With all the turmoil in the world, it can be very difficult to understand where to begin to help make change. Some become activists, others advocates and allies... but for me, I go inward. You may have figured this out by now, but I tend to see the outside as a connection to/reflection of what is inside. If the earth is in pain, we as her children will be in pain. As Michael Jackson said (and I love this song!) "I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways... if you want to make the world a better place, you gotta look at yourself and make that change."
This was affirmed by the writing of Mary Mueller Shutan in The Body Deva (pgs 158-159) where she writes:
"...it is only by considering and being conscious of the parts of ourselves that relate to the conqueror (if we have emerged from a culture that has dominated or taken from others) that we heal beliefs and do our small part to rectify the power dynamics of our current culture or that of our ancestors.
We can heal the internal conflicts between oppressor and oppressed that lie within. As an individual we are a thread in the massive web of life, and we can do our part to heal the web of the world by healing our internal dynamics. We can heal the parts of ourselves that carry pain and power loss, as well as release the power gained through taking or conquering."
That is so beautifully and succinctly said. How did I work towards making peace with and offer blessings to the ancestors of the land? It was a process...
First - I have to heal my ancestral wounds... we have to heal the blocks, pains, and traumas if we are to retroactively (and, technically, in the future) find peace. This was a process I wrote about in October as Samhain is my time to honor my ancestors.
Second - Welcome the ancestors of the land on whom my ancestors lived upon, apologize and offer gifts of gratitude. This is the purpose of this post, and I will go into more detail now:
After witnessing and healing my ancestral wounds - I realized it would be completely ignorant of me to not go back and pay homage to those who were evicted by, murdered by, subjugated under, or enslaved by (among any list of historical occurrences) my ancestors.
Primarily, I did my research... where did my ancestors live, and which Indigenous Nations lived upon those lands originally? Furthermore, how much land they had which would roughly give an idea to how many enslaved people lived there (whether or not my direct ancestors had slaves is irrelevant... that land likely saw some form of slavery at some point). My ancestors were kind, but that doesn't mean there wasn't pain along the way - so I assumed that there would need to be more healing.
Second, I prepared my ceremony. I bought fair trade ceremonial grade herbs from an indigenous shopkeeper: tobacco to honor/pay tribute to the lost BIPOC souls, white sage and cedar for clearing karma and helping remove negativity around them and their descendants, and sweetgrass to usher in blessings for their descendants living today.
I called ceremony together using my deer skin drum, asking for blessings from Earth Mother and Moon Grandmother as well as from Father Sky and the Great Spirit for the highest good to come of this work. I created a sacred fire in journey space and welcomed the Chiefs of each of the Nations as well Slave families to join in circle. My ancestors were then welcomed to stand behind and to the side. In this space, I explained my intentions and listened with respect to each of the Chiefs as they explained what they needed to be heard and witnessed by my ancestors and me. Then I turned and offered the same to the Slave families.
I burned the herbs in alignment with the prayers of apology, requests for forgiveness, and hopes for blessings of abundance for the descendants for each Nation and family. After, I danced beneath the full moon of Samhain as a way to show my personal gratitude for their willingness to show up and allow the healing to take place. One by one, the Chiefs, the families, and my ancestors left. At the end, it was just me - under the chilly full moon.
I will not say that what I did had shockwaves through the Earth or across generations past and future... I don't want to be that white person who thinks one good act is a godsend to humanity or a cure for racism. But what I do know is that a small bit of healing took place... like a little bit of karma was untangled from the great web of the Earth. From what I experienced in my ceremony - there is so much room for gratitude and love... and at the very least if I shared love across the dimensions in some small way, then that seems worth it.
But in Shutan's words (pjs 160-161):
"We carry the force of both the oppressor and the oppressed within us. By healing the relational aspects of these destructive inner relationships, we can free ourselves from them. This will allow us to act with greater clarity in the world, become more conscious of unconscious racism, classism, and "othering," and move beyond them."