Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Ancestral Dead, My Beloved Dead

My ancestors are pillars of ice-blue fire, breathing in seasons like stars, stones and trees. My Ancestral Dead are fire that doesn’t burn.

Not so for the Beloved Dead. The energy of those who you have known in this physical plane, those you have touched, held, hugged and lost is not cool and calm. Hot salty tears burn my cheeks with a fever as the grief washes over me. The recent dead are changeable water, tumultuous with grief in one minute, still with acceptance in another, and then raging against the feel of loss… they are uneasy waters. Unless you feel called to step further on the path of this work, I recommend stating with clear intention that you are honoring the Beloved Dead and asking nothing of them in return. I routinely call on the energy of my forebears to watch over my nieces and nephew, but I do not ask that of the Beloved Dead.

It may seem strange that I do not ask the spirits who knew me to help watch over us. That’s the good thing about generations though- we keep coming. There are plenty of lives to call on, that I can leave the recently deceased be. It’s my belief that the Beloved Dead are transitioning what was left of themselves through the process of dying and moving on. I have experienced the moment of death with a loved one, and it opened something in me. When he died and his spirit left his body, when the life of him left the room, the air about me wavered and changed, as if a warm flame had been blown out. His body was not him anymore.

I do not claim to know what comes next or what happens to that bit of life. I don’t know what happens. But I have faith that something does.

You can’t discuss spirit without being metaphysical. As far as I’m concerned, spirit is energy and science has proven that energy exists. The way I talk about it is more romantic but that doesn’t remove the science; after all, I’m a writer, not a scientist. I believe what I believe because it makes sense to me based on what I’ve experienced. I am always open to adapting my beliefs. As I change and grow and evolve, so too will my concepts of faith and spirit.

My Great-grandfather, Harold Lafayette Riddle is one of my Ancestral dead, having died nine months before I was born. His life was a gateway between my ancestors and my beloved dead. Harold’s wife, my Great-grandmother Elsie, is one of my Beloved dead, an integral part of my life until her death my last year of high school. I may honor her on the same altar as I honor my ancestors, but I am aware that my connection to her is still partially in this plane, and not the other.

Anyone who came before me that I did not know is an ancestor. For example, my father’s mother, Ruth, is my ancestor; she died when he was five. Most of my known ancestors are a list of names with little known substance. Speaking the names aloud is a song that sings the story of my bloodline:

Marquis DeLayfayette Riddle, Sarah Clickner, Levi Gillette, Jane Berry, Layfayette Riddle, Frances Gillette, George Durant, Louise Burmah, Harold Lafayette Riddle, Adam Art, Katherine Maria Schmeelk, John F. Pils, George Art, Katherine Pils, Frank Burke, Robert George Art, Loretta Burke…

Sir Francis Eaton, Sarah Eaton, Samuel Eaton, Solomon Gool Eaton, Hannah Ann Treadwell, Philitus Tenney, Malvina, Bennett Eaton, Cordelia Tenney, Ammi Smith, Sophia Sears, Reuben Feagles Dutcher, Eliza Marsh Bird, Silas Parker Smith, Hattie Eva Dutcher, Royal Levant Eaton, Hattie Eva Smith, Ruth Emma Ruston, Richard Ruston, Ann, William Ireland, Phoebe Lenton, Charles Evan Ruston, Ruth Ireland, Thaddeus Rice Wicker, Cynthia Lusk, Bailey Harrison Whitcher, Ordelia DeLozier, Hiram King Wicker, Angeline Whitcher, Frank William Ruston, Minnie Estelle Wicker…

So many names, so many lives. These names are the direct line of people whose children bore children who eventually bore me. Were it not for them, I would not be me. The magnitude of that realization can feel like pressure bearing down, waiting for me to be something special or do something special. But standing in honor of these people doesn’t feel like pressure. Those lives are stones beneath me, giving me firm footing. I am because they were, whether they were people of good character or not.

A step to strengthen your ancestral ties is to begin writing down the names of your family tree you know. Ask your parents who their grandparents were if you didn’t know them. Ask your Grandparents who their parents were. Get as much information as you can. Where were they born? Where did they live? Where did they grow up? When did they marry? How many times? How many children?

As for your Beloved Dead, keep a list of those you were close to who have passed on from this world. For my own work, I have tried to keep a list that remembers those I was very close to, classmates I grew up with, people who helped shape and mold me, and people who affected a change my life in an enormous way:

Melinda Tanner, Mark Eaton, Jeff Patterson, Elizabeth Fricke, Willie Lingenfelter, Elsie Durant Riddle, Gabe Reynolds, Joel Pelletier, Victoria Eaton, Trent Illig, Edward Jerge, Donna Riddle, Jurgen Banse-Fey, Tommy Amyotte, Paul Seeloff, Richard James Riddle, Brett Elsess, Charles “Sienna Fox” Duvall, Andrew Begley, Coswald Mauri, Norm Herbert, Jad Alexander, Princess Leather Falcor (beloved pet), Dr. August Staub, Martha Dayton, Maurice “Strong Bear” Foxx, Melvin Chausse, Wilma Derbeshire Meade, John Simeon Croom, Karl Weber, Lunabelle the Jackalope (beloved pet), Larry Littman, Ellen Fitzgerald.

On Samhain, I will call out the names of my Ancestral Dead to come and bear witness as I honor those that I loved, that I have known and held. I speak the names of the Beloved Dead to remember them and hear memories stir at the sounds of familiar words on tongue. That is how I honor them, with voice and word and deed.

Known, or unknown, how best can you honor your ancestors? What legacy, in their name, can you offer your descendants?

*Looking Ahead: Some people are adopted and have no names that are known to them. Later on I’ll talk about working with your unknown ancestors, as well as taking on the ancestors of your adopted tribe, or family.


  1. This is so fascinating. It calms me to read this. When I think of my Beloved Ancestors, it makes me smile that lofty, happy smile. Thank you for sharing this with us. xoxo

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.


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