When it comes to the question of ancestors and ancestor worship, the modern Heathen is in a peculiar situation. On the one hand, we know from archaeological evidence and various laws prohibiting the worship of the dead, that people in the Heathen period worshipped their ancestors. However, on the other hand, judging by the frequently asked questions that tend to crop up on ancestor worship, it can be hard to figure out how to honour your mostly-Christian ancestors, and still be a Heathen.
Indeed, if we are to honour our ancestors, one thing that we all need to face is that large numbers of them might not approve of us walking away from their religion. In a lot of ways, this is no different from navigating that ground with living relatives, and I think there are very few modern Heathens that haven't had to do this. Admittedly, I have been very lucky with my family in this. My family has a peculiar heritage of its own in that large chunks of my father's family were Spiritualists, and claimed clairvoyancy or healing. Having grown up with my own slew of strange stories linked to that heritage, I don't doubt any of those claims. Now one thing about spiritualism is that dead family receives a type of reverence. There is the sense that they haven't really gone anywhere after death, and that they're all still just hanging out watching over you. Or at least that's the mindset I grew up with when I was a kid. So with this in mind, ancestor worship should be easy for someone from a family like mine, right?
Well, in my experience, this isn't always the case. For while they may have believed in things like talking to the dead, and healing, and magic to some degree, they also had very definite ideas on *how* to do those things, and what lines should never be crossed.
When I was a kid, I would learn these lessons during my many chats with my father either late at night, or when he and I were travelling the country in his truck. As my father was mostly a healer, his lessons were based in that, and were something that I struggled with. It wasn't the kind of energy exercises he would teach me, or the surprise psychometry tests, or the going into trance thing, but the idea that I would ever have the same knack for it. Moreover, I thought their stuff, the stuff from my family was more than a little batshit crazy. After all, Spiritualism has all this weird turn of the century stuff going on in it, and it all seemed far too love and light for what I thought I needed to learn for dealing with the things in my bedroom that made it hard to sleep at night.
Over the years, I got further and further away from the ways of my father's family, and this wasn't a bad thing, I am who I am, my dad is who he is, and they were who they were. However like with living family, a gulf can arise where you feel their disapproval as surely as if they'd called you and screamed at you down the phone. Things don't feel 'right', offerings don't seem to go down well, and there's this sense of loneliness that comes.
With the living, the grievances are aired, and if your family is anything like mine, we all shout at each other, and then we're back to business as usual five minutes later. However you can't really do that with the dead, and sometimes, it might even take years to figure out what's not going right. At this point, some might say that some form of divination should have been done, or a Ouija board cracked out...except my family were against those things. For them, the only 'divination' acceptable was 'spirit', Hell, I've seen a ouija board session go really really well, and then when I've tried to call my family forth, it's gone completely dead. Nothing, nada, zilch.
The breakthrough came last month when my husband hurt his back, and I got the crazy idea to try and heal it by using some of the old family tricks. Settling down with him laid before me, I went into trance and began to channel the energy through me as my father had taught me, but then came to a point where I wasn't quite sure what to do. In spite of the whole 'not really feeling my family too much for a while and especially since I came to America' thing, I called out of them all the same. What I wasn't ready for, was 'hearing' my grandmother say 'FINALLY SHE GETS IT!', and Josh complaining I was prodding him in the back even though my hands were inches away. After I was done, he said it actually felt better, and by the end of the day, he was fine again.
So healing, the act of restoring haelu, of manipulating haelu for good seems to be the thing, the common ground that both I as a Heathen, and they as my ancestors can stand on.
And I think that's the thing, when we have those disconnects, as with our living relatives that we disagree with, I think the only way forward is to try and find our common ground with those ancestors that we feel in our lives, be that common ground a love of car racing, or healing, or a love of fine malts!
Our Ancestral Shrine