Photo of Western Ireland – Ryan Couples Therapy Tacoma, WA

Ancestor Wisdom Surfaces as the Veil Thins

Ancestor wisdom surfaces as the veil thins between the material and the spiritual worlds this time of year. During the fall season, as the earth lets go of summer’s energy and moves toward winter’s hibernation, our ancestor spirits and guides are more available to us.

But what does all of this really mean?

It means if we pay attention to how the trees and plants of the earth go back to their own roots, to the things unseen and underground, we too can use this time to return to our own roots, to honor what is unseen; we can connect with our ancestor spirits more deeply and clearly.

Our ancestor guides are always close by, we just have to learn to see, listen, and be aware of their presence. This time of year, the autumn, teaches us how to do just that. Allowing our ancestor wisdom to influence our lives, is like receiving a map leading us to our wild belonging, our roots, our true essence, who we are when we strip away the surface and go into the depths of our soul.

This season is a season of longing, memory, shadow, potent dreams. It is a time when the soft, subtle light of dawn and dusk both hold ethereal energy and the possibility of transformation.

Matrilineal Ancestors

My matrilineal ancestors were from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Ancient Celtic traditions run through my veins. My life-long interest in Celtic lore and spirituality has been one of the ways my ancestors have nudged and invited me to connect with them and to carry on the traditions of my blood-line.

Since my teen years, I have been very curious about my ancestors. I read about the history of the British Isles and felt very drawn to that part of the world. As a young mother, whose own mother had passed away, I craved connection to my roots so that I might heal from my own experiences of isolation, loneliness, and grief that dominated my days.

I was voraciously curious about the grandmothers who went before me. Who were these women? What were their lives like? How did they spend their days? What were the rituals and traditions that gave their life substance?

I wanted to connect to things that would ground me, give me a sense of belonging. I wanted to repair my own sense of being untethered and lost.

I dove into John O’Donohue’s “Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom” to learn more about the ancient Celtic ways.

Through O’Donohue’s writing, I learned to ask the question: “What would the souls of my ancestors do then?”

Ancient Wisdom of the Sacred Feminine

I read stories about strong women from the ancient Celtic traditions who were considered spiritual leaders before patriarchal-dominated Christianity took over.

These ancient female spiritual leaders were seen as a threat to the Christian church. Their wisdom and healing abilities did not originate from or support Christian doctrine. Their power and wisdom came from a deep reverence for the cosmos and the earth. They did not subscribe to a Christian god in a male’s image.

They lived in alignment with the earth’s seasons, cultivated the magical, healing potential of plants and herbs, honored their own intuitive abilities, and lived in synchronicity with the cycles of the moon and the life force. They were guided by an earth-based spirituality inspired by the sacred feminine. This is what informed their daily life and infused wisdom into their bones.

Healing our Ancestral and Multi-Generational Trauma

As we strive to connect to our ancestors, we can get thwarted by hearing or remembering stories of trauma or unhealthiness. We may feel or know that some of our immediate ancestors did not live lives of integrity or health or thriving. Because of this, we often need to go back hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to find our “well” ancestors.

Because we can receive the energy of multi-generational trauma passed down to us, this must be addressed or it will prevent us from connecting to our ancestor guides. Once we acknowledge and heal from any trauma left from previous generations (and this is deep work that takes time), we are then free to benefit from our ancestors’ wisdom. We are free to receive the gifts from our  “well” ancestors.

This work allows us to reclaim our lives and our wild belonging. As we integrate the stories, the traditions, the rituals, the presence, the spirit and energy of our ancestors, we remember who we truly are. We remember the importance of using our gifts. We remember why we feel called to live as we do.

Cultural Appropriation and White Supremacy

Honoring my own ancestors is also one small way I live respectfully to other cultures and traditions. As I connect with my own roots, I understand how deeply harmful and disrespectful cultural appropriation is. I see and understand how white supremacy plays out when I feel entitled to “own”, borrow, usurp, or participate in the traditions, language, rituals, and culture of others.

I have my own rooted belonging. It is my responsibility to understand my own bloodline and to live in alignment with who I truly am in my bones and blood. It is also my responsibility to increase my awareness of how white supremacy has played out in my life so that I can keep learning, and do all I can to respect the roots and cultures that are different from mine. This helps me to live in a way that reveres all cultures and human beings.

Samhain Season

This Samhain season (as it is known for the Celtic people) holds powerful, vibrant other-worldly energy and therefore, holds the potential for us to experience sacred connection and spiritual awakening. This year, I am focusing on connecting, inviting, and paying attention to the energy and the spirits of my ancestors more than ever.  We are living in a time in which we need to receive wisdom about how to survive the pandemic, to create social justice for all, to end white supremacy, to save our environment.

All of our ancestors have endured plagues, oppression, abuse, imprisonment, revolution, and famine. They know a thing or two about surviving in challenging times. With great strength, endurance, and faith they survived. They found ways to live, love, gather, and be inspired. We too can do that even in these troubled times.

When we know from whence we come, we have a map for living a meaningful life that offers peace, strength, and encouragement during these chaotic times.

During this Samhain season, as the veil thins and the spirits of the otherworld become much more accessible to us, we can truly connect to things that are more substantive than this material world. More meaningful and enduring than our finances or possessions. Stronger than our worries and fears.

In the Celtic tradition, the season of the harvest was one of the most important seasons of the year.

As I celebrate this harvest time, this Samhain season, I know that I reap bountiful gifts when I connect to my ancestor spirits. When I pause and listen and watch for what is beyond my immediate sight, beyond the material world, beyond the veil.

Our ancestors are waiting to teach us, comfort us, reassure us, guide us.

Maybe this season, you can ask for them to guide and comfort you.

In the words of John O’Donohue:

“May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.”

As always, peace in the journey

P.S. The photo was taken on my trip to Western Ireland, the land of ancestors.

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Jane Ryan

Jane Ryan, M.A., LMFT, is a Licensed Couples and Family Therapist with twenty years of clinical experience. She specializes in intimate relationships, sexual challenges, sacred sexuality, and helping clients embrace their true erotic nature. She supports women in discovering their most radiant, vibrant and powerful feminine essence.