Healing Our Lineage, Healing Ourselves

It took a lot for us to be here. Our existence is due to the choices and sacrifices of those who came before us. Those who birthed us, nurtured us, taught us- however imperfectly- are the reason we are here.

Ancestry and lineage healing are hot topics these days, often frought with mixed feelings. Ancestors are often idealised or demonised. Family is complicated. We may have adopted family, step-family, blood family or soul family. Ways that our roots entangle with others can take many shapes and forms. They can be sources of comfort, love, deep pain or longing.

Something that we can probably agree on, is that tending our roots is deep inner work and part of feeling nourished and secure on this planet. It is also a major part of being a good ancestor for the generations to come. Whether or not you have biological children, we are all future ancestors of this planet. By living here, we make a mark.   

Making a connection with our Ancestors

Card from Wisdom of the Cailleach Oracle by Jane Brideson

Beliefs about our ancestors and the dead vary in different cultures and belief systems. Many believe that our ancestors watch over us, guide us and have hopes and wishes for us in our lifetime.  Ancestor reverence is common in many cultures, often including an altar with photos, candles and offerings to show respect. Some believe in reincarnation, some don’t. Some believe they will be reunited in death with their loved ones. Some believe that this life is all we’ve got and wish to leave the world a better place for future generations.

Since I can’t speak to the experience of being dead (that I can remember, anyway!) I am open to the variety of ways of looking at death, the afterlife and ancestors. I feel like I want to be a good ancestor for my descendants and future generations. I would also love the job of helping others on earth as a spirit guide one day. I have always been comfortable with the idea of reincarnation too, but with the way humanity is going, I am not sure if I want to back again anytime soon.

I have always felt very spiritually connected to my ancestors. I didn’t grow up with spiritual traditions of ancestor reverence, but I always had this feeling that I was being watched over and protected by ‘family’ beyond the veil. Especially when I was outside, I felt like my ancestors were with me, giving me a deep sense of home and belonging. I truly felt that my family extended beyond my living relatives and were very much in the unseen world. I still feel this today.

I also have been lucky to have access to my family tree and history, which is very well documented and recorded, on both sides. Thanks to the thorough recordkeeping of the Catholic Church and many living relatives on my mom’s side who had a lot of babies to keep track of, I have access to family trees, books and albums that go back hundreds of years. Thanks to the internet, the painstaking efforts of genealogists and genealogically-inclined relatives, I’ve found a lot with little effort and connected with family I haven’t met in person and have lots of info on both sides of my family.

Having access to all this information has made me feel that it is my duty in a way, to remember my ancestors, to read their names and wonder about their lives. To imagine their hardships and what the times they lived in demanded of them.

I know not everyone has access to this info. It can be hard to obtain records, especially if you are adopted or are far away from your birthplace. But I feel you don’t really need documented information to connect with your ancestors or to heal your lineage. Essentially, you ARE the record. Your ancestors live and breathe through you. You carry their gifts and wounds as you live your earthly life, walking the path they gave you.

Being a Good Ancestor

My paternal great-grandparents, Charles Oakley & Sarah McGillivray. Sarah was a descendant of Scottish highlanders who came to Glengarry, ON during the highland clearances. She died of the Spanish flu in 1918, a young mother leaving behind her 2 boys, who were then sent to an orphanage.

In doing my own healing and researching my ancestors, I thought I would feel a greater sense of belonging, but it has actually given me more of a sense of responsibility. A responsibility to use the freedom I have that my ancestors didn’t. To live a good life, to enjoy what I have and to let myself be happy. To be a good parent to my daughter and to be a good ancestor for the future. 

For me, ancestral healing is about identifying patterns that were passed down to me- ways of thinking, behaving, wounds and gifts- and create new patterns that are healthier and more life-affirming for my descendants and the next generation.

Some believe that by healing ourselves, we heal not only those who come after us, but those who came before us as well. I like to believe this too.

Whatever healing work you do on yourself– going to therapy, healing and caring for your body, shifting unhealthy inherited patterns of thinking or behaving that your parents modeled- are all ways of healing your lineage. You break the chain and give new freedom to your descendants.

Those of us who are parents often don’t realise we are repeating a pattern until we finally hear ourselves and see the effects we have on our kids. I am mostly proud of myself as a mom for being conscious of my patterns and trying not to repeat them. However, I’m nowhere near perfect and know that my daughter will still have her share of lineage stuff to work through. We all make our own little contribution to the path and hope that it provides more opportunity for those to come.

Healing my Lineage- In my Bones and Blood

Collage of some of my family

My experience living with endometriosis felt like a direct energetic line to my foremothers. I felt that I held all their grief and pain from lost babies, lost dreams and hardship in my own uterus. I can’t prove such a connection, but I feel deep in my bones and blood, that this was true and that I carry a lot of ancestral patterns in my body and energy field. I believe that healing myself is healing my line- before me and after me.

My mother’s lineage holds a strong faith, an ability to be humble and believe in magic and the Divine. We are a lineage of spiritual, hard-working, nurturing mothers and healers. These are gifts passed down to us. But with the gifts, come wounds. Hard-working humility and over-reliance on faith can also become toxic. We can get into a pattern of putting ourselves last, a pattern of feeling guilty or sinful, a pattern of martyrdom that weakens our own creative power and agency. Part of my work is to notice this in myself and shift into new ways.

Learning From the Past, Looking to the Future

Creating new pathways forward

Another part of my lineage healing is to take back my own creative power and co-create with the Divine, rather than being subservient to a religion or church. Being a Witch is a major part of this for me. While I respect the beliefs of my ancestors and family members, I feel my healing work comes from breaking away from that institution and following a path that is authentic and free.

I realised at a young age that I didn’t like the formalities of religion and just wanted to be outside where I could hear the whispers of the spirits of nature. I know many of my ancestors resonated with this, too.

My mother eventually broke the mold and veered off her Catholic path to find her authentic way forward, which made it easier for me to go my own way too. At thirteen, I refused my Confirmation and got into Tarot, astrology, Yoga, energy healing, Paganism and never looked back. Sometimes, I feel as though my ancestors are applauding me for this, (maybe not all of them, but some of them, haha) as I am living out their subconscious desires.  My older ancestors from times before they were Christianised whisper me encouragement in reviving the old ways.

As a Witch, I reclaim the inner Wild Woman, Creatrix and Wise Woman that my foremothers could not- because of the limitations of the times they lived in. I am still a hard-working, nurturing mother, just one who is trying to balance that with self-care, magick and engaging her creative power.

When the voice of guilt and shame comes up, I gently remind her that by taking care of myself and doing what I love, I am healing my lineage. By following my own path and trusting the Divine as it flows through me, I am healing my lineage.

What gifts and wounds does your lineage carry?

Oaks at Llyn Tegid, Wales

We all have baggage and skeletons in our family closets. We all have victims and perpetrators in our families. We all have those archetypes within us as well. Idealising and demonising doesn’t really do us any good. It is important to remember that no matter who our ancestors were, or who we are, they were human, we are human, and we decide what aspects of ourselves we nurture and which we discontinue.

If you wish, take a moment to reflect on your own family:

What natural gifts or strengths do your parents or grandparents possess?

How are you like them? How are you different?

Do you know the stories of your ancestors?

If you believe your ancestors are watching over you now, what do you think they would say about you? What would they wish for you in this life?

What wounds or challenges run through your family? What did you inherit?

Are you consciously or unconsciously trying to heal this wound?

How are you changing the patterns passed down to you to make a better world for the next generation?

As we enter the time of Samhain, the veil between the worlds is thin, and we can connect more easily to those on the other side. It is a ripe time for ancestral connection and lineage healing. I’d like to invite you to join me for our upcoming Online Samhain Circle on Friday Nov 4th, 2022! We will do a guided meditation journey to connect with our ancestors, discover more about our inherited wounds, gifts and how to get the healing process going. First timers are free! Hope to see you there.

Xo

Serena

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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.

Author: The Cauldron Goddess

Toronto-based Hedgewitch, Tarot Reader & Healing Facilitator. Mom, wife & cat-lover.

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