Author Topic: Ancestry Veneration/Worship  (Read 1027 times)

drama umbrella

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Ancestry Veneration/Worship
« on: Nov 05, 2011, 06:52:17 PM »
I'd like to say that although I am an atheist, I wasn't always one. I grew up in an atheist house but when I reached about 13, I started reading into paganism quite a bit. I didn't quite buy into it then, but I read so much at the university my dad worked at about different rituals, cultures, mythologies, fables (spook stories about historical figures), rituals and the like.

when I was around 18, I started learning about herbology, wicca, environmentaly-linked belief systems etc. I joined a coven when I went to uni at 26 and then when I thanked them for their support but left the group, I then studied Lukumi with some people I knew on the west coast... this followed me to London when I moved here. Although I really enjoyed it and respected the house that I was being mentored by to possibly be initiated into, I just could not give it the level of commitment that a Lukumi community demands.

I had a further shift of belief after this. The only thing I still hung onto was a very strong pull towards the responsibility of remembrance of ancestors... to keep them alive, it is important to keep their stories going. My mom sat me down and told me the history of her family: all the way back to my great great gramdmothers/grandfathers. She said it was important that this information was kept going and respected. She's an atheist, but she felt it was somehow part of  family care. After my studies in anthropology, I'd call this a subtle form of ancestor worship - not that I think my anscestors can help me, mind you, but I do feel responsible for "keeping them alive".

When I decided that I was not going to have kids (I would have adopted. I don't want to give birth and I'm adopted. I understand it better. People tell me they wouldn't adopt cause it just wouldn't be the same. I do this:  >:( >:( >:( and inform them *I'm* adopted, thanks very bloody much and I love my mom and dad like no one else. They love me just as much as their birth son.  >:( anyway, /tanget), I came to the understanding that I would not have someone to pass the family memory along to. I found this really upsetting. In ansestor worship/veneration there's a concept of "living memory" meaning there are people who are still alive who remember you, thus you are still living through them. After they are all dead, it is up to the family care to pass on the stories/traditions/values to keep you in the world.

the point of veneration of the dead is too tie families together, support unity, give a sense of identity and continuity to the living. Possibly pass on the family values. For example, in my given lineage, there has been generations of science orientated careers and public entertainers (why those two, have no idea) and associated family traditions. For instance, my grampa taught me to put out oatmeal and honey on All Souls Eve (halloween) out on the back porch so that the "fairies" would keep the garden safe through the winter (and my gramps had a mind blowing garden  :P) he didn't believe in fairies but he was on his way to teach me to respect growing things and caring for them, like he had done with my mom (who is a brilliant gardener and biologist). Mom taught me to put a bit of home baked bread in the soil when I was little, when we dug something up - "to put a bit back of our own effort" for the same reason - she was trying to prepare me for further lessons in respecting the soil.

By passing along these lessons and remembering those who taught you while you pass them along, you are giving them life in the next generation to come. But when I knew I wasn't going to bring up kids, I felt I would be responsible for a very long lineage of real and final death. I still kind of do and although I'm an atheist, I still feel a hurtful pang of loss and sometimes shame when I consider this.

I don't believe in souls. I don't believe in afterlife. But I do believe in some kind of living in others - not a conscious entity or an "energy". Just something different that occurs in living beings while they are alive. Maybe it's just being loved or the act of loving with memory, even if the memory isn't yours? I don't think for a second I will actually be alive if someone remembers me. Just a part of me that I gave to them.

This was triggered by reading about people's parents passing and thinking about my grampa and my brother, both of whom I venerate as my beloved dead/ancestry. They both left massive marks on me. Those will always be there until I die. I can't pass those on now though. And although I have a full family tree of knowledge of my mother's family, who is also mine (my birth mom was adopted, I have no knowledge from her. I may not have been born with knowledge, but I was given one and I know I am a part of that lineage).

I can't always reconcile my feelings of loss around not becoming a continuous link and my atheism. Although whant does make me feel a little bit better is knowing that one day the sun is going to blow up and it will all be erased into stardust to be spread far and wide and everyone will be in the same molecular boat - so no lineage will be kept for anyone :P

I'm just a bit like this at this time of year, mostly.

But how do others relate to their beloved dead, if they do?



Offline Charlotte Mew

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Re: Ancestry Veneration/Worship
« Reply #1 on: Nov 05, 2011, 10:30:12 PM »
Lovely post PBP.   

In spite of being a pagan I am quite agnostic on soul survival and think about the beloved dead surviving as memory rather than as spirits (as I wrote about my dad in Snap's parent loss thread).

Some of my pagan friends do a lot of work with ancestors.  In my own case I work more with my 'spiritual ancestors' than my genetic ones.  Various queer and pagan people that I feel connected with. 

I also honour my beloved dead (friends and lovers etc) at Samhain in specific rituals.

But yes how does the line of memory go on?  In my family maybe via my brother's kids but I see the issue for you as you are not an aunt.

I have often thought about the need for an internet resource where people write obits about their beloved dead, and you can search the entries for themes you are interested in like 'gardeners' or 'acupuncturists' or ''lesbians' or the family name. 

As you say, the sun will blow up one day any way...
« Last Edit: Nov 05, 2011, 10:34:35 PM by Charlotte Mew »

drama umbrella

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Re: Ancestry Veneration/Worship
« Reply #2 on: Nov 06, 2011, 04:30:02 AM »
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I also honour my beloved dead (friends and lovers etc) at Samhain in specific rituals.

see it's one of my favourite times of the year because of that...  :)
I do miss the massive rituals and cooking and feasting and the sharing of beloved dead stories. it such an important thing to do (in my universe) as everything winds down for winter.

When I get back, I'm going to mexico for Nov 1st. I've not been since I was 22. What a party!


and ones spiritual family lineage is and incredibly important influence, I agree on the honour to continue their memories.

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you can search the entries for themes you are interested in like 'gardeners' or 'acupuncturists' or ''lesbians' or the family name. 

one of my mates said to me "yeah, not really a good enough reason to have a kid for. Just write a book, hey?" Hmn.

flora poste

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Re: Ancestry Veneration/Worship
« Reply #3 on: Nov 08, 2011, 06:26:23 PM »
I really like what you wrote. I can relate to a lot of it... I have strong feelings about my family and its history, which I'm afraid I struggle to articulate.

When I was about eighteen I had a dream that my great great aunt and my miscarried son were the lares of my family. Of course I couched it in those terms  ::) I was doing A-level Classics. the Lares were what the Romans called their household gods - they were mostly dead ancestors (but could be other things, essentially it was about the spirits you wished to have in your home), and there was usually a shrine to them in the house. I think this must have a bit to do with the evidence that Petrie found of the mummified dead being kept in the house for some generations in Graeco-Roman Egypt. And the little habit of getting people to wear family death masks at important events, to suggest that the dead were still amongst them.

It is a fact that I am where and who I am because of the people who came before. This has been on my mind a lot lately - my grandparents have been in the process of moving out of their home, and seriously downsizing. My grandmother has always been the keeper of all the family history - one of the things I made a point of doing with her was sitting down and going through all the old photos. There is even one of my (how many times?) great grandfather when he'd just arrived in Montreal from Paisley in 1854.

It dismays me that a lot of that knowledge is hers alone: she knows all the family stories, and can recognise the faces of people who died even before she was born, but it's too late for me to know all this as well as she does, and on a practical level there is really no need. It makes me sad that soon nobody will know who those people are in the photographs: it's true that when she dies, they will die too. There will be nobody to remember their names or their homes or who they married and why; they will be really gone. I don't know if any part of them still hangs around, but in an 'existing in our world' way, that'll be them all put to bed.

Both of my tattoos have to do with my family. It was never in my thought process, but I wonder if there is something in the fact that I am carrying them on my body...

drama umbrella

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Re: Ancestry Veneration/Worship
« Reply #4 on: Nov 08, 2011, 10:44:29 PM »
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It dismays me that a lot of that knowledge is hers alone: she knows all the family stories, and can recognise the faces of people who died even before she was born, but it's too late for me to know all this as well as she does, and on a practical level there is really no need. It makes me sad that soon nobody will know who those people are in the photographs: it's true that when she dies, they will die too. There will be nobody to remember their names or their homes or who they married and why; they will be really gone. I don't know if any part of them still hangs around, but in an 'existing in our world' way, that'll be them all put to bed.

ugh. see that is exactly it. I feel a little bit ill when I read that. and I used to have a little shrine in every house I lived with little bits of things and photos from all of my family members (and cats) who have passed on (thats in a box in canada I shipped home when I thought I was going home in 6 months  ::) ) so I can very much relate to what you've said. I want very much to tape my mom's linnage stories and write names under her little blurry sepia photos to keep alive, as long as I am anyway.

Offline Charlotte Mew

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Re: Ancestry Veneration/Worship
« Reply #5 on: Nov 23, 2011, 09:49:43 PM »
I think about all this quite a lot too.    I also think about what will I myself leave behind, how will people be able to remember me? (if they want to). What will happen to my stuff and writings and so on.  That is probably because I am in my mid-sixties.  I need to rewrite my will which is way out of date, and get my stuff sorted (a major major task in my case).

Apparently one of the stages of ageing that many people go through is considering their legacy (not necessarily financial).  It would be much less vain if I just thought 'well I will disappear and it will be as if I never existed, and I don't care about that at all'.    But I haven't quite spiritually attained that state of detachment.