Tending to our deep roots
Apr 28, 2021

“A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Marcus Garvey.

What if the source of our own pain and the agony of the planet was not separated but rather deeply entangled within the roots of our ancient ancestry? What if finding peace and personal healing was not truly possible without addressing the history and the collective wound of our society?

In our western society, we live in a culture that neglects its youth and forgets its old people. The initiations and rites of passage once held by our ancestors are gone today and so is the sense of community or tribe to support one another. With constant movement and no bridge between generations, it can be challenging to become mature adults and find our sense of belonging to a group or even a place. It is no surprise to see a rise in ancestry research, ancestral healing and spiritual modalities.

Many practices are supportive in helping us understand our ancestral inheritance, the burdens and trauma passed down from generation to generation. What I discovered is that digging down the roots of a few generations is not enough to unveil the core of our own wound because beyond our family history lies a systemic conditioning that we all have inherited. Working with my older generations has offered me another level of depth and understanding.

When I think of my own family history, there is certainly plenty of intergenerational and transgenerational trauma within the last 150 years but these stories, even if present in my body, are not what deeply defines me.

When I sit by the fire, I can feel the presence of my distant european indigenous ancestors. The dancing flames remind me of their gatherings, ceremonies and rituals. Sitting in circles with others reminds me of how they used to live and how they used to share stories as a community while feasting on the catch of the day. And, in my longing for belonging, what I am trying to remember are the stories they shared, their knowledge and their wisdom. Hoping to find answers to support our humanity.

Considering that their embodied earth-based practices and reciprocal relationship to the more-than-human world sustained our species living in harmony with the whole of life for about 98% of our human history, I believe there are some great resources to be accessed here.

The agricultural revolution is what started our split with the rest of nature. The more-than-human world once seen as equal, slowly turned into property. Animals were domesticated, the lands modified and a need for Gods arose to mediate between humans and the land that became silent.

Then, this disconnect got bigger the last 2000 years, with the rise of monotheistic religions, capitalism and industrialisation that have led to the present and unprecedented social and environmental crisis.

But what if our disconnection from the natural world is the biggest underlying issue? What if the long term solution to this crisis impacting us all on a collective, family and personnel level lies within the wisdom of our ancient animist ancestors? What if these ancient ways are what can define ourselves?

I believe we need to see beyond the recent seven generations of our family tree. Beyond the stigmas of our western psyche, beyond our systemic conditioning to be able to access the 98% of accumulated knowledge. It is still here, running through our veins and can be a source of transformation, support and inspiration to whoever is willing to re-member.

Reconnecting to my own roots was a beautiful invitation to reclaim and revive the knowledge and practices of my own blood lineages. There is some great wisdom that no science or statistics will ever replace, and I wish our “leaders” could be inspired and listen to those who remember and are still living the ancient ways, to deal with conflict, injustices and pain rather than imposing on them our western mindset. I wish we could initiate our youth and respect our elders like many cultures still do.

When I look at the factual elements of my family tree to explore the emotional aspect of the recent branches I can feel the weight carried by my great grandparents who experienced or fought two world wars on their ancestral land and who were already trapped in the machine of the industrial era with all the trauma it involved. I also know that the five generations before them did not get a better treatment. I had to look far back to understand the deep roots of our cultural trauma and farther back for the potential source of healing.

In his book Ancestral Medicine Rituals for Personal and Family Healing, Dr Daniel Foor says that “When we reconcile with ancestors who experienced different types of persecution or who enacted violence and oppression, we make repairs in our personal psyches and family histories that, in turn, mend cracks in the larger spirit of humanity.”

This is why I love this body of work. Because it offers a profound and intuitive approach that brings not only healing and transformation to myself but also to my ancestors from whom I have inherited life and almost everything. If healing the ancestors can support healing the collective it will also support my own healing and vice versa. How could the fruits of a tree grow healthy if the roots are not?

Building a relationship with my ancestors and finding a way to honor them really supported me connect to my authentic self, find my place and space in the world. I carry my sense of belonging within me, wherever I go. Life seems richer now and more exciting as every day is a discovery about the new/old ways of being, pausing and honoring a fulfilling life of explorations. The ancestors are my best teachers in showing me how to better support myself and my kins in these times of crisis, where a social collapse seems inevitable. My relationship with them plays a big part in keeping me sane, grounded and in being a conduit for change.

If true liberation of the self exists in its full expression, I believe it lies in our connection to the wider web of life, including the unseen, the ancestors and the other-than-humans. We are nature, we are the earth, we are the ancestors. Our bodies and our collective are just another ecosystem and we need each other for personal and ecological harmony.