Ancestors: Remembering Them to Remember Ourselves

By Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Our ancestors are longing for connection with us. Western culture seems to be the only culture that does not work consciously with the ancestors. If you travel around the world and goto different tribal shamans, different traditional cultures, you realize that they all work with their ancestors.

Some of them have special places in the house for their ancestor to live. Some of them have ceremonies where they intentionally bring the ancestor spirits in and feed them and care for them. There are all different ceremonies in these different cultures, but the primary piece is that they bring their ancestors into the present moment. That is critically important because our ancestors, although they're no longer in their own bodies, are most certainly alive in ours.

The ancestors are palpably present in every one of our cells. We carry DNA from all the beings that ever were who contributed to us — from the first cells that got together in the primordial sea, or the first creature that was the ancestor to every being with a backbone who lived 540 million years ago.

Think about all the archaic species of humankind and their parade through time, and then all the modern humans. Thousands of generations of them live inside of us. They live in every single one of our cells. It is a resource that is available to us anytime we recall them. Even our science is proving that this is true.

The European Psychological Association did a series of tests in the scientific method. They had people, as part of those test groups, recall an ancestor or ancestors before they took intelligence or problem-solving tests. Those tests were a way to concretely measure how well somebody does on the earth plane, how well they do with daily life. We use our intelligence and our ability to solve problems all the time.

What they discovered is that in all the variations of the testing that they did, people who remembered their ancestors — whether they knew them or not or whether they liked them or not — did markedly better than people who did not recall their ancestors! Hands down, those that thought about their ancestors did markedly better at earth-plane skill tests. Somehow, the ancestors are able to assist us, even though they no longer have their own bodies. It's our muscles and our bones that still do the heavy lifting, but somehow, they're helping us.

When I thought about that test, I thought there were two possible reasons for it. As a shamanic practitioner I might say, "Well, their spirits are supporting us.” However, maybe when we recall the ancestors, we're actually turning in part of us that lies dormant until we awaken it by asking the ancestors for their help.

Those ancestors who have made their complete transition and have “crossed into the light” are pure energy now. While they may have had all kinds of personalities when they were alive, now they are loving hearts that want to support us. Knowing that is incredibly sweet to me.

I was fortunate that I was raised with three generations who were older than I was. They included two parents, my two sets of grandparents and their siblings, and my great-grandmother and all of her siblings. I was a little kid surrounded by a lot of elders! Collectively, they were also truly wonderful storytellers.

As a result of their stories, I had a sense of people around me that went back many, many generations. That enriches my experience of the present, even now as I have become an elder myself. Those stories have stayed with me, and the feelings of their presence have stayed with me. One of the reasons I support people to work with their own ancestors is that I want to give them an opportunity to have that same kind of rich and nurturing feeling.

Having that kind of support behind you makes your life not so much easier, but you feel more supported. You have the opportunity to feel that support under you, like having a sturdy ship under you on a bumpy sea. The ancestors are present and are willing to cushion you and hold you safe.

I know some of you may not know your ancestors. You may have been adopted or you may have had your parents pass away when you were just a child, and so you wouldn't know those people that came before you. It doesn't matter, because they know you.

Through journeys, meditations, dreams, and ceremonies, you can meet them. You can learn from them — and they are marvelous teachers. Right this minute, they're cheering for you. I know this because your ancestors are also my ancestors because we're all connected.

Developing relationships with your ancestors and with the spirits of place is critical to our ability to be empowered people. They're critical for us to be healthy human beings. We were meant to be in relationship with the natural world. Our deep ancestors were in that relationship all the time; they were hunter-gatherers. They have to be connected to the rhythms of nature. They have to know when plants that are used for food are going to be ripe, when the herd animals are going to come through an area, when the birds come back.

THey have to know the time when the ice is going to go out, so they will be able to fish again along the coast… and the rhythms of the season, so they can move back and forth for migration. They had to know these things. Just as when an anthropologist asked a shaman in the Amazon, "How is that you know these plants are good for these illnesses?" the shaman said, "They told me," because they're in relationship.

When you invoke your ancestors — known or not — you will begin to notice changes in how your life flows. In essence, the simple act of remembering them each day is a ceremony, and ceremonies can help us change in ways that nothing else can do. When you perform an intentional ceremony, you are teaching yourself something on a very, very deep level.

When we do a ceremony, we are teaching ourselves by directly addressing the subconscious. The subconscious mind is always listening and is more responsible for how we live than our conscious awake mind. All of our beliefs that lie in the subconscious affect how our life goes

forward. Through ceremony, you can teach your subconscious that all these beings are really here to help. Remember them by saying a simple, “Thank you for giving me life and for being with me today.” Say this while envisioning that there are thousands of people who are focused on you having the best day, the best life that you can possibly have. As you envision their smiling faces, let yourself fill with gratitude.

How we speak, how we behave, the thoughts we have about ourselves in the world, the way we speak about the world and each other — are all things that deeply matter. They matter profoundly, because that is how we are wiring ourselves for this present moment and for all the moments to come. By beginning your day with being grateful to the ancestors and thanking them for their support, you are taking a powerful step in transforming your life.

In the shamanic world, an initiate may have an experience of being healed by being rebuilt and remade by the helping spirits. This is called “being remembered.” Each day you chose to think about your ancestors and bring them fully into mind, you are helping to “re-member” yourself.

Click here for a free guided imagery to meet and honor your ancestors.

Evelyn C. Rysdyk is an internationally recognized shamanic practitioner and bestselling author whose titles include The Norse Shaman... Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power... A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools... and her latest collaborative work, The Nepalese Shamanic Path: Practices for Negotiating the Spirit World with Indigenous Nepali jhankri Bhola N. Banstola. She also contributed to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare, exploring the role of shamanism in integrative care. Along with her writings, Evelyn is an impassioned teacher and a featured presenter for global online programs.

For over 30 years, Evelyn has delighted in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual clients, workshop groups, and online participants, or through the printed word, Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling, and purposeful lives. She acknowledges that as people awaken their full selves, they are much more likely and able to make their unique contributions toward transforming our world.

Still somewhat surprised that she was shapeshifted by the spirits from being a visual artist into a writer, she finds creative inspiration and renewal on the coast of Maine.

Click here to visit Evelyn’s website.

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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 3: Ancestral Healing Summit