My ancestors were uprooted from their motherland as they set sail to a mysterious and unknown world. I imagine them on their ship, looking longingly behind them. Waving a sad good-bye. Then turning to face the future, summoning the courage to brave whatever lay on the horizon.
Is your ancestral story similar?
Perhaps your ancestors left their native shores in order to create a new life. Or maybe they were torn away by slave traders or colonists. Whatever their story, their up-rootedness may contribute to inherited feelings of disconnection and displacement. The good news is, learning how to re-root yourself can create a connection between you and something bigger. And, you may begin to feel a deeper sense of self-worth and belonging as a result.
Although I’m American, my ancestral inheritance is rich, with a mixture of Nordic, Ashkenazi, Celtic, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon ancestors. Sometimes I wish my life was filled with traditions that were hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. I feel a bit cheated to have missed out on the rootedness that comes from a more indigenous mindset with shared, traditional celebrations of sacred, seasonal holidays as well as daily activities.
As Samhain, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and All Soul’s Day approach, though, I feel more connected to my ancestors. I rekindle my relationship with them through my ancestral altar. It’s filled with photos and trinkets that once belonged to my ancestors: my grandmother’s sewing kit and traditional Norwegian scarf, my grandfather’s WWII metals and old pipe, a photo of my stepsister who died way too young. I speak to each ancestor and tell them how grateful I am for their contributions to my life. And when I do this, a sense of peace washes through me as I feel their presence.
Ritual and Ceremony Can Create Healing
Through research, we can dig up old ancestral rituals and ceremonies, or we can create new ones using our dreams to guide us. These rituals and ceremonies give our lives meaning as they become traditions that are imbued with layers of memories rooting us in the full flavors of life: joy, sadness, laughter, tears.
Whenever I eat Norwegian lefsa, for instance, I am reminded of growing up in Minnesota with a family heavily influenced by our Norwegian heritage. Eating lefsa is now a practice of communion that connects me with all of the pioneers and brave souls who left their homes behind to forge a new life in America. I am reminded of the courage they mustered up as they said good-bye to their beloved Norway in search of opportunities for a better life.
Remembering their journey inspires me to leave behind that which no longer serves me in order to make room for new opportunities. I’m on my own journey into uncharted territories and my ancestors’ voyage reminds me that I have inherited the strength it takes to survive against all odds.
For those of us who have been uprooted from our ancestral lands or torn away from our traditions, recreating a sense of rootedness through ritual and ceremony connects us to something bigger than ourselves, which in turn helps us feel a deeper sense of belonging.
Samhain is a time of honoring our ancestors. It’s a time for us to root ourselves in the knowing that we’re part of a long lineage of powerful beings who survived famine, slavery, religious persecution, and war, so they could create a new and better life for their children’s children. For you.
So who were your ancestors?
How might you honor them this Samhain, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and All Soul’s Day?