In today’s world, so many more of us are not living in our ancestral or birth homes. Migration is not new, with centuries of human movement around the globe, from people following the herd, fleeing starvation and atrocities, seeking a better life, driven by hope. Millions alone entered the US through Ellis Island. Today, it is augmented by air travel and the global economy and perpetuated still by war, creating “third culture kids” and refugees.
In the past (and to some extent still), people lived their entire lives in their villages, or within their clans, practicing their own cultural version of ancestral worship, remaining connected to their past and to the land. Many traditional cultures continue this practice, sometimes through festivals such as Qingming for the Chinese and daily offerings by the Balinese.
For many people, there is however a disconnection, from their family, from their past, from their ancestors. With a broken lineage we have deepened our sense of loss and separation.
In the book The Ancestral Continuum, authors Natalia O’Sullivan and Nicola Graydon present much needed information, especially at a time when people are looking to uncover their roots, through technology, forming their family tree from research. By rediscovering our ancestors and their stories, we unlock some of the mystery of who we are and the legacies – spiritual and emotional – we have inherited at birth.
All over the world people have become disconnected from their family tree. They have been uprooted for so long that they have forgotten what it means to be connected from our family tree, we are disconnected from the family tree of humanity.
Mandaza Augustine Kandemwa, traditional healer1
We inherit more than just the colour of our eyes and other physical characteristics. We inherit gifts, stories, blocks, and miasms. The lives and the deaths of those before us affect our lives today.
There is no shame in this.
Every single person comes from a lineage that includes heroism, joy, insight, healing, love, and compassion as well as loss, sacrifice, betrayal, grief, trauma, shame, abandonment, insanity…These energies continue down the family line, cast a long shadow on the descendants’ lives, and can manifest in a variety of blocks through the generations, including fertility challenges. Honoring the “babies that pass through” – unborn children or those who die in infancy – can help heal these wounds.Perhaps you have suffered such a loss yourself. Are you called to bury your unborn child?
If you are ready to heal the past, remember forgiveness is powerful. “I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” While this simple cleansing mantra is not the entirety of Ho’oponopono, it does create real shifts. Whenever we take responsibility, even with less than full knowledge on the conscious level, we change our reality. We can also use prayer or ask the ancestors to take back what they have created. There is no need for us to hold it, be it anger, shame, madness, or anything that is creating blocks in our own lives. We can acknowledge and honour what they endured.
The journey is one of evolution and each step, each ritual, each healing, each prayer, takes us closer and closer to the lives our ancestors are dreaming for us.2
On Healing Addiction
There are many perspectives on addiction – “thirst for oneness” (Carl Jung), a spiritual disconnection, result of emotional trauma… The Ancestral Continuum sees addiction as a “routine or habit that works to anesthetize or sedate uncomfortable emotions.”3 These frozen memories can make it extremely difficult for an individual to cope with daily life without self-medicating. The authors also bring in the perspective of West African shaman and writer Malidoma Somé that addiction is the result of the loss of ritual. Indigenous rituals have helped our ancestors connect to the world at large, and the different worlds. Ritual connects us and helps us remember who we are.
There are many effective ways to identify, heal, and transform these original wounds. Among them is ceremony that we are increasingly (and thankfully) bringing back into the world. (Aside: many people have found tapping, family constellation, integration work, and regression to be very helpful.)
On Healing Tragedies and Atrocities
A tragic death has deep reverberations for the family tree, especially when it was hushed up, not honoured or acknowledged, and wrapped tightly within shame, violence, blame, and guilt, effectively “disappearing” the person. Other people also disappear, into their own world of grief, unable to live the rest of their lives, cutting off their contribution, potential unfulfilled. Men, unable and disallowed from grieving, find their own ways to deal, and not deal. Their absenteeism creates other wounds in the family.
Other inheritances, from war trauma, genocide, and slavery, can also be healed. The authors of The Ancestral Continuum write that in many ways it is often easier to face what transpired as descendants of the victims than as descendants of the perpetrators. Shame and denial bury the energy deeper, block the necessary processing of the grief and anger, and perpetuate guilt and blocks in people’s lives. It is important, for example, for the descendants of all those involved in the Holocaust to heal what happened for themselves and the world. For us to create peace, we must look at all ways to heal the past and stop playing out conflicts that we do not want to perpetuate and history we do not want to recreate.
“There is nothing more powerful than walking where our ancestors walked, in the lands where they were born, lived, suffered and died. Their imprint still lies in the land and, if their legacy was traumatic, it can be immensely healing – for them and for us – to go back.”4
The Ancestral Continuum contains stories of those who looked into the past to clear the present for a future they wish to live. Also included are suggested exercises and practices to do just this. The stories are wide-ranging, shared by co-author and holistic therapist and spiritual counsellor Natalia O’Sullivan of her clients with depression, dysfunctional personalities, pathological behaviour, fertility challenges, paralyzing dreams, continuous setbacks, poor physical health and of how by healing the past and connecting with their ancestors these clients benefited in unimaginable ways.
Her husband, Terry O’Sullivan, is a soul rescuer and helps lost souls “find their way beyond the veil of death and into their own personal resurrection.”5 Hauntings could be a result of a past relative dying a tragic death, earthbound spirits remaining attached, mass suffering, murder, etc. As with our ancestors, it is important to release and help these spirits move into the light.
We all come from family trees with broken off branches or ones blighted by illness. This book, The Ancestral Continuum, can benefit all of us and it is our choice how much work we want to do and ready to do. Even a little, even if it is just the awareness of the need, can start a chain of change.
1 The Ancestral Continuum by Natalia O’Sullivan and Nicola Graydon. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd. 2013, p1
2 Ibid. p102-103
3 Ibid. p105
4 Ibid. p147.
5 Ibid. p81.