The below was originally written at Samhain last year and posted to my Instagram at the time. I still don’t often hear other speak about this topic, so I wanted to make the information more permanently available.
“I’ve heard a number of other witches talk about how as you research your ancestors you may learn some things you do not like. What I’ve not heard much, is how to approach Ancestor Work when you already know you have problematic ancestors, more specifically when a direct ancestor, now dead seriously harmed you or members of your family directly in your life time.
I have shared before that I suffered childhood sexual abuse. What I have not specifically named is that the perpetrator of that abuse was my own grandfather. When the idea of Ancestor Work was first introduced to me my first thought was “How could I ever have a positive relationship with my ancestors?” And then “How could I ever invite in ancestral energies when THAT might come with it?’ The idea filled me with deep fear. And yet I somehow knew that deepening my connection to my lineage was going to be essential to the development of my practice and that working with and calling on ancestors was the surest way there.
So how have I approached this? First I gave it time. A lot of time. I did some research on my ancestry and lineage without connecting in any more vulnerable ways. I kept it academic. I asked people I trust how I might begin this work. Milla Prince suggested working with Yarrow when doing any Ancestor Work and also the option of conducting a ceremony to permanently disinvite him from any of this work. I still haven’t conducted that ceremony, it is a bit too daunting. But what I did take way from that was the confidence that I could be very clear who and is not welcome. I get to choose who is invited to the party. The first time I started calling in ancestors I actually began to see a dark ink blot creep across my vision from the side and I sent a firm energetic “NO”. The second time it came in just a bit and again I sent it “NO”. It has never since come back.
Like Milla suggested I often work with Yarrow when I call on ancestors and am VERY explicit with my intention that only those there for my highest and best are welcome. Sometimes I say it two times. Sometimes I say it six times. Sometimes I say it twenty times. Whatever it takes to make me feel safe. I also have specifically chosen to direct my attention on my female ancestors. Because of the context of my situation this helps me feel safe. It is unlikely that there was not one bad woman in my lineage and yet the overall feeling is that the women can be trusted. And since I began calling them they have given me so much. More than anything they offer me deep protection. And I am able to call on them and feel safe.
It’s crucial to remember that we are the keepers of our own practice. That we can set the rules of engagement with anything we call on. And that we only ever have to do what we feel safe doing and when we feel safe doing it. Samhain Blessings beautiful witches.”
In the year since this was written I have become increasingly comfortable working with ancestors. I no longer feel that I need quite as many precautions as I once needed, but the fundamentals are the same. I’ve learned more about my ancestors since I began calling on them explicitly. As expected, I have discovered a few bad women. But ultimately this work has been deeply healing and continues to be so. Yet another way of reclaiming power from those who took it from us.