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Archive for the ‘ancestors’ Category

As I said in my last entry, my husband and I saw “How to Train Your Dragon” this afternoon.  After that we went to the Watertown Great Outdoor Expo.*  The entrance fee was only $3 per person so I figured it would be a fun thing to check out.  It’s true that my husband and I are both vegetarians and not hunters, but we have an interest in other outdoor activities.  My husband has also become quite interested in (and good at) target practice after going a few times with other family members and friends.

There were a lot of interesting things to see: animal calls (an old interest of mine), baby ducks, a giant, hand-carved chess set, rock climbing demonstrations, some small animals from the local zoo, and even a scuba pool!  My husband took scuba classes several years ago in Syracuse but was never certified.  It’s something we’d both like to do one day.  I tried to convince him to try the scuba gear with me but he didn’t feel like it and I didn’t want to do it alone.  I got some information, though.  I would love to take a class.  The North Country is a good place for scuba diving so we should take advantage of that sometime!  I also got information about white water rafting, another activity to try on the local Black River.  Any of my friends want to try it out?

There was also a chiropractic table set up and I was asked if I wanted a free screening.  I basically said, “oh what the heck, why not?” and the lady said I had some problems, including swelling in my lower back.  I do get a lot of aches there.  They were offering a low price for further consultations, but I decided that I want to go in to the local doctor for a full check-up first and see what he or she says.  It is discouraging to think I have some back problems that could become more serious as I age…  When I went to the reiki workshop last week, a lot of people who practiced on me said they felt a weird energy around my lower abdomen but I don’t recall anything specific about my back.  Hmmm…  I’ll have to see what another doctor says and then I’ll consider a regime of chiropractic consultations, massage, and reiki.

In other news, a new blog I’ve been following, Flame in Bloom, has a great post about ancestor veneration among heathens and what that means when you have little respect for recent ancestors.  It’s a perspective I’ve not thought much about.  Ancestors are just as important in Druidism and Celtic Reconstructionism, and I’ve been blessed with a family I feel close to despite their idiosyncrasies.  Those who have passed are still cherished for the lessons learned and the positive impact they had on me.  Michelle Daw, an ADF member and practicing stoic, kind of touched on this is his recent video chat on stoicism.  I remember him discussing family members who were not very kind or responsible.  They taught him how not to behave.  The lessons may have been painful, but they were important and he thanks them for that.  Anyone having difficulty forming a relationship with their ancestors should definitely check out Flame in Bloom’s most recent post** and/or start a conversation with Daw.  He’s very approachable and willing to help.

That’s all I have for today!  Again, I’m working on some book reviews which I should post soon.  Remember Earth Hour tonight!  Turn your lights off from 8:30 to 9:30!

*For my lj friends: http://www.greatoutdoorexpo.com/

** For my lj friends: http://flameinbloom.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/on-ancestors-and-our-bodies/

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When we look back at our past,  it’s often easy to see the obvious sign posts we passed on our way to the present.  I’m one of those who believes that I was always a Pagan – I just didn’t realize it until the age of 17 or 18.  My father raised me to be respectful of fire, an independent thinker, and a survivor.  My mother raised me to be a third generation feminist, to believe in magic, love nature, and appreciate the world around me.  They both taught me how to be creative.  They planted the seeds of animism and nature worship in me.  The Catholicism they raised me in, with its archaic rituals and saints, acted as a gateway to polytheism.  My mother kept a small altar to St. Theresa of the Roses in her room, prayed to St. Francis to protect animals, and encouraged me to ask St. Anthony for help whenever I lost something.   Though conversion can naturally have a certain amount of uncertainty and fear attached to it, I’m sure it helped make praying to the Old Gods easier.

  My Catholic, genealogy-obsessed grandfather would probably never understand if I attempted to tell him how much his interests impacted the conversion I went through in my late teens.  Only, it would take me a few years to understand the importance of ancestors.  As I studied Wicca, I thought of my ancestors as much as I would in Catholicism.  They came before me.  Some of them lived a long time ago practicing a foreign, ancient religion and I had a vague idea that this was somehow important spiritually.  They died.  They went somewhere else.  Wicca and Catholicism honored them once a year – Samhain or All Souls Day.  Pick your faith and pick your holy day.

Druidism looks at ancestors a bit differently than Wicca.  We strive to remember them daily.  We venerate them.  We may even set up altars to them – and not just on Samhain (when we believe the ancestors are able to return to this realm for a time).  Their importance to us lasts all year long.  Many of us believe that, given their connection to us, ancestors are sometimes more concerned with our wellbeing than the Gods.  The Gods may be busier than the ancestors.  Ancestors may be in the Otherworld/Spirit World most of the time, but I and others believe we share some sort of emotional/psychic link with them.

   I’ve never asked my grandfather why he’s so interested in genealogy – I really should.  I suspect he would say something about how the past is important because it’s where we come from.  I agree.  However, I’m going to bet that it would end there.  Maybe -maybe- he has some spiritual ideas about it as well.  Maybe he looks forward to meeting them in heaven, impressing them with what he knows, and interrogating them for all the missing links.  Why have I become interested in it?  I feel that our ancestors are connected to us spiritually.  They want to help us and, maybe, they’ve “been there and done that” and don’t want to see us make similar mistakes.  Grandparents care about their children so, if you believe in an afterlife, it makes a lot of sense that a great, great grandparent would care about you as well.  To our ancient ancestors, family and tribe were extremely important.  They meant survival.  We’re linked to them – perhaps they’re even in us.  Perhaps we are them reborn.  I have small intuitions about these things but, in the end, I must remain largely agnostic.

Still, it’s strange how the ancestors reach out sometimes.  Over the Yule/Christmas season, I visited my family near Utica.  I made a point to visit my grandparents and I found out that my prolific grandfather was working on yet another history book – this one more personal than the rest which investigate the annals of small, Upstate NY towns.  He showed me the massive pile of pages chronicling his research on our ancestors – my ancestors on my father’s side.  We talked for some time about it.  All these years he’s been talking about the earliest recorded male in our family, John, and suddenly I started to learn about his wife, Susan(a).  Why hadn’t I ever thought about her before?  At the time, he told me where she was from but I wasn’t familiar with it – I only knew that it was in Northern Ireland.  (That’s where John met her while he was serving military time in British occupied Ireland.)

A month went by since learning of her.  The other night I decided to email my grandfather to see how his project was going.  I also wanted the name of Susan’s hometown for further research.  Today, in the mail, I discovered a CD version of the book.  Can you imagine my amazement at receiving such a gift a few hours after inquiring?  It is as if we were on a similar wavelength or Susan was guiding us.  Here it all was – every known record of my family, including my most recent Irish foremother.

Here she is, Susan (at some point she dropped the “a” at the end of her name).  At least, this is believed to be the only photo of her. *

She looks so ghostly in the blotchy, black and white photo, but it’s not a fearful feeling for me.  It’s more like…  I sense her looking back at me through the ages.

The more I read, the more the pieces click into place.  She’s from Armagh which, according to what I’ve been reading, was the ancient capital of Ulster.  Ulster!  To someone who is enamored with ancient Ireland, that’s a big deal.  I’m not about to spout nonsensical claims of being related to Cúchulainn or anything daft like that – it’s simply exciting to find some small connection to the place I’ve been reading about, loving, and yearning to see.  I can claim some small connection to that magical land!

What makes the story even more interesting to me is that Susan and John immigrated from Ireland to Canada and, form Canada, settled in Watertown, NY – meaning they lived around my new home turf!  My grandfather found her gravestone a few years ago.  I intend to find it myself this summer.  I would also love to go to Armagh when my husband and I finally get to Ireland.  I would love to bring a stone back and build a small cairn on her grave.  Would my presumably Christian ancestor appreciate veneration from a Pagan descendant?  Who knows.  I remain agnostic about the afterlife and whether or not it transcends religion or accommodates it all.  Perhaps she would just be happy to have a bit of her home turf and some attention from someone who still finds her wisdom important.

* LJ friends, check my blog at http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/

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Site Update

One more update today! I updated my website. I added photos of my current altars. Enjoy!

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