Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blood is thicker than water

At the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.

It began when I was brought into the blood of Mongolian shamanism. As part of the ritual, I was asked to talk about my ancestors. At the time I knew barely anything. I was even a little hazy on the first names of my grandparents, knew very few of their stories. I had a general sense but did not hold the history.

This is common for Americans. We are such a young country; all of us are immigrants. I've heard people say it isn't such a big deal not to know our family trees. Because we don't know the land and stories of our ancestors, we can begin anew, recreate ourselves in any way we can imagine. Our history does not limit us. It's an interesting point.

It took me a couple of minutes to tell my initiator what I knew about my ancestors. After I stopped talking, she looked expectantly at me, waiting for more. But I had no more to tell her. She didn't even blink. After that she told me about her ancestors, going back to 1300!

Well. I was appalled at my ignorance. Suddenly curious, I found out as much as I could from my siblings, one of whom had done a big chunk of genealogy work. On my father's side, the trail went cold with the Holocaust. We knew or guessed that some of our people died in that awful storm, though what my father talked about, when he talked about his family, was persecution under the Czar.

I didn't know that I would ever learn anything further about my ancestors, but suddenly, after that initiation, I wanted to know. I wanted to come into the blood of my family. I wanted my ancestry to be real, not just a story about the Czar, not just pictures of other people's suffering in the Holocaust. It was at that time that I began to "talk" to this branch of the family. I asked them to tell me their stories, even though I didn't know the particulars. They're still family, I figured, even though I didn't know their names or their stories. They were real people.

I wrote them letters that I mailed to myself, I actively imagined what they might have been like, how their lives might have been. I thought about looking into the Holocaust chapter of their lives but was so overwhelmed at the prospect, I didn't know where to begin. So I talked to them, straight from the heart. I wanted to make a connection. I put it out there. That is how the ancestor work began.

One of the projects I undertook at that time was the creation of a coat of arms. I made it up of course. I drew it hundreds of times. Every version was slightly different. I have a whole book of drawings. This one is dated 7-15-02.

The shape is both a heart and a shield. At the center is the world axis and a symbolic reference to the four elements, directions and seasons. At the time I designed this, I was heavily into the study of the Masons who designed DC, hence the pyramid and eyeball. The star above represents the soul and divine guidance. The heart represents connection and love, the shape on the left is meant to convey the eternal connection of the generations. Of course there's a motto, too - coats of arms always have mottos. Mine was: Good Health, Splendor and Grace.

Jews don't have coats of arms as far as I know, but I loved my design. For me it was my way of saying I wished to be part of the larger context, I wished to join the lineage of my family.

This is the Coat of Arms of the city of Kremenets, the city closest to my family's shtetl. Very cool. That dragon is going down.

It was a couple of years later that I was called all of a sudden to teach witch camp in England. That's when I decided to go see my Aunt Edie in Paris. She died a few months later, so my timing was rather spot on. I figure the ancestors were whispering in my ear by that time, even though I wasn't always conscious of it yet.

I wrote about that trip to Paris. Here's a link to that post.

When I took on this work with the ancestors, I was very idealistic about it. I imagined that only the wisest, kindest, most fabulous ancestors would speak to me. Could I have known that the ancestors most sorely in need of healing would come? Maybe. In 2002, I was just beginning the process of taking back my soul's purpose as healer. I didn't put two and two together at the time. But now I get it - of course the souls who need healing responded when I asked to be connected. Of course. For heaven's sake. If you were stuck in the horrific echo of the Holocaust, wouldn't you swim towards good health, splendor and grace? I would. I surely would.

It's a big job, this ancestor work. I feel lonely within it. Some people think I'm making it up, which, of course they would since this is 21st century Washington DC. Others understand that what I'm involved in is classic human behavior. Humans have always worshipped and honored the ancestors. Lineage looms large for homo sapiens.

As a young woman I did everything I could to escape my family. I had it all backwards, oh my I surely did. In recent years I've rejoined my living family with enthusiasm, even gusto. I've been welcomed back with open arms. This is what the ancestors wish for, an open-armed welcome.

I'm trying, dear ancestors, I really am. I asked sincerely for this connection and honor your vigorous response.

Rather than reliving your pain over and over, will you come forward in time, please, and check out the good health, splendor and grace of the lives of our clan? Please? Our tribe is flourishing! You need not suffer from the old wounds any longer. Come join our party, yes? I say yes. How do you say yes in Yiddish?
Just say  יאָ.

Yes! The Holocaust is over. We must rise from its ashes. Shalom.

This is not my family. It's the Strauber family in the shtetl of Potok, in Poland, 1935. I've yet to find any pictures of the Melikiers, but this is close enough for jazz.

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