In the simplest terms: The Ancestors are people no longer living. Most directly they are the people to whom we are biologically connected. However, they are also people with whom we have other connections. For example, non-blood "family" or extended family. If we are artists, we may consider the artists who cleared the path before us our ancestors as well.
For me, my Ancestors are a combination of all of the above. My biological ancestors speak the loudest and it is to them that I have specific obligations. It is they who give me mandates. Sometimes, I have to determine whose voice and mandate must be addressed first because occasionally everyone has something for me to do. Imagine that you are the youngest child at a family gathering and all the aunts and uncles are calling your name simultaneously.
However, I have also been blessed with the gift of being able to hear a larger group of ancestors, those who at the moment remain in a liminal space, who have been unable to reconnect to their living families, or who are unable to make the final transition.
|My husband and I at an outdoor ancestral shrine (Chicago 2007).|
Doing what the Ancestors tell me to do?
How do they sound? What do they say? Do I always do what they say?
I have been learning the answers to the first two questions (and others) for years now. And, just when I think I "got it", something changes. I had to develop an "Ancestral Lexicon" for myself comprised of dreams, messages from other people, guidance from elders, "signs", sounds, prayers, and good old common sense.
My biggest connections, however, are at my shrine and through dreams. In the former, I am able to connect with them via prayer and ritual. In the latter, they are able to connect with me when I, too, am in a liminal space. It helps when someone with whom I am familiar appears in person. Less to to guess.
Often, my ancestors will make themselves known to me as a confirmation about something I have been thinking or feeling.
Do I always do what they say? Yes. I learned early on that to do otherwise caused results I didn't want, and often chaos and pain that had the potential to carry over into another lifetime.
How do I know this is not my own "mind" speaking to me or my imagination? I used to ask myself this question, even developed a series of tests to prove that it was all me. However, a series of unexplainable events - phenomena - happened that made me stop asking and start believing, knowing, accepting, and doing.