My ancestors are restless. They have been for a while now, but the intensity has been steadily increasing, especially as we enter the darkening time, the time when the veil thins and spirits come forth to share their stories, to be honored and remembered. Some offer cautionary tales of woe and pain, for our lineages carry great unhealed wounds that swirl in our blood and inform our lives today, always just under the surface of our consciousness.
For how can we know? These memories have been stripped away from us. We have been taught not to talk about the pain. I do not really know well the people I come from, for I have been told it doesn’t really matter, and some of them are secrets, and some of them are shame, and many of them are racist and ignorant and poor.
They are rattling around now, corpses stuffed in a black suitcase, stripped of muscle and flesh. All that remains are the rotting bones, and I fear setting them free. I fear what I will find.
In this fear, I have sought out other lineages, wanted to make them my own. How naïve I was to believe I could discard my own stories for someone else’s; how arrogant to believe I was entitled to them.
But my stories are nothing but bones! I cry.
I weep and mourn, and still I keep them locked up. I don’t know how my ancestors celebrated the changing of the seasons, I don’t know how they kept the rites for the dead, I don’t know who or how they worshipped before Christianity came and tore away the old ways, silencing the women of my lineages, separating my people from the rhythms and wisdoms of Mother Earth, of our bodies and our souls and our inner fire—and bringing commanding judgment to everything I was, everything I am.
I don’t know what herbs they used, what meals they prepared, what songs were sung around the hearth fire. I must imagine some of them were healers and some of them were excellent cooks and some of them worked the land and some of them dreamed prophetic dreams and some of them sewed beautiful quilts and some of them were masterful musicians and storytellers, for these I see in myself and my family that is still living.
They were strong and resilient people, if not also abusive and broken and fearful in so many ways.
The details of the ways of my ancestors are the flesh and muscle, long ago stripped away and lost. I mourn this deeply, and in that I mourn all of the stories and ways that have been lost, through war and religious crusades and world domination. I mourn how my people have stolen from others out of the grief of losing our own ancestral ways, and out of arrogance and ignorance of the harm that comes from stealing that which is not ours.
And so the bones rattle. They say “No more! No more sorry substitutions for what you really are! You must look at us and see the truth of who you are in the world. You must trust you can handle the shame and sorrow, for through that you access our wisdom and can tell the story of how you came to be, reclaiming your whole self. For there is greatness here. You can nurture these bones back to life, building flesh and muscle from your own stories, your own traditions and rites. You must start again. You must trust that we will guide you.”
It is time to unlock the black suitcase.
I don’t know exactly what I’ll find, but these things I’m sure of:
There were sacred ceremonies and fire celebrations, witches and healers and medicine women, farmers and cooks, singing around the hearth and dancing in joy, dreaming and sewing and brewing tea, gazing at stars, rocking the babies, burying the dead, and weeping for what once was and is now passed.