A is for Ancestors

Second and last of my catch-up posts. There won’t be another Pagan Blog Project post until next Friday, when I get to the second of my B posts, in which I meditate on Beltaine and why it’s my least favourite Sabbat.

Anyway. This entry is on ancestors. I did ponder making it Akhu, which is the Kemetic word for ancestors/those who have passed away/the Shining Ones, but this wants to be broader than an Akhu-ancestor context, so ancestors it is. Ancestors and ancestry, pretty much.

I must admit I came late to the whole ‘venerating your ancestors’ thing. I still don’t really do much for them. I’ve never been all that comfortable with the idea of working with dead people, particularly as most of the family members who have passed away during my lifetime were unknown to me, or aren’t ones I wish to venerate because we weren’t close or had good relationships while they were alive. The only ones I’ve ever really cared about are my maternal grandparents. The rest are strangers to me, and I feel uncomfortable just asking these strangers to come into my house when I don’t know them. The blood connection isn’t enough for me.

This has really made me think about where I come from and who I would feel comfortable venerating. The tension between blood family and chosen family, and why I don’t feel it’s less good (if that’s the right way to express it) to pick chosen family over blood family.

I’ve also had to wrestle with the idea I used to come across a lot in pagan circles that there was some sort of weird obligation to adopt the pagan gods of your ancestry. My mum’s side is Welsh, while my dad’s is Scottish and Viking (apparently), with probably some Irish, English and Aussie thrown in the mix too. So I’m pretty heavily Celtic. But I’ve never felt any desire to work with Celtic Gods. The only two I’m in any way drawn to are Cerridwen and Brigid.

I think part of this tension has come from not being particularly sure of my own identity. I mean, sure, I was born in Australia and I am an Australian citizen. I generally think of myself as Australian, but as I get to know more about my heritage and ancestry, it just muddied the water.

Cos my mum was born in England. She might be a naturalised citizen now, her family came over when she was 11, but she wasn’t born here. It was never anything I really thought much of. I never saw myself as having a ‘mixed’ family. But I can’t help thinking of myself as British-Australian now, or even Welsh-Australian if I’m being specific. I’m only just beginning to figure out how that part of my heritage fits in with me. How it relates to me and makes up a part of my identity.

And while I feel much more connected to that Welsh side of the family than I did before, I still don’t feel any less Australian. I’ve lived in this country all my life, and I know the land. I know the seasons and the vegetation and the animals and birds. I know the culture, the customs, the festivals and language. Australia is my land, my home. But another part of me belongs to Britain. To Wales. I sometimes feel like I’m split in two. Half of me is Australian, the other Welsh. It’s the strongest non-Aussie blood-tie I have. I think the Scottish and alleged Viking blood are too far back on my dad’s side to be as strong for me. His family have been in Australia a lot longer than my mum’s family.

It was when I was Kemetic Orthodox that I was introduced to the concept of ancestor veneration. I keep making lists of Akhu I would feel comfortable honouring and it’s still not very long. I would rather have people on there I have some sort of connection to than strangers I don’t know. Maybe one day when I am used to ancestor communication I might ask to be introduced to all those ancestors I never knew, but it’s still something I find hard to get my head around.

I am also certain I have had contact from a relatively famous non-blood Akhu who I never met IRL. I have no idea why. I’m still not sure why. I must admit to kind of shying away from that because it kind of freaked me out. Still half-convinced I made it up, even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t. So maybe I haven’t worked on that relationship as much as I should’ve done. But talking to dead people does not come naturally to me so it’s not something I rush into eagerly. I just don’t know how to do it. It’s not instinctive to me.

I sometimes feel like I’m a bad Kemetic for neglecting my ancestors, but it’s just not something I am fully comfortable with yet. Assuming I will ever become comfortable with it. I have never felt specific ancestor veneration is in any way obligatory anyway. Sometimes, remembering their stories and who they were can be just as powerful as offering cool water or other offerings to the Akhu. At this stage, I am much more comfortable with the former than the latter, so that is what I will do until such a time as I feel more comfortable with a more formal style of veneration and rememberance.

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2 comments on “A is for Ancestors

  1. helmsinepu says:

    I’m not good at it either. I’ve yet to set up any sort of Akhu shrine. I am including the mummies and cases in the local museum, and have done voice offerings to them. They sparked my interest in ancient Egyptian things when I was a boy, so they’re spiritual ancestors in a way. If we’re supposed to follow the gods of our blood ancestors slavishly, maybe we should also follow their same line of work. Which means most of us should be poor dirt farmers. Fooey on that!

  2. Alex Vanguard says:

    @helmsinepu, what’s really funny is that after I wrote this post, it occurred to me that I really was sensing something of a lost spirit on our back patio. Just some old wandering spirit who just wanted to stay a while. I did ask him if he wanted anything, what his name was, but he didn’t want to bother me and just wanted a kip for a while. So I asked Yinepu to help guide him into the Duat where he’s meant to be. Lo, I can’t sense that spirit around anymore. Seems I have developed a knack for this ancestor thing after all. At least, maybe I’m good at the sensing part, not so good at the venerating part.I don’t feel bad for not having an akhu shrine up though. I just don’t have any space that’s close to hand. Plus, I think they’re better off outside my bedroom, so until I get a space out there to use, it’ll be an informal thing. I’ll put a netjeri shrine nearby too, so my old cats can get a spot. I’m pretty sure my last cat, Lady, has been protecting the house since she passed last year. I keep seeing her out of the corner of my eye, shadows and things half-seen. We buried her in the back yard, so I’m not really surprised she’s hanging around. Bast-Mut, as far as I can tell, protects this house, Her and Her netjeri.

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