Category Archives: Rites of Passage

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!

Black Salt at Tate Liverpool

Black Salt at Tate Liverpool

Liverpool International Slavery Museum Exhibition November 2018

Lives of Britains Black Sailors

I was so lucky to see this exhibition a few months ago, it stories a part of British and African and Caribbean history that is little told.  The exhibition was held in Liverpool at the Tate Liverpool.   It proved to be a fitting place to hold it with its history and location as a slave port and there was relevance for my journey, both personal and professional. And to be honest I was surprised and delighted by the exhibition, a small glimpse into past and present history.

The following text is taken from the Tata Liverpool’s website

Black Salt: Britain’s Black sailors revealed the contribution Black seafarers have made to some of the most significant maritime events of the past 500 years.

The exhibition was based on the book ‘Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships’ by historian Ray Costello. It combined personal stories, historical data, objects and memorabilia to chart a course through the often troubled waters of Britain’s maritime past and explore the work of Black sailors. Historically overlooked, Black Salt showed how Black seafarers contended with the dangers and hazards of life at sea, and challenged inequality on board and ashore.

The painting ‘The Death of Nelson’ by Daniel Maclise, which normally hangs at the Walker Art Gallery, showed that there were sailors of African descent who fought at the Battle of Trafalgar. Displays examine the turmoil between communities and social change during the 20th century, with examples from the 1919 race riots archives and the work of leading Black Activist Chris Braithwaite, who campaigned for seafaring workers’ rights.

Liverpool sailors featured in the exhibition included Joseph Gibson, who served in the merchant navy and fought in the First World War, and generations of both the Quarless and Savage families. Their experiences were told through personal items including service books and medals.

Elder Dempster was the largest shipping company trading between Europe and West Africa from the late 19th century to the 1980s. The exhibition featured collections relating to the company which, from the 1950s and 1960s at the height of the trade, employed more than 4000 people including 1400 Nigerians and 400 workers from Sierra Leone.

The Black seafaring experience was brought up to date with a display about current sailors including a profile on Belinda Bennett, who in 2016 became the first Black female captain working in the cruise industry.

‘Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships’ by Ray Costello is published by Liverpool University Press and is available from the Merseyside Maritime Museum shop.

Constellations as Healing Ritual

A Ritual for Modern Times

I love ‘classic’ family constellations because it is a modern ritual, a ritual fashioned for a Western audience and viewed through an African lens in my work.  I view it as a modern ritual based on an old tradition because that is what I see, that is what I hear and that is what I honour in the process and in the sacred journey to heal family and community!

A constellation is a ritual in community, suggests Malidoma Some Dagara Elder. In 2010 Malidoma was interviewed for an article in East Coast Villages newsletter, Ask Malidoma! Malidoma E-Village 2010…In it, he described his interest and participation in a number of systemic constellations events and he has this to say……….

What is a Community?

A community according to Malidoma Some embodies the unity of spirit, trust, openness, love and caring respect for the elder’s respect for nature and cult of the ancestors. Pg 52 Ritual, Power, Healing and Community.

When I began learning about the systemic constellation method, I immediately looked to that part of the method that most spoke to my own cultural background and would help in the expression of these angry feelings that I seemed to have carried around since childhood.  I couldn’t understand where they had come from because as a 50-year-old looking back at me as a child, I couldn’t quite attribute where all this pent up anger has come from.

Transgenerational Anger

Gradually over time as I started doing some family research, I began to understand that some of the anger may literally ‘have been passed down’ from earlier generations.  And when after 60 years of marriage my mother informed me that she had never had an argument with my father, I knew that there were some dynamics and ‘entanglements in the current system.

Even now I am seen as the ‘difficult one’ in the family.  The one who ‘loses her rag!’ over seemingly over simple things, ‘Never Knowing Reasonable’ my sister states.  Well, I find that all very interesting and to my mind it’s too easy an explanation so I have made it my job to explore and dig a bit deeper into what may lie behind this down the generations.

Exploring South African Roots

It is no secret that Bert Hellinger drew on his time in South Africa as a catholic priest.  He opened a school and ministered to many in the Zulu community, so how could he not gain some kind of understanding about their life in the community.   Embedded in the constellations method are some African family principles that I was immediately intrigued by and curious about.

After I started working with the constellations method with clients I became much clearer about the relevance of the  Indigenous Wisdom in the method when working with black families and those of African heritage.   In many Western societies, the nuclear family has become the norm over several generations.  But in many communities in the Caribbean, in the UK and the Americas, the nuclear family is not the norm and there are many different configurations of family.

Constellations in the African Diaspora

In the UK large numbers of children were left back home as their parents came first to settle here.  Later when they came there were often problems with finding a clear sense of identity.  Indeed although I was brought up in a stable ‘nuclear family’ I keenly felt the loss of a Caribbean community around me growing up,  And I spent many years angry and looking for a sense of identity that I couldn’t find in either a”British” or ‘Caribbean’ identity.  And of course this sense of lack of identity and belonging is not unique to me or my community, it cut across race and culture and ethnicity.

Losing Touch Time after time I would start to map out a constellation and then realise that personal issues that the client came with, was related to the wider cultural environment and historical traumas of the specific African diaspora experience.  So a challenge for me in working with the constellations method was to more clearly reflect the issues that affect families and communities that I work with.   And this meant finding a way to integrate the Western systemic theory and Indigenous African Wisdom and make it relevant for an African diaspora community of which I am a part.

Losing Touch with an Indigenous Past

African heritage people living in a westernised society have lost touch with an indigenous past.  family constellations can build on these lost traditions and by so doing help with answering questions about identity and belonging.  How?  Family constellations can bring in the wider ancestral legacy and extended family and community and the process can start to show people, what has been lost and how to start to regain it.

For those reasons, my approach is increasingly to frame the work as an indigenous healing therapy that is appropriate to meet the many facets of a minority black experience in a majority white culture.  As a family constellations practitioner, I believe that this approach can be a starting place for healing family and community issues that arise from the trauma of an enslaved past.  I will be writing about this more in blog posts, as I deepen my knowledge and skills in this profound work.

Until next time!

Wake-up and Remember the Ancestors!

Ancestral Journeying

I have recently come back from a dynamic and powerful ancestral journey to Africa to find out more about who I am and where I came from.  If you do not know who you are, how can you know where you are going?

When I came back from Africa, I talked to me father about my journey and he was interested and happy for me.  Born in Guyana during colonial times, people who wanted to advance didn’t talk about anything African, so he was pleased for me; ‘I know that you have been searching,” he said, I’m glad you’ve found some of what you were looking for.

The Tree of Forgetting

This picture was taken at the Tree of Forgetting in Ouidah Benin in January.  It get’s its name from the practice of making slaves that were leaving Africa walk around the tree to reinforce forgetfulness of their homes, men 9 times and women 7 times.  I am smiling because returning was a form of healing ritual and part of the process of ‘remembering’.

One of the things that those of us from an African diaspora background have lost, is our connection to ancient African wisdom.  We have ‘forgotten’ who we are and where we come from.  Part of the work of Ancestral Constellations, is to help us to ‘remember’ and wake up to the fact that we have lost something from our heritage, deep connection to our ancestors, to spirit and to nature.

Constellations Connect to an Indigenous Past

Many people who come to constellations work, regardless of background or ethnicity come from an ancestral line who have suffered greatly.  In the shadow of this traumatic past, whether it be the middle passage of the slave trade, the impact of colonialism and Empire, of the ravages of war and suffering, it has affected who we are and often our family identity.

Over the past couple of years and especially the last few months, I have deepened my understanding of African indigenous wisdom and I am fore-grounding that in my workshops and one-to-one work.  Constellations work can help to show those of us who are searching for identity and belonging, what has been lost and how to start to heal.

The Ancestral Constellations approach to systemic constellations as a healping ritual is constantly evolving.  In the African tradition ancestors are part of family and community life, past and present.  If you are reading this blog post you may be interested in exploring this approach further. When you come to a constellations circle or workshop, you are invited to reflect on your own ancestors and in what ways they may be trying to speak to you.  Our Constellations Circles run on a monthly basis, find out more here!


Success! You're on the list.

Connect the Traditional and Modern

‘We’ve forgotten how to Remember!

As part of the journey to connect with my family heritage and ancestral lineage, I find myself increasingly being drawn on a healing path to connect with what feels like an ‘Ancestral Call’ to remember.  Remembering past histories and ancestral wisdom that has been lost to many of us, who survived the ‘middle passage’ of the transatlantic slave trade.

When I was getting ready to visit Burkina Faso early in 2016, I didn’t realise that it would be the start of the ‘remembering’.  And an ongoing journey to find my ancestral home in Africa.  Little did I know that the path would lead me to explore ‘the Diviner’ in the constellation and my role as an African Diaspora facilitator.

A Diviner for Our Times

Although this word ‘Diviner’ can seem off-putting, like ‘messing around with the extra-ordinary and our ‘departed ancestors’, it’s really a role that supports the emergence of our personal abilities, our gifts and our life purpose.  And it has another role, it helps to heal our transgenerational line.

Today as I stand here, I can see the dots being joined between the modern practise of family constellations and the old traditional practices of divination and ritual healing. It has become clear to me, that the path I am on, is one of personal and professional development.  And a journey to learn some of the old ways and up-date them for a modern world.

A Healing Rite of Passage

It’s like a ‘Rite-of-passage‘, remembering in the present, what I knew from the past, a common experience in many indigenous communities.  But in the modern world, we have increasingly forgotten how to honour those that came before us.  And we have forgotten how to conduct many ‘Rite-of Passage’ ceremonies.

To embark on a journey to help us embrace what has been lost is to acknowledge and respect family and community traditions.  In doing so, you help to heal the wounds and trauma from the past, so that you can sit peacefully in the present and create positive change for future generations.

Often we want a quick fix, or to find alternative ways of knowledge without having to navigate some of the difficult and traumatic histories that have gone before’.  We have forgotten some of the ‘old way’ in seeking the modern and increasingly we are turning back to study the past wisdom that would serve us well in the present day.

Spiritual Dis-ease

All people on a spiritual path find a mentor, or in some cases the teacher finds them.  Usually, an apprentice healer in the African tradition would study with a teacher for at least two years, often more and even then the journey continues until the end of one’s life.

In many African cultures, there are two types of healers, one who is more psych-socially orientated and one who works mainly with medicine and herbs, although of course there is a cross over.  As a group facilitator, mental health trained nurse, reiki practitioner and trans-generational coach, I fit very much into the former working with spiritual dis-ease.

It feels more authentic to adapt my knowledge and knowledge to fit the more modern western world that I occupy.  So it makes absolute sense that Systemic Constellations and Healing Ritual would speak to me and fit my calling. There are many problems that African Diaspora people facing in reclaiming their cultural heritage and healing their families.  Mine is just one approach, one way!

This combination of African Ancestral Wisdom and Western Systemic Philosophy supports the transgenerational healing of individuals, families and communities and it honours a remembering of the ancestors in the African family tradition.

I look forward to walking with you on the path.