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.
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