In my work, I refer quite often to my “ancestors.” But what does this term “ancestors” actually refer to?
I know when I hear the word, “ancestors,” the image that comes to mind is of Sunday school illustrations of Old Testament stories. As a Jewish kid I learned about the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob usually depicted as stern old men with long white beards. The patriarchs always seemed remote and unapproachable to me.
It happens that to be human is to have human ancestors. If you go back far enough in time, you’ll discover all 7+ billion of us share common ancestors who emerged from Africa millennia ago and migrated to every part of the planet. My Jewish heritage means my people settled initially in the fertile crescent; then to Europe and eventually the New World.
My ancestors and your ancestors are human beings who once lived on Earth. Our connection to our ancestors is one of blood; of DNA.
One way to understand your ancestors is using “lineages.” We all have four “primary” lineages: the lineage extending from our mother’s mother, mother’s father, father’s mother, and father’s father. My mother’s mother’s lineage traces all the female ancestors from mother to daughter. Similarly, my mother’s father’s lineage traces all male ancestors from father to son.
In my experience, this lineage idea can get quickly complicated so I use a mandala-like map as a way to see my lineages. (Thanks to Dr. Daniel Foor of Ancestral Medicine for this diagram). As you travel from the center to the outer circle you move from the present into the past. I (Judy) am in the center, the next ring are my parents, the third ring are my grandparents, and the fourth ring are my great-grandparents.
After adding the names of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, I colored the mandala in order to clearly trace my ancestral lineages.
For example, the women of my mother’s mother lineage are colored red.
Why did I use red rather than blue or green or purple? Because the women of this lineage have a special affinity for rich reds, especially in textiles. And how do I know this? Well, not because my mom or her mother, my grandmother wore lots of red, the affinity for red is something that was shared with me by an ancestral guide who represents these women.
Which leads to the topic of ancestral guides and how connecting with ancestors involves speaking to dead people.