ancestor work, Paganism, Ritual

A Mini-Rite for Justice

This digital flyer is being passed around on various social media websites, and I plan to take part. When I checked in with my guides and allies, however, they had a specific suggested topic for ritual work, and asked me to share it with my audience.


My guides suggested I write a short working to my Ancestors.
Specifically, the white ones.
I’m a mixed-heritage light-skinned Indigenous person, but yeah, I have a lot of white ancestors. Quite a few of whom were probably problematic AF.

I remembered then, a discussion I’d attended that was led by a woman named Sangoma, who is both Black and Indigenous. During that, a white woman asked a question, and I recorded the exchange in my blog, but I’ll reproduce it here:

The attendee had recently learned that some of her ancestors had owned land near where we were in Georgia, and that in addition to that land they had also owned five slaves. She wanted to know what she could do with that knowledge, how she could make up for the trauma her ancestors perpetuated, how she could work with ancestors who had done something like that. Sangoma’s response was concise and actionable: Find out who they were, if you can. Find their descendants, if you can, and help them out. Find out where they were buried, if you can, and give them last rites so that they may go peacefully into the next world. And what about the black nannies who raised your family? Do you send them Christmas cards? Find them and their descendants, too. The only thing you can do is ask the dead for forgiveness, and help the living as best you can.

Sangoma: Crossing Lines, Healing our Racial Divide. Mystic South, 2019.

That’s still great advice, but it got me to wondering about ancestral debts, and how that’s a legacy that those with white ancestry have to deal with. How maybe the Dead could be enjoined to pay their debts, as well. If Ancestors can be called on to offer us aid, surely we can ask them to right their wrongs as well? To help the living descendants of those they wronged, to help us clean up their bloody legacy.

So, I wrote the following prayer/charge. I suggest you set up an altar ahead of time with a candle, matches or lighter, food and/or drink, a bell or chime, and a divination tool. Then read through the whole thing at least once, and think about what it means, before doing the ritual. Remember to follow up with mundane ways of supporting the work! Incorporate them into the ritual if you like. For example: at the end, present a confirmation of a donation to an aid fund, or give an oral account of actions you have taken. When you perform the rite, speak the words written below, and perform the actions indicated in brackets in italics.

Mini-Rite to the Ancestors

[Prepare your space in your usual way before you begin.]

I light this candle to call upon my Ancestors, whose debts are yet unpaid.
[light candle]

Those who caused harm to Black People, Indigenous People, People of Color.
Those who caused harm either by their words or their silence, by their actions or their inaction.
Those who owned slaves, those who profited from slavery, those who used products or services from business who profited from slavery, those who continued to oppress former slaves and their descendants, those who refused to acknowledge or remedy the injustice.
Those who stole land to colonize, those who kept lands by force, those who continued to oppress the original peoples of the stolen land on which they lived, those who refused to acknowledge or remedy the injustice.
Those who engaged in genocide, and those who allowed it to happen.

I will do my part to break the cycle.
To that end, I call on my Ancestors to pay their debts.

I call on you! Hear my Petitions!
[if you have a bell or chime, sound it now, four times.]

Protect the descendants of those you wronged.
Tear down the unjust systems you upheld.
Pave the way for better, more just systems to be built.
Reinforce the work of those who build better systems from the ashes of the old.

I have done this work, I am doing this work, and I will do this work,
With my hands, my voice, my talents, with this body that comes from your lineage.
Join me; work by my side.
Help me do this work to pay the debts you have burdened me with as your legacy and my inheritance, or be banished from the offerings on my altar, from my veneration, from my remembrance. 
[blow out or douse candle]

Help me do this work and our legacy will become achievements of justice and integrity, worthy of remembrance by our descendants.
[re-light candle, and give offerings]

[Spend some time with your Ancestors, perhaps doing a little divination, and when you are through, thank them for their time, blow out or douse the candle, and dispose of the offerings.]


Notes:
1. Yes, I’m aware that the “those who…” section basically amounts to EVERYONE, but I think it’s worth spelling out.
2. Yes, I’m also aware that repeating this comes awfully close to oathing that you’ll do the work, but tbh that should really not bother anyone because we all need to be doing the work. It doesn’t say 24/7/365, you won’t be in violation if you slip up occasionally, but it may result in your Ancestors exerting some pressure if you try to shrug it off.
3. You may share wherever you want, but give credit. You may also adapt it slightly for your own, non-commerical, usages.


Additional Suggestions for Polytheists:

If you’re a practicing polytheist, I also suggest saying some prayers and/or doing a mini-rite to your favorite deities of Law, Justice, Truth, Right Rulership, etc, for this full moon working. If you don’t have a favorite, here is a (very brief and not at all exhaustive) list of suggestions:

  • Hellenic: Athena (esp Athena Columbia), Nike, Dike, Eleutheria, Themis, Aletheia, Apollo, Nomos
  • Irish/Gaelic: Nuada, Lugh, Brigid Ambue, Morrigan, Macha
  • Kemetic: any of the Eyes of Ra (Bast, Sekhmet, Wadjet, Tefnut, Mut, Hathor, etc), Ma’at
  • Norse/Germanic: Tyr, Freyr, Loki, Forseti
Holiday Celebration

Samhain 2018

My Samhain Season began with my transition into darkness, timed to the heliacal rise of Spica (a star or multi-star system in the constellation Virgo) on October 24th, the same day as the full moon.  The timing was something I discovered by accident, as I fell down a rabbit hole of faery holidays and stellar timing following Morgan Daimler’s revelations about the Pleaides.  Spica seems to be closely associated with my Faery Queen, Starflower, and she has a sort of light-in-darkness and darkness-in-light balance to her energies that reminds me of the Chinese yin yang symbol.  I had noticed on previous years that her transition into darkness happened before November Eve, but this year I really dove into star charts and paid careful attention and though I believe her transition from light to darkness is somewhat gradual, the bulk of the transition seems to occur between the heliacal rise of Spica (when it rises before the sun) and when Spica is at its zenith in conjunction with the sun, which happens much closer to November Eve. (I’m still not 100% clear on whether it’s the zenith at noon or the sun conjunction that matters more, but the zenith at noon was easier to calculate: October 30th this year.)

Hallowed Homecoming, which was the subject of my previous blog post, began my ancestor work and my work with the Morrigna.  For the Ancestor Altar there, I prepared a small charm box, in a repurposed Sucrets container.  (I’m a huge fan of witchy upcycling.)  Inside I placed a sodalite stone from an incomplete rune set carved with Othala, a fortune from a fortune cookie that bore the phrase “missing you” in English and Chinese, and a purple paper heart into which I spoke the names of some of my most beloved ancestors.  It spent the weekend on that altar, among other tokens and pictures, and then it came home with me to my own ancestor shrine.

I did very little on the 31st.  We passed out candy, and though I expected to pull cards for my Crow Folk, I was told I had to Wait.  So, I worked on memorizing some more of the chants for the ritual I was helping plan, and I waited.  I did not feel called to pull cards to speak to any of my ancestors, either – I had received the messages that were most important during the main ritual at Hallowed Homecoming.

On the 2nd of November, I attended a Memorial and solidarity Shabbat Service at a local synagogue with my husband’s family, and that was an especially poignant evening of Ancestral Communion.  It was also a much needed balm for my grief, and I came away glad for the community I live in, and wishing that my own faith was better represented in it.

On the 3rd, I gathered with some friends at a friend’s house, and together the nine of us had a ritual to the Morrigna, which was powerful despite our greenness and small number.  Afterwards we had a pot luck, and there was an ancestor shrine set up in one room for people to visit and take time at.  My little sucrets container sat among other tokens for another evening.

Now it is the 7th, the day of the Dark Moon, and my Samhain season comes to a close.  I am finishing these blogs as the sun goes down, and then I will pull cards and dream on them, seeking a message from the Morrigna.  Tomorrow, I will write up a blog for the Dark Moon, and I will begin to pull cards for all the Crow Folks who have requested them.

 

 

ancestor work, Event, fae, Paganism, Retreat/Festival/Convention, Spiritwork, Workshop

Hallowed Homecoming 2018

I meant to blog about this right away, but first I was still processing and then Samhain season really hit. It’s still hitting, and I’ll blog about that, soon, but first, here are my impressions of Hallowed Homecoming.

Generally, I liked the event! The workshops were enlightening and inspiring, the rituals small but effective. The staff was amazingly helpful, the food was delicious and filling (and they are SO GOOD with allergies!), and there was enough tea to keep my cup always filled. The parkland was beautiful, and the cabins were spacious. The only bad thing, really, was the weather.

It was cold. Cold and wet, and the cabins didn’t keep out the chill – they barely kept out the drafts. I had a brand new coleman sleeping bag rated to 0°F, and that combined with wearing three layers and a hat to bed made me barely warm enough. The rest of the time, I was fighting numbness in my hands and feet, even with thermal layers beneath my clothes, my good new boots, and gloves. Part of that, of course, is due to my chronic illness: I have poor circulation and difficulty with temperature regulation. The tea helped, and the fire in the main hall helped even more, but with wet firewood making fires in workshop cabins a struggle, I often found myself too cold to be fully immersed.

Our first day opened with registration and unpacking, and then I opted to skip the first workshop (on crafting ancestor altarpieces) in favor of walking the land, as I did at Witches’ Sabbat this past May. I started with my traditional self-introduction with tobacco in the Anishinaabe language, and after that I went wandering in search of the local Courtly Fae.

I was guided down a trail, under a fallen tree, down a fork to the left, across a field, down a hill, counter-clockwise around a holly bush, over another fallen tree, and to a decaying stump covered in bright green moss. Like the small hill in Ontario, this natural landmark was an anchor to a Faery Court, and when I gave an offering (of a delightful elderflower and lemon soda), I perceived a beautiful hall, and in a throne on a dais, a young and exquisitely beautiful Queen. She hadn’t been expecting my visit, but was pleased enough to meet me and accept the offering. I called her Wood Violet, because the flowers were a repeating feature in the decoration of the room and her wardrobe, and her eyes were the same purple. Scott accompanied me on the physical journey, but did not join me in the Hollow Hill.

Byron Ballard was the keynote speaker for the weekend, and that evening we attended her first workshop: Practical Ancestor Work. She began with a line from Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”, which is also a favorite of mine. (If you don’t know it, I highly recommend reading it.) My notes are sporadic, because Byron was teaching to a mixed-level group, and I was already familiar with much of her material. I did not know, however, that there is a version of the Wild Hunt in Yorkshire called the Gabble Ratchet that is associated with migrating geese, and is said to collect the souls of the recently departed. Byron also emphasized that there are several different types of ancestors: 1) blood family ancestors, both recent and ancient, 2) adoptive family ancestors, including friends who have passed, 3) the Beloved Dead, who are people from history that you feel a special kinship with, and 4) the Mighty Dead, who are the cultural heros of groups one belongs to, be they ethnic cultures, religious cultures, trades or crafts, or subcultures. A lot of time, people seem to shy away from Ancestor Work because their most recent ancestors were abusive or intolerant of other faiths, but there’s a wide world of the Dead out there, and no rule that says you have to start with the grandmother who hated you. (Although Bryon did also say that sometimes, those toxic relatives get a better perspective once they cross over, and they realize what they’ve done and feel obligated to make things better. Not always, but you might try contacting them and seeing if they’ll help you out occasionally, if speaking to them isn’t likely to trigger too strong of a negative reaction.)

The Opening Ritual was mostly to introduce the Guardians for the weekend, and to establish sacred space. My friend Kate joined them this year, and I felt that we were in safe hands for the work we would do the rest of the weekend.

Kate also led the first workshop I attended on the second day, on Hedgewitchery. Despite some technical difficulties with the fire in the craft cabin (damp wood), she led a pretty lively discussion of traditional witchcraft, her family’s German-American folk magic, and her approaches to hedgecrossing. The last part of the workshop was a guided meditation to speak to an element, and I had a very insightful conversation with the goddess Dinand while standing in a river. I was very glad to finally attend this workshop, since I missed it the last time Kate taught it!

Byron’s workshop on Saturday was one I believe I’d seen before, called the Spirit-Haunted Landscape, but the stories and the way she teaches change every time, so I was happy to listen again.  She talked a bit about human spirits and different kinds of ghosts, and then of land spirits – both the large spirits of place, and the smaller more fae beings associated with plant growth.  The last group she talked about are what I would consider the Gentry, the more powerful among the fae, like Wood Violet, the White Lady, and my own Queen, Starflower.  Her words were as much warning as instruction: do not do the work if you are not called to it, she said, because you will be happier and have a simpler life without Them.  But she believes that, for those of us who are called, we need to heed it, we need to brave the danger, because They can help us heal the world, and we need all the help They can give, even if it means that some of us lose parts of ourselves.  I found myself nodding along with much of what she said, and I wasn’t the only one – at the end, she asked a few of us whom she either already knew or could tell worked with the Gentry and she asked us to share a nugget of wisdom.  Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely, considering the subject matter), I can no longer remember what I said.

After that was my own workshop, an intermediate-level introduction to the three Morrigna, specifically the Daughters of Ernmas. There were about a dozen attendees, and I think it was pretty well received, even though I came dangerously close to info-dumping during my section on the Morrigna’s appearances in lore.  I’ll be sharing the journey prompt in my next Dark Moon Crow Calls blog.

Following my workshop it was dinner time, and then after dinner we were all turned out of the main hall long enough for the staff to set up for the main ritual.  We gathered outside for the main ritual and processed in, finding seats in near-darkness and near-silence.  After what I recognized as a fairly standard Wiccan ritual opening led by Rev. Tristan and Byron Ballard, we were led in a call-response honoring ancestors who had many different types of deaths.  Then a yarn rope that had been woven during an earlier workshop was stretched into a circle around the room, with each participant holding onto it in their non-dominant hand.  We were instructed to give a single word answer to describe wisdom we’d received from our ancestors, and then take the scissors from the ritual leaders and cut a piece of the rope.  My word was “peacemaking”.

On Sunday, Byron opened her workshop by explaining that she’d gone off site last night and had been in contact with the wider world, and expected that most of us had not, as that area of the parkland is a cell signal dead zone.  She painted the Pittsburg tragedy in broad brush strokes, and said some strong words about banding together and fighting bigotry and the importance of interfaith work, before giving us all a moment to process.  I had already begun to feel that we shouldn’t stay all the way to the end of the day, because the cold and damp was beginning to get to me, but after the news I just wanted to get home to my baby.  My baby, who at eight days old, was given a taste of sacramental wine while a rabbi spoke prayers in Hebrew over him.  My little family may be pagan, but we’re Jewish, too.  We still observe some of the traditions of our ancestors, even if our religious views differ.

Once most of us had regained our composure, she began her workshop proper, on the topic of Peasant Magic.  She shared a paraphrasing from Jason Miller, who split magic into two broad categories: temple magic, and field magic.  Peasant magic and folk magic, she explained, was field magic, where you do the work that needs to be done with whatever tools and materials you can scrounge up, be that a bit of lint from your pocket and your own saliva, or an herb you grow in your yard and your good wooden spoon.  She talked a bit more about community, too, about being our own first responders and not relying on bureaucracy when its ways will take too long.  Boom the creek yourselves to stop an oil spill from making it to the river.  Set up networks, where you know who to turn to for each crisis, be it one of waterways, immigrants in crisis, or a house fire.  No one can devote time to every worthy cause, she reminded us, to it’s best to pick 3, and devote as much time and effort as you can to those three, and trust that your neighbors will cover the rest.  You can support them in solidarity when they need your help, and they will support you back, even if it’s something as simple as buying a box of candles for a vigil.  Mundane actions and magical workings work best in unison, she said – one without the other isn’t as effective.  But if you try a spell and it doesn’t work, and then you try it more carefully and harder and it doesn’t work, and then one more time while pulling out all the stops and invoking all your gods and it still doesn’t work, you need to stop.  She calls it “1,2,3, Brick Wall”.  After the third time, you’re being told that the work is not for you to do, and your need to accept that.  She told a poignant story about the fires near her home a few years ago, to illustrate the point, and ended with the wisdom that what seems like a disaster may contain within it new growth; some seeds are only opened by fire.  That resonated with me, especially considering the messages I’ve been getting from the Morrigna and the Eyes of Ra lately.

After the workshop we packed up to leave, and did not stay for the closing ritual.  We said our goodbyes, and exchanged contact information with a few new friends.  Some people asked if we’d come again, and I wanted to say yes, but I could already feel how much strength the weather had sapped from me, and the insight of the chronically ill told me I’d be spending days recovering.  So I don’t know.  I enjoyed the event.  I’d love to see the space again; I’d like to return in the spring to see Wood Violet in her time of power.  But I’m not sure if three days of damp and cold was wise.  I may need to look into staying somewhere off site, somewhere warm and dry, but then the expense may be more than our budget can stretch to cover.  We shall see.