Ancestors, Spirits, and The Land

AltarI like to sit with the changing seasons. Today, a lovely summer day, cool and bright, the trees are showing just a hint of the reds and other colors to come. Still, the vista is dominated by a wide range of green.

We are grateful for so much: one another, rain, friends, the presence of those who have passed over, the freedom to practice our traditions, and the relative safety of ourselves and our loved ones. We are reminded that for so many, today is another day filled with violence, repression, and dread. Let those of us who are able to do so, do what we can for those in peril. Let us acknowledge all, living and dead, who suffer. Let us remember the needs of the children who are the future.

When I was younger I wondered why the elders went to the grave yard to speak with those who had passed over. After all, they were gone. Maybe they were in the spirit world, maybe they had just ceased to exist. They were certainly not in the graveyard.

Later I encountered the dead as envisioned by Thornton Wilder in Our Town. These folks were thoroughly human, yet disengaged from the lives of those left behind. While the dead watched and longed for incarnation, they were helpless.

Now I am an elder, and I view the dead with more nuance. Some spirits indeed seem to walk the land. Some offer assistance and solace to the living. Yet others spread suffering. The worldwide Indigenous belief in the immediacy of the Ancestors and spirits is a lived reality for me. I honor the centrality of place for community, and for our own lived experiences of connection to that which is larger than ourselves. I acknowledge that the Ancestors reside in place, even as they transcend it.

When Indigenous people are driven from our homelands, the connection to the Ancestors becomes tenuous or broken. When our shrines, burial grounds, and other sacred places are despoiled, our traditions are undermined.  Our hearts and the continuity of our sacred histories are broken. Please remember our sacred groves, burial grounds, and mountains are our churches. The destruction of sacred sites is an attack on the very spirit of the people. Thus, the killing of an ancient oak or olive tree, or the mining of a sacred mountain, is an act of genocide.

I hope you will take time today to connect to the land, to sense the presence of the Ancestors, and consider the needs of the people. Will you take a few moments to offer tobacco to the Ancestors and spirits, and pray for all who are suffering the loss of their lands? If you are safe, and able, will you express gratitude for the goodness of the day?

I hope you will share, here, your stories of the land, and the Ancestors and spirits who reside there?

Thank you.

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19 thoughts on “Ancestors, Spirits, and The Land

  1. I enjoyed reading this as I do all your posts and accountings therein. You are connected to the earth and pass that on in your blog. When what is done is without the ceremony of regard for greater wisdom things fall apart and rot our lives.

    • Yes, Gretchen. Of course, most of us are just human, so things fall apart anyway. LOL! We can do without the rot, though. I’m glad you let me know your thoughts on my writing. It is good to know, especially in those moments I feel useless or alone.

  2. Oh how you touch my soul.

    When I moved to Arizona, I was not aware the house I bought had been “bordering” upon an ancient burial site. A few years later, the desert which abutted against our backyard was being bulldozed to build a huge roller skating rink. During the digging, bones were uncovered. All construction stopped as the University of AZ anthropology department investigated the remains.

    Curious, I contacted the Director of the investigation to ask if the remains had been identified as Native Americans or… He told me the remains were older than that, THREE THOUSAND YEARS OLD!! Probably ancestors of the Hopis. Nevertheless, these people believed and honored sacred practices.

    The roller rink was only in business for one year and it and its owner went bankrupt. I always wondered if it was because of disturbing the ancient site.

    There had been strange occurrences within my own home during the time I lived there, but, I was always a person who communicated with nature – talked to the earth, trees, plants… After I learned that my own home had probably been built on the same graveyard, I tried to do penance but didn’t know how, other than to “visit” with the spirits every morning in my own backyard by blessing the earth.

    I believe the spirits blessed me because when I needed to move my home was one of the last ones to sell before the big housing bubble burst.

    • Thank you for sharing this marvelous story! So interesting the way people erase our long, Native history on Turtle Island, with archeology and machines! Anyway, I believe the spirits welcome our positive regard, and very often, that is enough. Since yesterday the trees have more color, so the season is changing. I trust you will keep speaking with the beings of our beautiful world. Blessings.

  3. Dear Michael: I always cherish your posts. A favorite place I go each week near the retirement community where I live is a stream that feeds an amazing set of Bay Laurels that I sit under.. These trees always connect me to nature and the spirit of my dear departed wife, Phyllis. This is a sacred place where where I am privileged to comune with her spirit as I sit meditating under these amazing trees. Yesterday, when I visited this sacred place I noticed that the stream I alway counted on to feed these trees had run dry in the harsh California summer. I felt great sorrow over what we have done to the earth and at the same felt a deep connection to Phyllis, trusting that whatever happens these trees are a constant reminder of the inter-being that is holds our lives. I sent a special prayer to the earth and this special stream that feeds these trees as we ignore/forget about them in our distracted lives. I sent another one to Phyllis in this new dimension within she dwells. I felt deeply connected to her spirit and the spirit of the earth.

    Sent with love and gratitude, Rob

    • Oh, Rob! I am saddened to hear the drouth has stopped the flow of the stream. I am glad there is a place you can go to feel connected to Phyllis. I am also glad to hear you cherish the posts. I take that as a very special acknowledgement. Much love.

  4. As I read your post, I was thinking about 3 different things: how the leaves are beginning to change color here, too, and how I am not ready at all to move into a new season; the people and especially the children of Gaza who have no safe place to be; and the beautiful county I live in which is being threatened with the building of a fracked gas pipeline to feed the endless energy needs of the inhabitants of another state. Eminent domain – the taking and raping of land for “the greater good” (?). I appreciate your use of the term “relative” safety, that rings so true to me today.

    • Thank you for this thoughtful comment. Gaza remains for me a source of deep frustration and sadness. Yes, the energy demands of our country are enormous and threaten to despoil every inch of it. Too often “the greater good” is shorthand for greed. All that said, the small birds are again congregating in flocks. A few, yesterday, were on the empty feeders while we were outside – a clear request for food, although they will likely have to wait til October for free food. The trees that have begun turning are showing more red. I imagine it will be a couple of months before they peak. As I write this I find myself hoping you are safe and comfortable, and well.

  5. Thank you for writing. This post reminds of a great friend who passed on from this world last year. Sometimes when walking, thoughts arise of something he would say, or how he would react to a situation im looking at. Always uplifting, lighthearted, with a realistic sense, because thats how he was.

  6. I so enjoyed your piece, Michael. I have an inkling, as I walk what has become for now my home territory, that because so many people have lost their sense of place and belonging, they/we cannot function fully as sentient beings. For many, there is a longing to connect with something they can no longer name, and that longing is transmuted into something that corrupts us – like acquiring yet more possessions.
    Thank you for a thought provoking post.

    • Hi Rachel, yes, longing can be corrupted. It can also be a door that opens onto a new view of the world. yes, sadly our culture favors the former. In spite of this, many find a way to the heart and renewal.For most of us, I think, it is a work in progress.

  7. Reblogged this on Fireside Witch and commented:
    A balanced reminder that the ancestors of our past hold council in the sacred sites. That the body returns to the earth and becomes one with it again, and therefore the earth herself is our ancestor. This post also reminds us that those living now, are the ancestors yet to come, and deserve the same reverence. Namaste, and thank you for the wisdom found here. Kayla B.

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