When I first came to Druidry, I ran into a stumbling block that had me questioning my decision for a while. That was the honoring of the Ancestors. Like most people in our culture, I had only thought of “ancestors” as being the people from whom I am biologically descended. That, for me, was a serious problem. I come from a long line of abusive and dysfunctional relatives, and there was no way whatsoever that I was going to include those people in my religious practice. I did not want them to be part of what I turned to for strength and comfort. These people, during their lives, had been the sort to upset and tear down others – especially me and certain other of their relatives – and I had no reason to think that death had changed them in that regard.
At my grove’s rituals, I took part in the group offerings to the Ancestors, but my heart was never in it. My personal devotionals and rituals did not even include Ancestor offerings or acknowledgement of any sort. I didn’t want to call my ancestors into my home and life. I had made conscious, deliberate decisions to remove myself from their influence, and to remove their influence from me. The fact that I would always carry genetic material passed down from them was pretty much the extent of what I was willing to have of them in my life.
Then there was a moment that changed my view of the matter. I’m a writer, and I have a favorite author whose work has always been very important to me. I was re-reading one of her books and thinking of her – we had met and struck up a wonderful friendship which lasted until her death – and I had the thought “This woman has had more impact on my life than my own family.” That’s when it struck me. This was one of my Ancestors! Not related to me in the biological or genetic sense, but someone instrumental in making me the person I am. She had had an influence in my chosen work of writing. She had been kind to me. We cared about one another.
This was one of my Ancestors!
That one moment of realization changed everything. Suddenly I could see the title of Ancestor applying to so many more people than just those to whom I was related. It applied to anyone who had had any influence on who and what I had become. Mentors and teachers, historical figures, even friends who had passed on…these were all among my Ancestors if they had shaped me into the person I am now.
A moment of revelation. And one that changed my entire view on the practice of Ancestor reverence. Shortly after this revelation – mere minutes after, actually – I went to my altar to do personal ritual. For the first time, I eagerly made offerings to the Ancestors. And, also for the first time, I didn’t feel cold and distanced from the action. I felt the approval of the few I had called upon and to whom I had given offerings. I had made offerings to my Ancestors, and for the first time, they had responded positively. It was because this was the first time I had made offerings to the Ancestors who were truly important to me.
Don’t think this one moment completely removed my problems with honoring the Ancestors. It didn’t. I still have some issues with it, because I still harbor some very hurt and unpleasant feelings toward my direct personal ancestors. But this gave me a starting point. My relationship with the Ancestors has improved since that day and continues to do so. At least I can now say that honoring the Ancestors is a part of my regular personal practice.