From a Shamanic Perspective
Who are our ancestors, from a shamanic perspective? Ancestral beliefs are fundamental to shamanic practices all over this world. Ancestors are not only our deceased biological relations for shamanic practitioners; they are also our guardians and guides in life. The shamanic view of ancestors, including the ideas of “well” and “unwell” ancestors, ancient common ancestors, generational trauma, soul groups, and rituals to commemorate ancestors, will be discussed in this essay.
Who are our Ancestors?
Our ancestors, from a shamanic perspective, are souls who have passed away and are now in the spirit realm, according to shamanism. They may be our ancestral blood relations or people from our soul group who have lived before. According to shamanic practitioners, our ancestors still have a significant impact on our lives and can be contacted for advice, comfort, and healing.
“Ancestors are those who came before us, and whose blood we carry in our veins. They are the ones whose lives, choices, and actions have shaped the world we inhabit today.”
– Daniel Foor
“Well” and “Unwell” Ancestors
Ancestors are frequently categorized as “well” or “unwell” in shamanic traditions based on their conduct during life and their present situation in the spirit world. Ancestors who lived “well” were those who got along with their neighbors, the environment, and the principles of their faith. They are sages who can provide guidance, safety, and restoration to us when we consciously work with them as guides.
On the other hand, “unwell” ancestors are spirits that may have caused harm or trauma during their time on earth or who are trapped in unfavorable patterns in the afterlife. We often avoid working with these ancestors as guides for two main reasons. First, because they can cause sickness, misfortune, or other challenges in our lives through their still present disharmonies. Second, when we call upon unwell ancestors for support, we’re pulling their focus away from their own work of healing. Though we typically don’t work directly with these ancestors for the purposes of assistance or protection, we can – and should – still acknowledge and honor them through ritual. This provides them with a source of loving support and gratitude, the energy of which can help propel them forward in their soul’s journey of healing.
Ancient Common Ancestors
There are many shamanic traditions that hold the idea that the first people to live on the planet were our shared ancestors from long ago. Many people believe that these ancestors are powerful spiritual beings who can provide direction and healing for the entire human species. They can also be viewed as representations of harmony and ties between various traditions and countries leading credence to the idea that we – humanity – are all “one.” Thus working with ancestors, from a shamanic perspective, is truly a way to implement healing at not only a global level for humans presently living, but at a universal, galactic, or even greater level as we activate healing for every soul that has ever incarnated on Earth.
“Ancestors are the ones who held the earth sacred and knew how to honor the web of life. They understood that we are all connected, that everything is alive and conscious, and that we must act with integrity and compassion.”
– Sandra Ingerman
Generational Trauma and Epigenetics
Practitioners of shamanism recognize that trauma can be handed down through generations both physically and spiritually. The term “generational trauma” describes how stressful events are passed down and how they affect succeeding generations. The study of epigenetics examines how environmental variables like stress, trauma, or nutrition can alter how genes are expressed. Connecting with ancestors and participating in ancestral healing rituals are just two of the techniques offered by shamanic traditions to heal generational trauma and release epigenetic tags on our DNA. Thus, our ancestors, from a shamanic perspective, hold an important key to how we might pass along our own personal healing to our children, grandchildren, and subsequent generations.
According to shamanic traditions, souls often travel in groups or clans, and we frequently experience numerous reincarnations with the same soul. These soul groups can be thought of as a source of assistance, direction, and company on our spiritual path. Understanding and healing for our present problems and relationships can come from connecting with our soul group and past lifetimes, and conversely, we initiate healing for our soul group when we tackle our own healing in this lifetime. This is because any time we heal an individual soul, we elevate healing for the collective. Furthermore, while we don’t always reincarnate within the same human bloodlines, we do often have ancestors that are part of our soul group. Thus, working with our ancestors, from a shamanic perspective, not only brings us healing in this lifetime, but it also brings about healing for our soul group and balances karma we might have with others.
“Our ancestors are like seeds that have been planted in the soil of our lives. They may lie dormant for years, but when the time is right, they will sprout and grow, bearing fruit that we can harvest and share with the world.”
Rituals to Honor Ancestors
A variety of rituals are used in shamanic traditions to connect with the ancestors’ protection and direction. Creating ancestral altars, which may contain photographs or other personal mementos as well as lighted candles or incense; giving food, water, or other gifts to ancestors; as well as chanting, dancing, and storytelling; are a few examples of these traditions. Rituals may be conducted on important personal days, such as birth or transition dates, or on broader remembrance days such as The Day of the Dead (November 1st), or Memorial Day for military veterans. Honoring our ancestors does not have to happen only on important anniversaries or holidays, however. Daily remembrance through prayer, acknowledgement, or expressed gratitude are also powerful ways to connect with our ancestors. Through these rituals, we can strengthen our ties to our “well” ancestors and better access their knowledge and benefits, and we send loving energy to our “unwell” ancestors that are still working to heal and integrate their human experiences.
Ancestors aren’t just deceased biological family members; they’re also spiritual guardians and mentors who can provide guidance, healing, and support. We can strengthen our ties to our ancestors and gain their blessings for the present by comprehending the ideas of “well” and “unwell” ancestors, old common ancestors, generational trauma, soul groups, and ancestral rituals.
- Ehrenreich, B. (2007). Dancing in the streets: A history of collective joy. New York: Metropolitan Books. https://www.amazon.com/Dancing-Streets-History-Collective-Joy/dp/0805057222
- Foor, D. (2019). Ancestral medicine: Rituals for personal and family healing. North Atlantic Books. https://www.amazon.com/Ancestral-Medicine-Rituals-Personal-Family/dp/1623173068
- Ingerman, S. (2011). Speaking with nature: Awakening to the deep wisdom of the earth. Sounds True. https://www.amazon.com/Speaking-Nature-Awakening-Deep-Wisdom/dp/1604074341
- Wall, K. (2018). Creating a soulful connection with your ancestors. The Shift Network. https://theshiftnetwork.com/blog/2018-11-08/creating-soulful-connection-your-ancestors
- Wilbur, J. (2019). The importance of connecting with our ancestors. The Chopra Center. https://chopra.com/articles/the-importance-of-connecting-with-our-ancestors
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