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