Honouring the Living and the Dead
In constellations work, from an African perspective, we are summoning ancestral spirits!
Sometimes we need to honour those who have departed from the physical life but may not yet be at peace in the after-life. The work of Ancestral Constellations draws on traditional African spirituality, that which honours those who have gone before and seeks a healing path for those who are to come.
In many parts of Africa and more widely in cultures from India, to China and Japan, Ancestors are an important part of community life. In Africa, ancestors are considered to be part of the family and community. They are to be revered, not worshipped as is often thought. Reverence means to acknowledge and honour, those who have come before and to hold them in your thoughts after they have departed from this earth.
Looking to the Past for Healing
Many cultures believe that in remembering ancestors we support and help to heal our family line. There is a flow of life that continues after a loved one has departed. When past family or community rituals have been forgotten, or actions unresolved, members in the current family system are charged with repeating the pattern or resolving it.
My work involves helping those who wish to heal these unresolved problems or difficulties. By looking back through the transgenerational line to explore and surface past family patterns, there is a chance for greater peace for future generations. Put like this, it seems simple and straightforward, right?
The Power of Difference
A question to ask when we look at the present and past family problem is “what has created the situation?” Often it is differences, differences that result in conflict, or violence or trauma. If we look to history, there can be a personal or familial aspect of this but also alongside it a wider community or national issue. War, slavery, colonialism, genocide are all large scale events that have historically impacted generations.
So when we are doing ancestral work of any kind, we are working with peaceful ancestors who are fortuitous and happy to help. And there are those who in their lifetime who may have been angry, or frustrated and did not find peace in their lifetime because of their deeds.
Remembering can be Very Unsettling
As facilitators of this work, especially those from African heritage, we walk a difficult line. Is it because this wonderful and powerful work is both healing, therapeutic and a divinatory path?
It can be a difficult process for those who are steeped in a religious tradition that denies the reverence of our ancestors. Throughout history there has been a following of the ‘old ways’, but often it has been hidden or secret, not for public view.
The Old Ways
For those of us who are called to this work, we are remembering ‘these old ways’, the traditions that were lost during slavery and colonialism. And often we are also on our own healing path. For those who have been brought up in a Western and modern tradition, remembering can be very unsettling.
We are in search of lost roots and looking for awakening, peace and healing in our lives. In forgetting our past, we may have been sleeping. In this deep sleep, we can be ashamed and confused about where we came from and whom we have become. If we are of African heritage, there can be a tendency to deny our relationship to the past and guilty feelings about stepping onto an ancestral path that leads us into the future.
Raised in European Traditions
Raised in the European traditions of the church slavery denied us our tribal traditions. We were told that we were inhuman, that our culture was base, tribal and evil and we believed this becoming afraid to reclaim our roots. I know because I too have experienced this, even though for over 25 years I have followed a ‘proud to be Black’ philosophy, still the past continues to haunt me.
When we start to practice and revere our ancestors, we begin to read deeply into and understand our past. When we start to retrace our roots to ‘Mother Africa’, we may do it in a hidden way, keeping our ideas and thoughts to ourselves so that others do not consider us weird, mad and well, just bad. Until we get to a point where we can no longer stay hidden and step out to take the first steps on the path to healing, we will remain lost to these old liberating traditions.