Category Archives: Healing Ritual

A Healing Ritual for Grief

Life in Birth and Death

Last Thursday it was both my 59th Birthday and the one year passing of my father.  It was a poignant day, full of bittersweet memories of what I have been gifted from my father and the recognition that I won’t see him again, at least in this lifetime.

But he is on my ancestral altar and I talk to him constantly.  Those of us born and living in the African Diaspora who are RE-Membering, know that our ancestors walk by our side.  They are with us daily, we honour and respect them, we feed and water them.

On the Ancestral Path

For the past seven years I have been on an ancestral journey, it started long ago, but the day that I stepped into my first Family Constellations workshop I knew that I was witnessing an African Healing Ritual.  Since that day I have been learning and deepening my understanding of the ‘Ancestral in the constellation.’

It has been a long journey that has included reconnecting to my parental ancestral homeland and gaining my Guyanese Citizenship.  I travelled to Burkina Faso in 2016 on my first African Healing journey and worked extensively with the renowned Elder – Malidoma Some.  During 2016 I attended a 5 Day Ritual Healing Village with him in upstate New York and a 5 day Grief Ritual in Canada.

A Modern Grief Ritual

By 2018 I had done extensive family research and taken a DNA test.  I found my way to Benin and a Fa priest and community, undertaking a number of family rituals for the generations of my family who had been forgotten in the diaspora.  It was an intense and humbling experience.  When I returned home and told my father he said that he was glad “Darling, I knew that you were searching.” he said.

And so last week on this day of birth and death I pondered, ‘what would be a fitting tribute for my father.  How could I create a Modern Grief Ritual that would honour and respect him?  By evening I had decided and at 11.05pm, the moment that he transitioned a year ago, I posted to Facebook.

My Father – Reginald Edwin Riance Welch

In my tribute to him, I wrote……..

This is a picture of my father, he passed away a year ago today, on my Birthday today! I spent all day thinking about whether I should post in his memory, to FaceBook?? I wasn’t sure if it was OK and right.

And then I went online and found a dozen messages from friends wishing me a Happy Birthday and I realised that maybe this is just a Healing Ritual of the 21st Century!

My father was larger than life, he loved life! I think he would have liked to be remembered and celebrated. He broke conventions! He went to Fortnum and Mason’s in London in the ’50s and ’60s for his Christmas ham. He went to the Theatre and Opera. He loved Shakespeare and Classic Literature. He loved Nina Simone and James Baldwin.

He was proud of being Black and Guyanese and he didn’t let anyone tell him that he wasn’t good enough!! In the world that we live in today when it seems like we are going backwards in understanding our past and our history. I ask myself, what did it take to hold both of these ‘Ways of Knowing?’

Strength, Endurance, Pride!

Give him alike! Give him a Love, I miss him. R.I.P Reginald Edwin RianceWelch 1929-2018

Community Spirit

It wasn’t the 78 Likes that moved me, it was the 43 comments from friends who knew him and some from those who only know me through Facebook.  I was amazed by the many beautiful comments.  From my friends reminiscing on their reflections of meeting and talking with him, to comments about his photo and the ‘twinkle in his eye’.

Writing this I feel deep emotion because my mother and father left Guyana in 1953 and I wasn’t able to gather a community a year after his death to celebrate him.  And so this Modern Grief Ritual on a social media site that I have never much cared about, has shown me that I have work to do to expand my thinking about what constitutes community ritual in 2019.

Ashe!

Working with Spirit

Honouring the Living and the Dead

Ancestral Spirits

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.

Ashe!

Ancestral in the Constellation

Making Sense of the Ancestral in the Constellation

Little has been researched or written about the ‘Ancestral’ aspect of constellations theory and practice.   After more than seven years of learning this approach and travelling my own healing path, I have understood as a woman of African heritage that I have to step out and step up.  That means naming what this work is from an African perspective, the ‘Call’ to the Ancestral path.

When you follow the path of African spirituality and ancestral work you come to realise that our ancestors are with us in the living world.  We remember them and in African cosmology, we honour them.  Just as many people in the West do when they visit their family members graves and talk to them, what is the difference?

AWAKEN to Your Heritage!

If you look at a ‘Call’ to ancestral practice as an awakening to your ancestral heritage, it becomes a journey of family work and self-understanding. The Ancestral Constellations approach honours our ancestors and frames constellations practice as a Healing-Ritual.  And African traditional spirituality is a very inclusive philosophy, so regardless of your background, culture, colour or religion, there is a place for you in the work.

At the beginning of a workshop or group session, we seek the permission of our family ancestors to do this healing work.  We can ask collectively because this work is a community ritual and we can ask individually prior to doing a piece of personal work. In acknowledging an ancestral presence we honour their role in the healing process that is unfolding and we strengthen the process as a community ritual.

The Family and Community Soul

This important because we are working at the family and community soul level.  Many of the personal issues that are carried from generation to generation are family or personal traumas, they are not healed in one lifetime and often reappear in another.  The combination of an ancestral past linked to African ways of knowing and a Western psychological systemic approach in the present creates a powerful and profound method of liberating healing potential for the future.

As we enter 2019, it is a good time to revisit and rethink the work.  I am taking opportunities to reflect on how to approach Ancestral Constellations work.  There is renewed interest in the ‘ancestral’ from clients and a deeper understanding of the role that I bring to this practice as a woman of African heritage.  This will be reflected over the coming weeks and months in posts on this blog!

Until next time!

The Excluded Conversation 

Starting From Your Own Back Door

All communities have to start ‘from their own back door’ if they wish to heal because only they know what is needed and required for change to take place.  In many diaspora communities, we have to start from the inside and heal out and one way of facilitating that healing is through Family and Community constellations that Include the Excluded Conversation. 

The Excluded Conversation is one that focuses on the difficult issues that impact our communities and cause distress, dis-ease and dis-harmony.  I am interested in how to support families and communities to look at the ‘deep roots’ of difficult conversations and relationships.

Conversations on Historical Legacy

In many of our communities, the family is indivisible, both impact on the other.  This is what can make it so difficult for individuals in families to explore their African or Asian heritage, often questions about identity and belonging are taboo or painful to discuss so they are avoided or ignored.

We can seek to explore these conversations on history and legacy and trauma through the mapping process of a systemic constellation. When we fear the taboo, the unspoken and the unknown and keep silent, there is a danger that others in the family or community may take them on and recreate the family patterns from the past.

Why don’t we Talk about Difficult Things?

There are many issues that we know exist in our communities, that we do not speak about. Often these conversations are suppressed and kept within our families and communities for fear of shame, guilt, judgement!!  My cousin told me a story about a young woman in America who entered her boyfriend’s house and looking at a picture on the wall enquired “why is my grandmother on your wall?”

We do not speak of this, or the fear of or other losses, the missing brothers and sisters in our clan, those we have heard of but never met.  And those that we have never met and are suddenly presented to us later in life.  There are other issues that are a left-over legacy from slavery and colonialism like ‘shadism’ that still exists in families and communities.

Transgenerational Anger

There is also much transgenerational anger that reasserts its head in different forms.  In the last two weeks, the issue of gang violence in London has been in all the media and news.  But this is not new, these acts of gang violence and self-harm has been present for many years.  But now younger and younger children are becoming involved, it feels like a new generation is under threat.

Many families who come from communities that have migrated and raised second and third generations in their new homeland are facing these and other issues of identity, belonging and stigmatisation. The dis-ease of living with these stressors impact our families and communities. Our emotional well-being Is being impacted and creating health problems, of the body and mind.

Articulating our Experience

Often in African Diaspora communities, we have often used, music and dance to articulate our experience.  Movement allows us to express a situation in a different way, to harness the energy of the conversation along different lines.  We can do something similar through systemic constellations which map out a family situation or community dilemma that can act as an oracle, a past to present day story, that we can learn and begin to heal from.

Through this process, we can begin to look at the legacy of our history differently.  When we map out and constellate the impact of slavery and colonialism, war and migration on the lived life of our family members and the community it affords us a different perspective.

All Therapeutic Personal work is Hard

All therapeutic work can bring up strong emotions and feelings that are difficult to explore.  But can we let our fear of our feelings have greater control over us than our fear of what will happen within our families and communities if we do not make a profound change?  Questions not for solutions, but for reflection.

This is not therapy, it is not a long term solution because for that we would need generations of healing work.  It is, however, a start and a therapeutic healing process that can start to work with family and community life as it is now, here in the present.

Until next time!

BAATN Podcast

Talking Constellations!

For the last 7 years, I have been on a personal and professional ‘seekers’ path, exploring identity, belonging and Ancestral Roots. It is a journey that has taken me to re-connect to parental homelands in South America and to research my Ancestral lineage in West Africa. This integration of personal awakening and systemic practice is both entangled and liberating. This BAATN podcast reveals both method and becoming, the first step for others on a similar path.

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Family Research and Systemic Constellations

In June 2018 a few weeks after my father passed away I was invited to give a presentation to BAATN.  This is a podcast of the session, it highlights not just what the systemic family constellations process is as a method, but what it can also teach us about family, cultural heritage, the role of ancestors and ancestral research.

Whether we live in fast-moving and a growing developing nation or in westernised modern urban communities, we are also increasingly dependent on each other.   And people from different cultural backgrounds around the world to support us as part of a global community.

Searching for Identity

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Who are we?   Where do we belong?  How do we maintain our authenticity and sense of identity and belonging when we carry multiple identities and know not where they are all from?  The questions that will help to shape these answers often come from those that came before us and when they have gone the knowledge is lost forever.

I am endlessly grateful that I spent the last seven years of my father’s life on an ancestral journey with systemic constellations that led me to ask him the questions about family and past life in a colonial nation-state that have helped to answer my own questions about identity and belong.

You can read more about my ancestral journey on my blog posts!

Thanks, dad, always in my heart, never forgotten, Reginald Edwin, Riance, Welch 13.10.1929 – 09.05.2018

Journey to Dano

You’re Almost Out!

“You’re almost out”, said Malidoma at a Cowery Shell reading that I had with him in 2015.  It was the second time that I had been to see him, the first the previous year. I returned this time because I felt that I had unfinished business.  I knew that I had spiritual work to do.  I knew that I was on an ancestral path and I knew that I had forgotten something.

“You’re almost out”, he said, “but there isn’t anything else I can do for you here, you need to come to Burkina Faso and see African spiritual technology at work.” “What is he talking about I thought?”  Dashing the idea away into the back of my mind, I thought “hmm, maybe next year!” But come January 2016 I was on the bus taking us from Ouagadougou to Dano, his home village

Travelling with Malidoma

I was travelling with Malidoma Some the gifted African healer and diviner on a healing study trip with a party of other invited ‘ancestral searchers’.  It was a kind of initiation into deepening the work with my ancestors.  And later that year, I attended more healing rituals and ceremonies with Malidoma, learning about Dagara Cosmology and cower shell divination.

Now as I reflect on that journey, especially the Burkina Faso part, I realise that it was in part ‘an initiation’ even though at the time I had not thought about it like that.  This was an adapted form, an approach that Western minds could make sense of.  We visited a traditional healer where we asked a question and received answers about our life purpose.  We were involved in animal sacrifices in the traditional African way that I won’t go into here.

Listening to the Call!

We had an audience with a ‘stick diviner’ and I have to say, every step of that journey made sense to me and helped to awaken my ‘remembering’.  Remembering that had been white-washed and wiped-out over hundreds of years.  Lost through the journey of the ‘middle passage’ to the Caribbean and the ‘modern passage’ to the UK.

It has taken over a year to start to make sense of that trip.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know and as African traditions are oral, not written ones, you can’t ‘remember’ by reading, you can only ‘remember’ through living.  So after the healing rituals of last year, I started a Cowery Shell divination course, a healing path with an African edge that I thought I was looking for.

And Then, a Cancer Diagnosis!

As things started to get on track with my work, I found out that I had cancer.  In the whirlwind that follows a cancer diagnosis, I just stepped out and away from everything.  I had to make sense of how had this happened to me, what did it mean and what was I to do and learn from this experience?

According to many shamanistic traditions, a major illness, mental or physical can be a calling to deepen your relationship with your ancestors or become a Sangoma or Diviner.  For me, this illness represented a call of ‘Spirit’ to fulfil my life purpose in a way that I hadn’t acknowledged before.  It felt like I was moving through a ‘transformative initiation process’.

Right now I am continuing on my journey learning about ‘Spirit’ and the ancestors.  This journey is reconnecting me to my ancestral family line.  It is challenging me to ‘come out’ and show my face, as a diviner and healer in a  culture that has forgotten a lot of African heritage.  And I am stepping-up and into whatever it is that I am called to do and be.

More next time!