Visiting Paternal Ancestors’ Graves
So, my ancestors were pretty pissed off with me a few weeks ago, my paternal ancestors that is. You see, I was raised close to my maternal side of the family. We only visited my dad’s family once a year if that and only when I was very small (after his parents died, we didn’t make the trek every year). I’ve struggled for years to develop a close relationship with that side of my dead. Whereas I am quite close to specific individuals on that side of my ancestral line, as a whole we struggle to communicate and connect. This is especially so of the very old ones, the protectors of the lineage. They had wanted me to visit what graves were available to me (my grand parents, aunt and uncle, and some cousins are buried in Albany about two hours away from me) but up until now I hadn’t. I had, however, visited the graves of maternal dead in MD and PA, easily four or five hours away several times. This did not sit well with my Lithuanian dead. They’re very high protocol (which pisses me off to no end, I cannot tell you, though they’re right to be so) and this was not proper protocol. So Easter Sunday I highed my ass off to Our Lady of Angels cemetery in Albany to make offerings and visit with my dead.
The trip itself was pretty uneventful. It’s a pretty straight shot from my home. I bought flowers the day before but made that offering at my ancestor shrine. The flowers were just so pretty as they were and the bouquet huge I thought it best to leave them at the shrine. I brought fresh water and other offerings for the cemetery. Usually when I go to a cemetery, I can make an offering and quick prayer to the cemetery spirit or to my ancestors and almost immediately find the grave that I’m looking for. That was not the case this time. I asked my ancestors for help and they said “get out and walk.” Did I mention they were pissed? I walked around for an hour, found the grave of a couple of cousins, eventually found my aunt and uncle. I asked the wind God Kari for guidance and unusual birds kept flying in a particular direction. I followed them but coiuld not find my grandparents’ grave. I did find a couple of cousins who died in WWI and II.
Finally, pissed off – because it was clear they were fucking with me – I called on Hermes and begged for His help. Essentially, I went over their heads. Immediately he told me to stop the car (I’d gotten back in to drive to various parts of the cemetery) and get out and walk in a particular direction. I did this and after a yard or so He told me to look down and right there was my grandparents’ grave. (Hail to You, Hermes, and thank You!). Thing is, I’d walked past it and looked at it at least three times before that (it was only a couple of graves over from one of my cousins). My dead were keeping me from seeing it, testing me, seeing if I would stay the course and find them. Fuckers.
So I made my offerings, and promised to go back in June. By the time I got home and hit my ancestor shrine I could already feel the difference, a positive one, and was immediately gifted with several cemetery songs. (Our tradition is big on songs). The visit helped smooth out things with that line and since I’ve had one of them step forward to help specifically with communication, which is a blessing.
I’ve always found joy in engaging with the Gods…sometimes it sucks, sometimes there is great pain, but there is also, usually joy. That’s not ancestor work for me. There’s no joy in dealing with the dead for me. There is duty and satisfaction. I find the protocols they demand irritating and often have to fight with myself to do them, even though I know I should. I often resent having them demand things. I serve the Gods not human beings, and my father’s line is very rigid – they are hard people, from a hard land, and that stubborn grit enabled them to survive. It rubs me the wrong way though, when someone who was once human expects obedience that I will ever only give to the Gods. So we wrangle. But at the same time, as much as we fight, I know they have my back and that is an awesome feeling. We can bitch and fight and cuss and moan but when the chips are down, my dead have my back and I’m fiercely proud that they were the last people in Europe to abandon their ancestral traditions (the Lithuanians didn’t abandon their polytheism until the late fifteenth century). Everything else we’ll work out eventually. Half of ancestor work is learning how to communicate, not just learning how to communicate with our dead, but our dead learning how to communicate with us. It takes time. It’s messy, but it’s worth it.
Now some pictures.
This was the first grave I found. I believe Tapila is the sister of my grandfather.
Then here is one of the cousins (I can’t tell exactly how we’re related …once you start getting into cousins x times removed I find it confusing lol). I’d have made offerings to them anyway because they’re military dead, but I was pleased to find them (after making a desperate prayer to Loki….Loki, Kari, and Hermes really had my back that day).
Here is my aunt and uncle. I never got along with Julia in life for a number of reasons but after death her husband (who was one of the first ancestors I started venerating) helped bring us into accord and now she is one of my strongest of Disir. I have a photo of her as a young woman and she was quite lovely, a dead ringer for Marlene Dietrich.
And finally, finally here is the grave of my grand parents. Halle-fucking-lujah.
Next time I will bring flowers to the cemetery. Sometimes cemeteries are quiet but this one had a lot of chatty dead. I told my dead that if I’d been able to choose their grave stones, it wouldn’t be any of these nice, simple, conservative monuments. No, if I’d been able to choose, you’d be able to see that sucker from space. LOL.