Some thoughts on ancestral healing
Updated: Mar 6
If you’ve ever been for a session with me where we’ve done a piece of ancestral healing for you, you might remember that I counted backwards from you up the family line in question. I would have numbered you Generation Zero if you have no kids, Generation 1 if you do, Generation 2 if you’re a grandparent.
And then I would have used bio-muscular feedback from your hand and I would have started counting.
Sometimes there’s a brief tug through your hand, like a fish on a line, but it doesn’t feel like a full stop. What I know from this is that this person is implicated in the pattern that is being healed, but is not the anchor or origin that we are looking for. So I say this out loud: “There is something here at Generation 7.”
Then we keep counting.
It used to be that I would get back to about 13 generations. Maybe 17 if we were going especially far. Because what I was looking for was the generation where this pattern originated, and therefore the generation where we could repair it.
In the past 6 months or so, I find I’m going back 20, 25, 32 generations. And there’s usually at least one, though often more, of the little tugs going backwards - those places where what was going on in that generation was particularly implicated.
I had been wondering what changed, asking myself: why am I counting back so far now?
The answer, I think, lies in a subtle shift in me.
Without knowing it, I started reaching backwards not just for the point of origin of this pattern, but trying to find an anchor ancestor who is still in right relationship with the land.
In October 2019 I participated in a weekend-long Indigenous allyship training. It was many things and challenged me in many ways. I’m only going to say here that one of the most potent parts of the weekend for me was when the facilitator, a strong Indigenous woman herself, declared that she was thankful for the return of the strong, indigenous European woman.
My face flushed with emotion when she said those words. I was sliced to the core by those words - my chest laid open and my deep wound exposed. This is what so many of us long for without knowing that we are longing for it.
We want to know that we belong. We want to know that we have a place. We want to know that our world and our community holds us dear.
How far would I have to reach back in my own ancestral lines to find those people who were emotionally coherent and in right relationship with their land? And by “their land,” I mean the land that they were born to, the land that supports them, the land that they walk upon and tend daily and are in relationship with.
I know that my great-grandmother used herbal folk remedies on my dad when he was small. He thinks it might have been treatment for whooping cough. Mustard plasters and so forth.
I know that my dad’s dad was in an orphanage in England when one parent died and then remarried and all of the children from the first spouse were put in an orphanage. (Talk about trauma.)
I know that my mom’s mom’s dad ran off and left his family of 12 kids on the prairies. (More trauma.)
I know other things, too, but those are the ones that spring to mind.
I haven’t looked for my family lines yet as they draw back past various wars, hard winters, migrations, enclosures, class discrimination, the industrial revolution…
I have, briefly, looked up where all of the family names that I know tended to come from: Warrington, Jordan, Oxendale, Smith (Smitt, or something similar - a thing that I only just found out yesterday), and Fraser.
The fundamental truth is that we are all of this Earth.
But those roots are often mere thoughts and whispers: a sniff of mycelium here, an echo of loam there, crumbles of footprints caught in clay across time.
The other truth here is that many of us don’t even know where to start looking for those roots.
We need to start where we are: doing our work of healing for ourselves, our families and our ancestors; doing our work as descendants of colonizers and settlers to come into right relationship with the Indigenous peoples of this land; and doing our work to halt further harm to this Earth.
So if you come to me and we need to do an ancestral healing for your line, we might be reaching back a long, long way, and that seems right and fitting.