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, March 12, 2014

Sacred Vows

The first step I took in starting my work was to create an altar in my home as a sacred space for my ancestors. To affirm my dedication to them, I chose to make a sacred vow in their name. It was just between me and them, something I wanted to do to prove my intent.
Making the vow was not as important as keeping it. To break a vow taken in someone else’s name is kind of like swearing on your mother’s grave, when you know full well your mother is alive and taking breath. It’s a lie. Lies have no place in what is sacred. Words matter.
Breaking an oath means that you do not have the discipline or willpower to walk your talk. I’m not talking about making a promise to someone and then discovering that you can’t see it through. We’re all human. I’m talking about a sacred vow. I’m talking about something you know you can do that you firm you’ll see through, and not rising to meet it.
We can speak all the words we wish to speak. But at the end of the day, our character is defined by our actions. Not our promises.
A few years ago, when I read the book The Four Agreements by author Miguel Angel Ruiz, one of the things I took away from it was the agreement to “be impeccable with your word.” Maybe it’s a romantic ideal but, it seems to me that once upon a time, people were shocked to discover someone was a liar. Which leads me to believe that it was expected that people’s word was true, that their word was their bond. Their reputation was staked on it. To lie or break your word could ruin you.
That’s not true anymore. We assume that people could be lying, that stranger’s words could be untrue. Even in kindness, we lie to be polite, to spare feelings. We know that just because somebody says they’ll do something, it doesn’t mean they will.
I try hard, and sometimes fail, to mean every word I say. I try not to fall into speaking from a place of fear and anger and releasing words I won’t mean later. I try not to just say things to fill silences. Silences are beautiful. Silences shared are more beautiful yet.
There is a clarity that comes from being able to stand behind every word you say. All of your words have more shape. More volume behind them. I no longer speak in smoke and whispers. Now I speak from my truth.
Words are magic. The throat chakra, Vishuddha, is the energy center that sits at your throat and voice box. As your kundalini energy rises through your chakras, it passes through Vishuddha and opens to Ajna, the third eye and deeper consciousness. The throat is the gateway to a spiritual level. To speak out loud a sacred vow is a strong form of magic.
In making a vow to my ancestors, I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to show my ancestors that, known or unknown to me, they were important. I didn’t just want to open a doorway to them, I wanted to build a bridge. My initial oath was simple and revolved around building that bridge and my awareness of them. I vowed to light a candle on my ancestor altar at the same time, every day, for seven weeks.
The ritual I created was straightforward. I called to my ancestors, reading the names I had. I poured oblations to them, offering them remembered nourishment. I lit a candle to help them find their way to me. And then I spoke my vow. I promised to light that candle every night for seven weeks, as seven is a magical number for me. I promised to perform my little ritual every night at 7 o’clock for seven weeks.

It is the speaking of words out loud that casts the spell around the oath. We should never say something if we do not mean to do it. The strength I found from seeing my commitment through was enormous. It became the firm footing I needed to begin my work. I always wondered at the images from history that show men making oaths on the blade of a sword. As a kid I thought the sword was the punishment for a broken vow, but now I understand the metaphor better. Where personal growth is concerned, the only one truly hurt by breaking a sacred oath is yourself.

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