Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Ancestors

In my continuous excavating of both my inner self and the stuff that surrounds me, I came across the final paper I wrote for one of my classes, in 2002 at John F. Kennedy University. This particular class was taught by Kimmy K. Johnson, who currently teaches courses and workshops in ancestral consciousness and healing, dreams as indigenous knowledge, and shamanic traditions of our ancestors at the California Institute of Integral Studies and at John F Kennedy University.

My paper starts with an honoring of my ancestors (I've omitted last names to keep my privacy a bit safer):

Me at 10-years-old, with my Grandpa Albert

My name is Trismegista Taylor.
I am the daughter of Kathryn & Jeremy.
I am the granddaughter of Lorraine & Albert.
I am the granddaughter of Edith & Walter.
I am the great-granddaughter of May & Charles.
I am the great-granddaughter of Mary & Dominic.
I am the great-granddaughter of Elizabeth & Bernhard.

I am the great-great-granddaughter of Lulu Benito Farini.
I am the great-great-granddaughter of Anna & Charles.
I am the great-great-granddaughter of Maria & Bernhard.
I am the great-great-granddaughter of Elizabeth & William.
I am the great-great-great-granddaughter of Ann & Robert.
My people come from Niagara Falls & Buffalo, New York.
My people come from Ontario & Hagersville, Canada.
My people come from Vilnus, Lithuania.
My people come from Gottha, Germany.
My people come from England.
My people come from Wales.
My people come from Scotland.

The following are excerpts from my paper:

We all have received the call to heal old wounds and reveal old secrets, and it is an extremely painful and amazingly beautiful process... I am excavating my cultural DNA and doing immense healing in the process.

My great-great-grandfather, Lulu Farini,
a famous cross-dressing acrobat!
In his work with indigenous cultures, Carl Jung decided that humans are not complete without mythology. As a culture, we need our myths and European culture has put almost all of our faith into science and technology. We have lost touch with the natural side of our world. We have lost touch with the Earth and our dreams and this has created a lack of meaning in our waking lives. Jung felt the need to rediscover what is meaningful to Europeans by finding a "psychic observation post" outside of Europe, which he found in Africa and then on Native American reservations. In learning the mythology and symbols of these cultures, Jung developed his theory of the Collective Unconscious, thus unifying all of us as human beings.

...Many symbols and images were coming in my dreams that I didn't understand, but I knew were important. When I read Vigdis Siri's article "Dreaming with the First Shaman (Noaidi)," I was struck by the power of pursuring images and ideas even when there is no "historical document" to back them up.
The fact that the Sami version [of my dream myth] is not written down does not necessarily mean that it does not exist in the Sami context. We find too many fragments of the story in descriptions of offering sites, rock carvings, and fairy tales, all of which indicates that this is a story of my people also.
Siri is asking us to look for mirrors, resonance and synchronicities in our daily lives as we seek out the meanings of our dream myths. She is pointing out a way to create our own myths through intuitive understanding of the symbols and stories that come to us in our dreams and waking life. After reading Siri's article, I opened up to listening to my intuition which I felt was guiding me towards researching my Lithuanian line.

... I continued my research and discovered the spirituality Romuva. Romuva (which means "light and peace" in Lithuanian) is the revival of a Baltic spiritual tradition that was one of "the last important European Pagan temples... this faith is of matristic and earthly inspiration, of nature and ancestry. It proclaims the sacredness of nature as the most evident manifestation of God's will." This was an exciting discovery for me. Even though there is no "historical documentation" of people in my family being a part of this spirituality, I resonate with its rituals and practices so much that I know it s part of my ancestral myth.

Here at my home in Woodacre, there is a huge Oak tree that has been here for over 200 years. I am constantly dreaming about this Oak tree (even before I moved here) and in my dreams, it often has a small flame inside of it. In my Lithuanian research I disover,
The Romuva emblem depicts a holy oak with a little flame... such an oak tree is typical of Baltic Lithuanian folk art... they denote the three spheres: the world of the dead; the world of the living; and the world of the future - all in unity. They thrive in Darna (harmony).

Romuva emblem of a Holy Oak
with a little flame
Reading those words gave me a powerful "aha" feeling and I feel that this mythis is part of my ancestry and myself, even if there is no "historical proof" that my family practiced this nature-based spirituality. There is one family story, however, that my mother shared with me about how her grandfather started his grocery store business. He was working in the DuBois, Pennsylvania coal mines, which were slowly killing him. He had a small garden, where he grew enormous vegetables. He told my mother that they grew so big because he would go outside every nght and sing to them, which was a "gardening tip" his grandmother had shared with him. My great-grandmother (his wife), a shrewd businesswoman, convinced him to quit the mines and open his own grocery store in Niagara Falls, New York. He worked in that store until the day he died and many people came for miles to buy his enormous vegetables.

The way my great-grandfather sang to his vegetables sounds like a nature-based spirituality to me! So even though this story is not "proof" in the historical document sense. It is still proof to me.

... The Ancestor dreams continue. I can barely keep up with them all. It feels like each dream will take a lifetime to decipher, uncover and research. In my dreams there are deformed men and crazy women. I mediate between two large families that don't like each other. My arms are tattooed in spiraling patterns in old, blue ink - like old sailors or prisioners would have had in the old days, or even Celtic warriors who used a hallucinogenic dye (called woad) to paint their skin for battle. I rescue young, pregnant, black slaves from my own father, sons and brothers. I often dream of the same Victorian house, over and over. I help family members "die" even though in waking life they are already dead, and I never knew them when they were alive. I dream of the Oak tree and the Red-Tailed Fox. I am buried in fertile soil with lots and lots of bugs trying to devour me. I dream about incest and fear and insane asylums. I am with a group of nuns in deep prayer in an ancient monastary somewhere in Eastern Europe.

The tears come every time I remember these dreams, because I feel so much terror and sadness, as well as beauty and deep resonant truth. I can feel the healing that is happening for my entire family line, as I cry throught the pain and release the angry secrets that were held so tight in the hearts of my ancestors.

In closing, I want to share of of the tenets of the Romuva faith:
Just as the tree draws nourishment from the depths of the earth, so does a human being from her ancestors - the world of the dead. Death does not threaten the eternal and immortal nature. Only the body dies, while the soul (siela) is re-embodied in other forms of life. The Baltic faith unifies all believers - the current ones and the ones who have passed away... Honoring of ancestors is a link with dead family members and relatives, remembering them on special days... After death, the deceased finds herself among her dead relatives, and during religious and traditional rites, the living and the dead meet. It is a strong field of unity, and oneness, for which the link with the earth and native land is very important. In Lithuanina, it is said "the souls of the dead are the guardians of their living relatives, or their close ones, especially dead parents, who are guardians of their orphan children." The dead become caretakers of fields and farmsteads. The living and the dead interrelate and unite through nature and earth. Funerals used to take place in nature. only later were they moved indoors.
*Back to 2011*
I am amazed to read this paper again, especially in light of all the issues I am having with my family right now. I am moved at how passoniately I was pursuing this path nine years ago. My path has shifted, mostly because I met my husband about a year after the writing of this paper and have since focused on our relationship and building our own family. But I feel ready to return to this path and listen to my dreams more deeply again.

It feels so good to remember that my ancestors have support for me in spirit-form, even when they did not when they were alive. We will see what the future holds.

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