Category Archives: RE-Membering

A Modern African Ritual

Ritual in a Different Form

A ritual has many different forms! It brings together a community, which according to Malidoma Some embodies, unity of spirit, trust, openness, love and caring respect for the elders respect for nature and cult of the ancestors.  Ritual, Power Healing and Community, Some 1991 Pg 52.

In my work, what I see, and hear is what I honour and Ancestral Constellations is the development of a modern African ritual, fashioned for a Western audience.   What does this mean in practice, a ritual constructed in ‘sacred space?’

Every ritual, a consultation, a workshop, a witness constellations session start with the invocation, calling on the ancestors for support and their guiding presence as we take the first step into the past that connects the present. This calling on our guiding angels, the family, community and nature spirits is to seek permission to create a community working together in sacred space.

A Mini Ancestral Shrine

We always have a mini ancestral shrine with flowers, water, incense, and representatives for the ancestors and guardians, in the form of shells, stones, or figurines.  This represents those from the past that are connected to us in the present. It is not a long ceremony and the shrine is not always named, it is just there beside us as we do the work.

For me as a Caribbean women this represents the African aspect of constellations work.  Bert Hellingers when he developed the Systemic Constellations method when he returned to Europe from South Africa, acknowledged that he had taken some aspects of the Zulu African family ritual, which he combined that with systemic western thinking to create the constellations model. 

For those of us, particularly with African heritage the core of this therapeutic approach is turned inside out, so that the ritual, found in community unity, is the important starting point.  Ancestral Constellations workshops bring together people from different African, Caribbean, Asian and bi-cultural heritage.  It does not exclude others, but it focuses on Black and Brown representation because there is a need for a safe space to express and talk about the impact of these ancestral lineages on contemporary family life.

Sitting in Circle

And there are not many of us from an African or Asian background doing the work.  During a workshop, there is an expanded awareness of ‘other ways of knowing’, other than a eurocentric frame of reference.  There is a RE-Membering, often of family connection, found through a constellations community that goes beyond the individual and includes the history of all its members. 

We sit in a circle of black and brown people knowing that we share something deep, a past collective trauma and present day struggle, especially those of us who come from a history of slavery, colonialism, or other ancestral lineage traumas.  It is not about being exclusive, rather, there is power and comfort in not having to explain and not feeling shame about talking about the many real issues of divisions, discriminations, and dis-ease that impact our communities, often named, less often discussed.  We just sit in all our colour and diversity and do the work.

When I first started on my family constellations journey I was struck by how few black people, or any people of colour would be in the room.  I struggled with how much to raise my own issues about my struggles with being a black woman, would I be accepted, would it be okay and often it was fine and sometimes, it was met with challenging, misunderstanding or deflection.

Where are the Constellators of Colour

I asked a few family constellations facilitators, why there weren’t more people of colour doing the work. There was a range of opinion from a not knowing stance, to “you have to create that community for yourself.” And so I do and I have!  And before you shout me down, yes there are some people, regardless of their background or colour or culture who do not have to name their pain in colour, and there are many others who are waiting for the opportunity to do so.

So I name the issues, out loud as a form of permission giving, want to talk about shadism in your family, go ahead.  Want to talk about your anger around the racism you experienced as a child, go ahead, want to discuss the issues around your parents leaving the island for a better life and leaving you behind, go ahead.

All issue that could be discussed in any family constellations settings but aren’t, because it brings up shame, and powerlessness and fury.

Constellations are Rituals as a form of African therapy.  They seem to connect us to a homeland that has bee left behind, forgotten, or that we have no clear identification with.  Ritual is a healing act and it is a journey of identity.  All of these things you find in our approach to ancestral family constellations.  Join us if you can and find out more here.

Ashe!

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!

Roots Research

Retracing Ancestral Steps

Reconnecting to your ancestral roots and family heritage can be a wonderful way to honour, those who have gone before us and those that we are still in a relationship with.  In 2011 I started training to be a facilitator of Family and Systemic Constellations.  That journey started after my great-grandmother Margaret sent me a message from ‘Spirit‘ during a workshop.

In 2015 I left my mental health job and started on a personal journey researching my family heritage and reconnecting to my ancestral lineage.  I applied for a Professional Doctorate in Systemic Practice in 2015 and 2016 and then stepped off after realising that I had more personal healing work to do before I could commit to the course.

Over the past few years, I have retraced my ancestral steps revisiting Guyana the land of my parents birth and spending time in the Caribbean.  In 2016, I travelled to Burkina Faso on a study tour with Malidoma Some, Dagara Elder, author and gifted African Diviner.  During that trip I learnt more about African healing practices then I could have anticipated and I started ‘Remembering‘.  Everything felt familiar and comfortable, the traditions, the rituals, the people, I felt at HOME.

Obstacles in the Way

Along the way, I met obstacles, a cancer diagnosis, a struggle with depression and lack of motivation. Isolation much of it self-prescribed and family loss and bereavement. Finally, in January 2018 I arrived in Benin and stepped onto what I later learned was my family ancestral home, I had found ‘Roots’.  And it had taken over 50 years to arrive!

This post has been updated in 2018 as I finally commence the Doctorate that had eluded me earlier.  I have found that this personal journey is aligned to my professional path, I can’t separate them.  My Systemic Constellations practice is evolving into an African Healing Ritual.  I have found my professional creative voice in my writings and graphic drawings.  And in Benin, I found the indigenous wisdom that I have long searched for, a spiritual practice that is a form of initiation and a Rite of Passage into my future life.

Reconnection to my Ancestral Line

My starting aim was to reconnect with family members across generations and find out more about my family heritage and ancestral line.  But in the process, I realised that I was starting to ‘Remember’ lost history, forgotten ways of thinking about the world and I had found an indigenous world-view that I understood.

I started to look deeper into my ancestral family heritage, not only because I wanted to know more about my parent’s early lives, but also about how their choices had impacted my life.  I wanted to start healing the difficult aspects of my childhood that remained unresolved.  And I wanted to lay claim to a community life that had been left behind.

Starting to Remember

Have I managed to achieve all this?  Not fully, is it ever even possible to go back?  But I have begun a process of ‘Remembering’ that is impacting both my personal and professional life and it is these stories and reflection that I bring to this blog.  I have begun to embrace my ancestors and ancestral line as it has given me a new perspective on life, identity, culture and sense of belonging in the world.

After many years of searching, I have found a more peaceful internal personal and professional space to reside in.  And this blog ‘The Wisdom of the Ancestors’ is now the home of my personal voice and linked to my professional practice and academic path.

If you are reading this you too may be seeking a deeper connection to self, a place to belong in your family or community of choice.  You may just want to reflect on your current life and what it says about who you are in the world.  Or be building your professional practice, I hope these musings are useful on your journey!

Ashe!