Connect With Your Ancestors
by Teresa Dellbridge
Mists rise and shadows fall. Autumn is a poignant time, and as the ancient festival of Samhain approaches, it’s natural to reflect on days gone by, souls who have passed on. Far from being morbid, such thoughts can develop into a journey towards wisdom, understanding and greater self-knowledge.
Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival meaning ‘Summer’s End’, falls at Halloween. This was a time of unease, when livestock had to be judiciously culled, stores set aside for the winter and the continued survival of the old and the sick became doubtful. Who would see another spring, and who would pass into the shadows? Answers were sought through divination, for people sensed that the Veil between this world and the Otherworld was very thin. The Fey walked forth from their sidhe-mounds, and those who had died drew close to living kinsfolk, around the Samhain fire.
If you wish to link with your ancestors generally, or with a specific family member, you may find this a good time of year to begin your journey. Ancestral ghosts aren’t by any means necessarily fearful. Love is the most powerful connecting force, guiding souls through the Veil and helping the living and the dead to make contact. There are various ways you can attune, getting closer to ancestors who have recently passed, and those who are more distant.
Intention, as always, is the key to success. Be clear with yourself exactly to whom you wish to attune. This could be someone close to you who is recently deceased, it may be a long-gone soul who feels important (such as a famous ancestor, or someone who had a significant impact on family destiny) or something more amorphous, such as a tribe, or race. However, if the latter, you would still hope to connect with an individual, as representative of the culture, for simplicity.
Try to saturate your awareness with reminders of the person or culture. There are various ways you can achieve this:
- Carry photos with you at all times. Whenever you have a moment, look into the eyes of the person in the photo and ask them to communicate with you
- Collect pictures of the places they would have lived and worked. This is especially important if you are making a connection with a culture. For instance, if you want to draw close to Viking ancestry, look at pictures of their ships, their homeland and artefacts
- Investigate the history of the period they lived. What were the main events? What were the living conditions? How would all of this have impacted on them?
- Find out as much as you can about the person’s life, and also their circumstances. Where did they live? What did they eat?
- Where did they sleep? What did they wear? Fill in as many small details as you can – for instance, what cup might they have drunk from?
- Think about what you know of their joys and sorrows. Were they successful and happy? Did they experience good luck or tragedy? How must that have felt?
- If you can, find out if there is anything that they owned still in existence. If possible, obtain things that they owned or used. Hold them or use them yourself
- Go to where they lived. Walk the paths they trod. Imagine how these places looked ‘back in the day’
When you’ve done as much as you can to get information, compile this into a journal or scrapbook. Leaf through this last thing before you go to sleep, and note your dreams. These may have bearing on your connection.
LAY A PLACE AT TABLE
One of the most vivid ways to bring your ancestor into the room is to lay a place for them at table. Serve their favourite food and imagine a conversation with them. This is best done with family or close friends. Don’t forget that having a good laugh is very healthy.
After the meal, resist the temptation to eat their plateful! Don’t even give it to the dog. In traditional belief, they have absorbed the ‘energy’ of the food, and it should now be returned straight to the earth, by burying or throwing into a running stream.
In more primitive times Samhain was the start of the story-telling season. This can be delightfully applied to a dear ancestor. Gather willing family and friends together, to tell stories about this person. Employ the custom of the Talking Stick in an individual way. The Talking Stick is passed around, and the person who holds it has the authority to speak without interruption. However, instead of a stick, you might choose to pass around something the person owned, such as a garment, item of jewellery – or their old walking-stick.
If you like, you can tell individual stories, which may be memories, tales they told or what you know of their life. You could also use your imagination and make things up, that you think might well have happened. Or you could do a round robin, where one person starts the tale, then lets the person next to them take over, and so the story travels the circle. Many heads can be better than one, and it may begin to seem as if your ancestor is there among you.
It’s a good idea to record your story-telling, for re-listening may reveal more. However, the group taking part must all be willing, positive and of good intent. If the bereavement has been recent, it may be best to appoint the most detached person to generally oversee, keep things calm and provide consolation.
At Halloween it’s especially appropriate and enriching to conduct a small ritual, to draw your ancestor close. Time is different in the spirit world. Don’t be afraid of calling your ancestor away from some important spiritual task or of summoning them back to earth when they need to be breaking the ties. A loving ancestor can always fit you in, and you are not ‘summoning’ – you are inviting.
The exception to this is a soul who is very recently deceased, perhaps a matter of days or weeks ago. The soul needs time to detach from this existence and its time-frame before being called back, or it could take longer to adjust and pass over.
- At this time of year especially, this ritual can be powerful. So do take care to protect yourself. Visualise a protective circle of light around you, before you proceed. Reinforce this by sprinkling salt, in a clockwise direction, around where you will be sitting. Affirm to yourself that your circle is cleansed and that you are doing this for the highest good, in the name of love and wisdom. You can call on any guides or angels that you wish, for added protection. Please note, this is not to protect you from your ancestor/s but to keep out any stray, harmful energies that may be attracted to your working.
- You may like to choose a candle of your ancestor’s favourite colour, if you know it, or use white. Circle your candle with bloodstone and black obsidian tumble-stones – at least two of each. Expand the circle with small reminders, if you can, and if you have a photo, prop this against the candlestick. If possible, burn incense of lemon balm and cypress – or use joss-sticks. Fill a dark, pottery bowl with water, and place it between you and the candle.
- Light your candle, let your eyes travel over your mementoes, and enter a dreamy state of mind. Try to concentrate on the moment, and where you are – if your thoughts spin off, keep gently bringing them back. Ask to make contact with your ancestor, in love and truth. Look deep into the dark bowl of water.
- Now simply observe what you see, think you see, hear, feel, smell or taste. It may seem as if you ‘see’ things in the water, if you are very lucky. Otherwise, the water is merely a way of focusing your mind. It may seem as if you are able to have a conversation with your ancestor, images may arise in your mind, your body may feel warm, or cold. You may have a new pain somewhere, or you may feel elated, despondent, afraid, excited… Quite possibly you will experience nothing, but don’t give up. If this is the first time you’ve tried anything like this, great results can’t be expected. But you can – and should – try again.
- When you have finished, give thanks to whatever or whoever seems right, even if you think nothing has happened. Record how you feel and every detail of your experience. Later on, you may spot significance that you’ve missed.
VISUALISATION TO MEET YOUR ANCESTOR/S
- Relax and be comfortable, before letting yourself enter a pleasant, dreamy state. Affirm that your intention is to meet with your ancestor/s and visualise yourself walking into a forest. The way is dark, but you can find a path quite easily, through the trees. Notice all you smell, hear, see, or in any way experience, on this walk.
- Find yourself in a clearing, surrounded by ancient yew trees, whose branches form into a dome, above your head. Breathe deeply of the essence of this place. You can smell the lush earth beneath you, the woody scent of the trees and the cool yet weighty stillness of the air.
- In the centre of the clearing, several stone benches are arranged in a circle, facing inwards. In the middle of this circle there is a small stone slab, on which stands a lantern. Within the lantern there burns a bright, steady flame.
- Sit on one of the stone benches, be patient, look at the flame and be aware of who is coming towards you. You may hear them, sense them or see them. There may be one, or several. They now come to sit in the circle with you.
- Welcome these ancestral visitors, speak with them if you can and see how the interaction develops. Try not to second-guess anything. If something surprises you, try not to react or you will probably jolt back to the everyday world.
- When you feel the audience is complete, thank any who have been present. You may be given a gift, or have realised something, but even if nothing seemed to have happened, always give thanks.
- Walk out of the clearing and come back through the forest, out into the light. Return to the here-and-now, drink a glass of water to ground you and make note of everything that you experienced in a journal.
BARRIERS TO CONTACT
If you try hard to get in touch with an ancestor but feel you have no luck, ask yourself the following:
Might you be expecting too much? Or trying too hard? If you’re desperate to get through then the tension generated will probably prevent success
Do you want to make contact for materialistic reasons, such as hidden treasure? That could only be successful if the ancestor meant that ‘treasure’ for you
Are you harbouring any resentment? Maybe you had cause to be angry, but loving forgiveness is essential to open the channels, and it will be so very healing for you
Are you telling yourself you can’t (because you aren’t ‘psychic enough) or don’t deserve to connect? You can, and you do
It can be all too easy to miss the fact that your ancestor is ‘coming through’. Try not to take anything for granted, or dismiss what happens as ‘coincidence’ or ‘just imagination’. Be very aware of the little things in your day-to-day round. You may be looking for an item round the shops and find it, seemingly out of the blue. Does this have a link with an ancestor? For instance, your dress-conscious auntie may guide you to just the right outfit. Or maybe something makes you slow up as you’re driving round a bend and you narrowly miss another car. Perhaps that was your beloved grandfather letting you know he’s taking care of you. Parking spaces, lost items found, ‘chance’ words from friends – all of these can be signs. Don’t miss them.
You may also find that you simply ‘feel’ your ancestor is close. This may be a loving presence, or even a voice in your head. If it is a distant ancestor, you may be drawn to new perspectives or given wisdom you did not expect. Be aware, open and very grateful for anything good or helpful that comes your way. The more you notice, acknowledge and give thanks the stronger your communication will become.