Content warning: Mention of the death of a parent
Dad died last year and that was heavy. There were a number of festivals and symbls before I could speak a toast to him. There was a great deal of comfort in his having visited one Yule and participated in a symbl.
My reason for mentioning this is the sense of relief that I had when I was finally able to toast to Dad in a ritual context. It was absolutely based in this sensation that he was an ancestor of the circle around here that symbls regularly together.
Then I guess we get to asking what an Ancestor is. I’m capitalising because I want to make clear the distinction between someone who is way back in my family tree and the concept that plays into a lot of neopagan thought.
I’ve written about Ancestors before, certainly my notions of them are heavily influenced by Heathens but also by my time in Japan. My household altar has places for pictures of family, that’s definitely been the influence of Japanese daily practice. But they’re not the sum total of Ancestors, what place do they have in my practice that aren’t simply familial spirits? And that’s the thing because Ancestors aren’t just Family linked by blood. It’s a weird blip of twentieth century Europe to assume Family is about who is blood related to you. Family is the word we understand in the gay lexicon to mean chosen family, and a lot of the concept of Ancestors within neopaganism is of the Ancestors (and heroes) of the group.
I really am belabouring this point, likely because within neopaganism there’s a lot of romanticising of ideas that eventually turn into eugenicist beliefs and outright nazism and racism. Theres a real rise of some very offensive right wing beliefs with paganism, heathery and shamanism seem to be particularly hit with this but it’s not solely them. I guess all I want to say is that a white European girl respecting my ancestors within my magical and spiritual practice doesn’t have to equate with weird nazi ideas. I feel like I do have to say that because of other people’s actions and that absolutely sucks.
Ancestors are part of the invisible circle that we recognise as being around us when we symbl, they’re there and they’re drinking just as everyone who’s ever ritually drunk with us has been.