Reader Question about Ancestor Veneration

Today I woke to an email wherein K.H. asked: why do you still honor ballet dancers if you’re retired. You don’t dance anymore so haven’t you exited the lineage? 

This is a good question and it’s not the first time I’ve been asked this or had a similar question arise when teaching about ancestor veneration. The word “ancestor” for us, tends to be polyvalent. It’s absolutely first and foremost our blood ancestors, those from whom we are biologically descended. It’s also any adopted ancestors. For instance, I was legally adopted. My adopted mom is a major ancestor. After that, there are those we consider spiritual ancestors – friends, people who inspired us in our lives, teachers, saints, etc. Some of us may be called spiritually to honor certain groups. I have a good friend who honors “the working girls,” dead who were prostitutes in life. I have an acquaintance who honors the deaf dead. I myself honor the military dead and the castrati as two distinct groups within my ancestral house. I feel called to do this as part of my spiritual work, and I have come to love them dearly.  There are also lineage ancestors.

In my House, we honor our spiritual lineage: those who were spirit workers, clergy, shamans, diviners, etc. before us. We also specifically honor those who may have initiated us, or taught us who have died – the latter group first and then the larger, overarching group. This is so important that I even include it in my opening prayer when I sit down to do divination, each and every time. 

It’s not just clergy, diviners, or spirit workers et al. who have lineage. When you work in a field, any field, you become part of a lineage and it nourishes the soul and orients one properly to recognize and honor the sacred in all that one does. When I danced, I served the daimon of the art and I became part of a lineage stretching back a thousand years, if not more (because ballet has its roots in a certain type of mime originating in ancient Rome). As an artist, I have stepped into a lineage dating back to the time of our ancestors who lived in caves and made their mark in ochre and charcoal. It doesn’t matter that I never became a great dancer, I belong to that lineage, likewise art and music (I’m studying guitar and have musicians in my family). Even though I am retired from ballet, I am still connected by virtue of the time I danced, to that particular lineage. It is a part of who I am. It always will be. It’s not something that I can excise from my history or my formation. It’s left a deep mark on my character (and I would go so far as to say I was able to thrive as a spirit-worker and maybe even as a priest because of the lessons I learned as a dancer). 

It’s true that one may choose, upon retirement or upon leaving a field, to stop honoring the ancestors, the forebears of that particular lineage but I don’t think it’s a good idea to do so. We are who we are, we become who we become via our experiences and the professional lineages in which we work. I have found that those particular ancestors, though related only by virtue of our shared time in a professional field, continue to show interest and to be an active part of my ancestral house. I think for whatever time, however long we worked within a field, we contributed and helped to fortify it and that forever ties us to that lineage. This isn’t a bad thing at all. 

For those interested in learning more about honoring ancestors, you should check out the tags here at my blog “ancestors” and “ancestor work” and I’ve also written a book available here

my own ancestor shrine (one third of it at least), several years ago.

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About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on August 14, 2022, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Sparked a question: when honoring the ancestors of your work or tradition, do you look for people in that work to honor (like genealogy only for a working lineage) or just add them as they come up?

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    • ALSO do you honor the beloved dead of your work alongside your blood/bone/adopted ancestors or on a different shrine? I’m worrying about room and trying to sort that out for myself…

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      • ganglerisgrove

        Certain Afro-Caribbean traditions have different names for related dead and generic dead but I don’t break them down like that so much. I think if it’s a room thing, shrine boxes are a possibility (I started out with the castrati having their own little shrine box that I could open and work with at will — then of course, they took over a quarter of the shrine room lol). Part of my shrine for the dancers was on the wall instead of a table…get creative with it.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      good questions. I think it can work either way. For me, I already had some dancers that I felt strongly connected to (whose stories had inspired me to dance) so I started there adn then it expanded as I worked. There’s a wonderful Estonian proverb: “The work will teach you how to do it” and that was sure true for me here!

      I have one huge room for my ancestors (turned the dining room into a shrine room). I have one wall for my blood/adopted ancestors, and then parts of the other walls are given to the groups I honor and lineage ancestors BUT it gets complicated bc my adopted mom was musician, my great grandmother an opera singer…so there’s been some cross over. Plus, I’ve found the dead talk and sometimes the groups intermingle on their own. I go with it.

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      • cool. I had a feeling it might be like that and yea i know your house is 75% shrines at this point right?
        I’m nudging around adding Herbalists to my ancestor shrine and of course i have family that are both so yea. I’m sure they will let me know how they want things done as I do them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ganglerisgrove

    They’ll definitely let you know. 🙂 and yeah…LOTS of shrines inside and out.

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  3. I was doing more readings about Ancestors. I found out about Ancestors of Place as in the people from the places your family originally came from. Ancestors of Time are the people your family interacted with. At the end of the day, you have an ever-expanding group.

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