celts revered their ancestors a great deal, remembering their feats and adventures in the tales and mythology, some of which survives today. People were deified and turned into gods and goddesses, their actions exaggerated and used to find deeper understandings of the world through mythological symbolism. Their adventures turned into moral tales giving us guidance in our lives. These ancestral figures can be important to us as inspirations of how to live, but there are also our closer personal histories.

Many people, Druid or otherwise, find that exploring their family tree gives them a great sense of their own personal identity. To understand where your family members have come from, their lands and the stories of their lives you might like to do this yourself. Think about how where your ancestors have come from might influence who you are today? You might like to find out more by looking up the meanings and histories of your family name. Where were the people from? What is the language background? What occupations did they have? What are the traditions of the lands they come from? You might find things out that you couldn’t have imagined.

The importance of the ancestors of our bloodline can be particularly important for Druids if you are not of Celtic heritage. You may feel that you want to incorporate gods and goddesses or stories and beliefs from another religious or cultural path into your Druidic studies and practices. This is of course perfectly acceptable as there are many paths to the source, and a varied cultural approach can make for an incredibly interesting and inspiring ritual life! It can be a fantastic thing to have a Druid based ritual honouring a Goddess of Greece, or India, or that uses ideas from a Buddhist practice. The options are endless.

This brings me to the ancestors of tradition (which I also understand as ‘inspiration’). We do not have to be of the bloodline of a particular culture to be inspired by it and to be able to use it in our practices. I myself have used a wonderful Shinto waterfall purification ritual as an inspiration, changing it to suit my own beliefs and names for the processes and energies. Druids are inquiring people and many have varying interests in many of the world’s spiritualities. To include these ideas in our rituals can help us to expand our understanding and express who we are and what we are inspired by. Many Druids are inspired by traditions such as those of the American Indians, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shamanism, and so many others.

The third kind of ancestor is those of the land. I think this is the most important of the three, as it makes us acknowledge that our tradition is one of connection with nature. Acknowledging the ancestors of the land means that no matter where we are, we should honour that place, it’s history; it’s spirits. For those of us ‘down under’ I think this is really important as it makes us aware that we can’t just transplant a northern hemisphere tradition into the southern hemisphere and expect it to feel right. There has to be a connection with the local ancestors of the land too.

Learning more about the spirit of your local area can be a fascinating process and deeply enriching to your practice. In the last two issues of Serpentstar we have explored native animals and plants, their energies and divinatory symbolism. Learning more about native plants and animals and the seasonal cycles of the native forest is a fantastic way to attune with the ancestors of the land and honour them in our practice.
Another way is to learn more about Indigenous culture: learning to respect and acknowledge the wisdom of the people of your own area. Even simple gestures like acknowledging country at the beginning of your rituals can be a great place to start. And incorporating Indigenous myths can be especially enriching to ritual, especially outdoor ritual as so many of the stories are related to specific landforms.

Here is a way of welcoming the three ancestors that you might like to use in your rituals:

We welcome the ancestors of our bloodlines,
Those who have gone before us
Whose spirits dwell within us
Without whom we would not be

We welcome the ancestors of our tradition
Our inspirations, our muses, our awen
Whose spirits have guided us here
And made us who we are today

We welcome the ancestors of the land
The spirits of those who have been here before us
Those who hold the stories of this place
Who protect and nurture the energies here

We welcome you and ask for your blessings in this rite

I hope that you find inspiration and balance in working with the ancestors in this way. Different people will have very different paths following this guide, but it can help us all to recognise our individualities in following a unified principle. Where one person might find that all three ancestors lead them to Celtic inspirations, another may find that the only place Druidry is relevant to them is as a tradition – but it’s all Druidry! It’s all about making it personal and expressing your own unique place in the world through your spiritual practice.

2 comments:

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  2. I really enjoyed this. Post more frequently if time permits.

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