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, September 30, 2015

My Ancestral Dead, My Beloved Dead

My ancestors are pillars of ice-blue fire, breathing in seasons like stars, stones and trees. The Ancestral Dead are firelight that blazes but doesn’t burn. This is the energy source I connect into when I work with my Ancestors. That is 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 allow me to 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.

My Ancestral Dead
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.
Anyone who came before me that I did not personally know is an ancestor. Most of my known ancestors are a list of names with little known substance, but I bridge that by speaking their names aloud. It is a song that sings the story of my bloodline, calling in the four lines of my parents, known through the first seven generations:
Margaret Loretta Burke and Robert Joseph Art, Eliza Conners and Frank Burke, Katherine S. Pils and George Art, Mary Dowd and David Conners, Thomas and Ellen Burke, Mary Burzee and John F. Pils, Ana Catherine Blume and Adam Art, Barney Dowd, Wilhemenia Wernersbach and George Art…
Harold Lafayette Riddle, Emma Louise Burnah and George Francis Durant, Frances Ann Gillett and Lafayette Riddle, Rosella Lavalley and Albert Durant, Jane Berry and Levi Gillette, Sarah Clickner and Marquis DeLafayette Riddle, Rosella LaRoche and Francois Xavier Lavalle, Elizabeth A. Hill and Frances Berry, Mary Ann Boots and Ezra Wheeler Gillette, Mary Ann Hayner and William Clickner, Abigail Chaffee and Freeborn Moulton Riddle, Marie Amable Langevin and Alexis Lavallee, Gertrude Dixon and Thomas Berry, Harriet Gower and Josiah Boots, Abigail Hannah and Eliphal Gillette, Elizabeth Weager and Petrus Haner, Engle Angelica Coonradt and Johannes Georg Gloeckner, Deborah and Charles Chaffee, Mary Thomas and Joseph Riddle…
Ruth Emma Ruston, Minnie Estelle Wicker and Frank William Ruston, Emma Angeline Whitcher and Hiram King Wicker, Ruth Ireland and Charles Evan Ruston, Ordelia DeLozier and Bailey Harrison Whitcher, Cynthia Lusk and Thaddeus Rice Wicker, Phoebe Lenton and William Ireland, Anna Richardson and Richard Ruston, Lucy Raymond and Peter DeLozier, Dorcas Kittredge and Simeon Whittier, Rebecca and Elizur Lusk, Chloe Morgan and Pliny Wicker, Mary Wilson and John Lenton, John Ireland, Thomas Richardson, Jane Brooks and Edward Ruston, Lucy Richmond and Daniel Raymond, Eleanor Erkells and Oliver Peterson Lozier, Molly Bailey and James Kittredge, Elizabeth Dow and Abner Whittier, Mary and Elisha Lusk, Susannah Parker and William Wicker, Elizabeth Wright and Thomas Lenton…
Hattie Eva Smith and Royal Levant Eaton, Hattie Eva Dutcher and Silas Parker Smith, Theresa Cordelia Tenney and Bennett Eaton, Eliza Marsh Bird and Reuben Feagles Dutcher, Sophia Sears and Ammi Smith, Malvina H. Targee and Philetus Tenney, Hannah Ann Treadwell and Solomon Gould Eaton, Irene and Manly Bird, Cynthia A. Feagles and Martin Dutcher, Clarissa DeBois and Heman Sears, Betsy and David Smith, Ellen S. and Thomas Targee, Esther and Hiram Tenney, Fermicy Peters and Solomon P. Tredwell, Lucy Gould and Joshua Eaton, Molly Coleman and Edmund Bird, Jane Palmer and David Dutcher, Abigail Andrews and Isaac Sears, Abigail Darby and Reuben Tenny, Delilah and John Peters, Anne Arnold and William Gould, Jr., Hepsibah Skiff and Benjamin Eaton…
So many names, so many lives. And I now know so many more. 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 could 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.
One step towards strengthening 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? What did they do? Where did they grow up? When did they marry? How many times? How many children?

My Beloved Dead
As for my Beloved Dead, I remember those who have passed on from this world. For my work, I keep a list to remember 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 important way:
Mark Eaton, Melinda Tanner, Elizabeth Fricke, Jeff Patterson, Willie Lingenfelter, Elsie Durant Riddle, Gabe Reynolds, Joel Pelletier, Victoria Eaton, Trent Illig, Edward Jerge, Donna Riddle, Jurgen Banse-Fey, Charles “Sienna Fox” Duvall, Jack Singer, Tommy Amyotte, Paul Seeloff, Richard James Riddle, Brett Elsess, Andrew Begley, Coswald Mauri, Norm Herbert, Jad Alexander, Princess Leather Falcor (beloved pet), Dr. August Staub, Martha Dayton, Melvin Chausse, John Simeon Croom, Karl Weber, Lunabelle the Jackalope (beloved pet), Charles Littman, Ellen Fitzgerald.
            Since I initially wrote this post in 2010, my list of Beloved Dead has grown: Thomas E. Malinowski, Michael Pullano, Albert Gritzmacher III, Joshua Verity, Freya Moon, John M. Rosenburg Jr., Gary French, Patches (beloved pet), Barbara Jean Schiffert, Bella the Bear-Cat (beloved pet), Russell S. Whitmire, Ken Koch, Soja Arumpanayil, Jane Palmer-Poole, Paul Slomba, Tracy Lee Flint Jr., Christina Adkins, Harry Brashear, David Ruston Eaton, Constance Salisbury, Ralph Hall, Arawn (beloved pet), and Carol Quagliano.

Remembering the Dead
Each Samhain night, I 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 within me at the sounds of familiar words on tongue. And then I add the names of those Recent dead, that have died since last Samhain, and welcome them into my Beloved dead, wishing their spirits peace.

            I know, as I age, that my list of Beloved dead will only get longer. It is the price of living and loving and I hold it close to my heart as proof that love is stronger than any magic. May you always remember that those who walked this earth before you walk with you still in the echoes of places their feet once touched the earth. [Revamped from a post originally published October 6, 2010.]


  1. I so love your posts for this special time of year! As someone who has been using both Samhain and Dia de los Muertos to honor the dead for over 20 years I so enjoy reading about how you honor your dead.
    I find my focus varies from year to year a bit.This year I feel so compelled to honor all the animal life lost in the horrible fires we have had here in California. I'm not sure my family understands but this has weighed on me since the fires and I think doing something to honor them will halp give me peace.
    Thank you as always for sharing I look forward to all your posts.

  2. dustbunny8, I think that is wonderful that you feel moved to honor the animal life lost in the fires. I often follow those intuitive inclinations in my practice and it helps deepen my work. Thank you so much for sharing in my journey- I always appreciate your comments!


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