Why We Tell Our Ancestors’ Stories on October 31
Posted on October 22, 2019
Ancestor Day begins on the evening of October 31. Are you looking for something meaningful to do for Ancestor Day? Telling our ancestors’ stories is a great way to connect. Here’s how to get started.
Write it Down
To get started, we’re going to write everything down. This my require some research, so if you start now, you should have plenty of time.
Begin by writing your name at the top of a piece of paper, then writing four columns. One is for each of your family lines. So there will be one for your mother, her mother, her mother’s mother, and so one. Then one for your mother’s father, his father, his father, and so on. The next one is for your father’s mother, her mother, and so on. The last one is for your father’s father, his father, and so on. Go for as far back as you have names.
Once you have the names, fill in what you know about them. Ask your elders. Check Ancestry.com. You might get lucky and find that someone in your family tree has done a lot of work for you. Who knows? This may become a whole album instead of a piece of paper!
Be sure to include factual stuff like important dates and places, but also see if you can find things that are of personal significance like you know that your grandfather grew peaches or that he worked as a musician. You want to include positive things and negative things. These are all a part of your story too. These things illuminate where you came from.
If you people struggled through the Great Depression, genocide, or slavery, you know that you have great strength within. That might also suggest that there is some intergenerational healing to be done. It’s all good. It’s all part of who you are.
Tell Their Stories
Now that you have gathered the stories, tell their stories on Ancestor Day. Say their names. Give gratitude. Send love.
It’s informative to give factual stories, but you want to be careful about speaking ill of the dead. If you have people who have not yet crossed over, you could attract their anger if you slander them. We want everyone to rest in peace, so it’s a good idea to be respectful and speak in love – just like you would in life.
If you’re hanging on to old hurts, it might be a good time to offer forgiveness. If you can’t yet, you can ask your ancestors for help. In fact, you can ask your ancestors for help with anything that you need. The door is open for all comers to hear you, not just those who are well in spirit, so you want to be careful about listening to any advice however.
Make an Offering
When you are asking for help, or even just visiting with the dead, it’s always a good idea to make an offering. This is a way of engaging with the law of reciprocity and keeping things in balance. When you receive, you also give. An appropriate offering could be food, a prayer, songs, wine, flowers, or anything that feels right for you. If you know your family liked something in particular, that would make a great offering.
Why We Tell Our Stories
So, what’s the purpose of this? Why do we do it?
The first reason is to keep our connection to the dead alive. We have a past and a future. The living stand in the middle, as the bridge to the past or the ancestors. We are the link to the next generations that are coming. When we tell their stories, they provide an anchor that stabilizes our family tree. Our stories tell us where we came from. They ground us to the land and to other people. They give us a way to belong.
Lots of people feel lonely and adrift. Many people in the USA came from somewhere else. So it’s very easy to feel disconnected from our roots. This is a way of finding them again. Telling your ancestors’ stories a way to hear the voices of those who came before sing within you.
It’s also a way to link us to the spiritual support of our ancestors. Many cultures believe that we have more than one part to the soul. There is the part that helps the living. It stays around for a while, then returns to Nature. (Some say it’s stays around for seven generations. Some say it’s until their names are no longer remembered). If we don’t speak their names, that connection is lost and we lose the support of those people.
The number of soul part varies from culture to culture. In some it’s three. Some say four or five. Most have another part that continues to incarnate in the family line. It’s important to live well so that your energy enlivens and “cleans” the family line so that the descendants will have an easier time of things. This also means you since part of your soul returns to the same family line. Your ancestors are motivated to help you because they benefit too.
Most cultures also have a soul part that reincarnates outside the family line to give you strengths and challenges that are outside your current family and culture. You can see how this would help accelerate growth.
So telling your ancestors’ stories is really a way of telling your own story. It’s a way of being present with the past, present, and future. Learning your ancestors’ stories connects you to a place, events, and other people. When you see the big picture, it can help put your life into perspective.
Keep in mind that as a modern animist, you can celebrate Ancestor Day any way that you like. Or don’t observe it at all. If this seems valuable to you, please use it this Ancestor Day and write a comment below to tell us how it goes!