Skip to content
Home » Ancestor Work : The Good and Bad

Ancestor Work : The Good and Bad

  • by

This is the time of year where death and our ancestors are center stage. This is true of our society as a whole through celebrations such as Halloween. This is the time where the earth prepares for its slumber through the cold winter. The leaves fall, leaving the trees bare and haunting against the dying of the light. Farmers bring in their last harvests and corn mazes pop up in their place. Scary movies and costumes can be found on every channel and every store. 

A time where we remember,celebrate, and honor those who have come before us.

Ancestor work is in every culture and every religion. It is the oldest practice of people on this earth. It varies in practices and traditions, but it is a cornerstone of all of us. This is because, if it was not for them, we would not be here now. 

I’m going to be speaking on this from my perspective and experiences, my thoughts and theories. Some you may agree with and some you may not. 

Ancestors can be viewed in many ways. The most common is that of our own families, our blood. Some people include those who share their profession, beloved leaders, adopted families, friends they have bonded like family, and so forth. For me though, my main focus is that of blood connection, those in my direct lineage, as that is my personal work and experience. There are better voices out there that can speak on topics such as adopted families because it is their experiences. 

I hear many people shy away from their own blood lines because of bad experiences with their living relatives, or they found people that did bad things from their perspective. Here is the reality though, go back far enough and you will find both good and bad in your line. You will find people who you do not agree with or even detest their actions. 

Good and Bad History

Our visions of their goodness or badness comes from our own perceptions and those perceptions shaped by the society we live in today. When we look at those ancestors, I feel we also need to look at the history around the time they lived, the culture of the place they lived, to get a clearer picture of understanding them better. We do not know what we do not know, and there is a large portion of history where information, opposing views, education, and variety of culture was not as integrated or accessible as it is today. I point this out because when we start to put ourselves into their possible mindsets, it may change our judgments of them. That does not mean there will not be really bad people in your line, I have found several that had done some very dark things, but we shouldn’t hide from the history that is a part of us and made it possible for us to be here now. When people talk about ancestral trauma, they are referring to these types of issues. We heal that trauma through our own lives and actions we choose now. We can not change history, the past is gone, but the actions and life we live now shapes the future. We heal the past by learning about it and from it, so we can do better in our lives. 

Yes, when you dive into your history you will find people that you consider bad, but you will also find people you connect to and perhaps even admire. 

Black Sheep

I have run into more people that consider themselves a black sheep than those who feel they do not fit in their living families. I am counted among them. Some have had some devastating experiences with living members, I can be found there too. There are so many things that make us feel separated or even severed from our living family. This should not deter you from exploring your history. I have found that when you dig deeper into your lines and uncover the stories there, you find other black sheeps, other misunderstood or ignored relatives. You may find solstice in this, a connection to them, or a new perspective for you. By finding these connections, it helps us to heal the damage within ourselves done by living family. 

Uncovering Your History

We live in a time where families are more distant and fractured than in earlier ages. Some may only know one parent and have no knowledge of the other at all. Some have lost parents at early ages. Some may have severed from their families and do not have the ability to ask. There are all kinds of road blocks but we also have new openings through the access of technology. If you know nothing of your heritage, you can do a DNA test. This will not show your whole history by any means, but it will show the parts that have been passed to you. It can help you piece together the movements of your people and the cultures that they were probably a part of. We will get into that in a bit though.

So I suggest you start with what you have. There are many free sites that allow you to start building a family tree. I personally like for the tree part. This is because it connects and gives you hints from documents and other trees, but mostly because of how it prints out your tree so you can have a paper copy as well. You can also connect your DNA results to your tree to help you further. It is not my primary resource for finding information and connections but is a good place to house what you find. I also do not use their paid services, which I admit would probably make my progress quicker, but the price for me seems outrageous and I’m ok with putting in extra work.

Google search can be an excellent resource. By putting in a person’s name and dates of birth and/ or death, will search through a variety of genealogy resources including obituaries which can lead you to more information. 

I tend to search for a variety of sources to confirm information that I find. It does take more time but I would rather know what I am finding is as correct as possible. It is a lot of work and I have spent decades off and on working on mine, but the work definitely pays off, at least in my opinion. I have lines that have gone back to the BC era and some that cross into mythology in the aspect that their names can be found in lore. I also have lines stuck in much earlier phases. For me, I don’t want to just know their names, I want any scrap of info that I can possibly find about them. This helps me to better hypothesize who they were. I look at the history of their time, the cultures and lands they lived in, how they moved from one place to another. All of these things give me clues as to who they were as a person. Of course this is just my process and how I have chosen to go about learning about those who came before me. Some may do less or more, depending on what they want.

Working with our Ancestors

Some may ask why we would want to work with ancestors. What advantage would it give us? Why work with ancestors when we can work with Gods? 

My simplified answer is this, they are a part of you. Their blood, for good or ill, runs through you and they are connected to you. On the whole, that means in the aspect of the group of them together, they are more likely to be invested in your success, protection, and growth. This is especially true for those directly connected to your ancestral soul, but that is a topic for another day. 

We can call upon our ancestors for wisdom or insight into a situation. We can call on them to help us manifest or shape the energy to reach our goal. They can be another layer of protection that we carry around ourselves. Never underestimate the connection you can build or the benefits you can reap from that connection. 

Some of the oldest practices come from working and honoring our ancestors. Folk type magic is heavily influenced by different ancestor workings. Traditions or customs passed down through our lines can be seen in healing practices, protections, material gain, and spiritual growth. Before people worshiped deity, they worshipped those who came before them. This included family lines, healers, leaders, and more. 

Ancestros can be weaved into all of our magical and spiritual works to enhance them and add another layer of power to them. Due to their inherent investment in us, some will say they are our most powerful allies even above deity. Those who follow more animistic views tend to blend ancestors into their practices instead of deity connections. While other practitioners layer both sides into their practice. Whichever road you choose, I feel our ancestors can be a pivotal foundation stone to add.

Connecting and Creating Space

Now that we have discussed the surface aspects of finding your ancestors, let’s talk about how they can be incorporated into our lives, our practices, and beliefs.

Shrines are a simple way to start that connection between you and them. It can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make it. 

For me, a candle is a staple. I say a small prayer to them as I light it, inviting them into this space, and to extend love and peace. The flame is a way to guide them and give them energy. It is also a focus for my own mindset. When I look at it, my mind drifts to them, thus putting me into a mindset that is more open to feeling their presence or listening for their voices. By remembering them, thinking of them I am giving them some of my energy and building a connection to them.

Pictures are another good way you can invite them into your space or remember them. These can be directly on the altar but I personally prefer to have a wall dedicated to them. This keeps my shrine or altar area uncluttered and allows me to add things such as crests and other symbolism of theirs. 

You can add trinkets of theirs or things that they liked in life. Some people will put out certain treats, candy, jewelry, and so forth. As I personally do not possess any of these things from my family (beyond pictures) I tend to add things such as flowers or certain stones. 

Creating an outdoor ancestral space is another way to connect and give them a space to infuse with their energy. This can be a good way to consecrate a space that can be used like a grave yard even when your people are buried far away. Their energy can imbue the earth, which then can be used in the same ways as a graveyard or graveyard dirt. It takes time and consistent care of the space, but it has a lot of benefits as well. If you live in an urban space this can be more difficult and in some cases just not an option. All of these are not things you have to do, just different ways to connect and give them space in our lives.

Learn and tell their stories. By learning the stories of our ancestors, we are building connections to them. When we tell those stories to others, we are strengthening them, their memory, and in a sense giving life to them. This can be done by just talking about them, through poetry, through written stories, even fictional writing. I am currently working on putting the histories of the ones who have them, family lore, along with my family tree into a book. One that can be passed down through my children so they can read and learn about them, add to it, and pass it down again. 

Prayer. This word has a lot on conitentations but prayer does not have to be elaborate or ceremonial. Prayer is talking. A conversation from you to another that is unseen. It can be done as you drink your morning drink, while driving in the car, sitting in nature, or as you fall asleep. By talking to our people, we are including them in our lives. We are building stronger tethers between us and letting them know they are not forgotten. 

Divination and Meditation are ways we can open ourselves up to hear their wisdom or guidance. This can be done in many forms with a variety of techniques. I would just choose one that fits with you. I personally am heavy on trance work and tarot in my divination work so that is what I mostly use. Dreams and paying attention to signs can also help, as it strengthens our intuitive skills, as well as, ground us in the present.

Our Ancestors can be a strong force in our lives, in our practices, and our spiritualism. They are a part of us, we carry them with us, and they can be our greatest allies. How we choose to approach them, work with them, and give back to them are all personal choices. I suggest experimenting and trying a variety of things to find what works for you. After all, I believe all our practices should start with experimentation.

Leave a Reply