In constellations work, from an African perspective, we are honouring the living and the dead!
Sometimes we need to honour those who have departed from the physical life but may not yet be at peace in the after-life. The work of Ancestral Constellations draws on an African tradition, that honours those who have gone before and seeks a healing path for those who are to come.
In many parts of Africa and more widely in cultures from India, to China and Japan, Ancestors are an important part of community life. In Africa, ancestors are considered to be part of the family and community. They are to be revered, not worshipped as is often thought. Reverence means to acknowledge and honour, those who have come before, and to hold them in your thoughts after they have departed from this earth.
Looking to the Past for Healing
Many cultures believe that in remembering ancestors we support and help to heal our family line. There is a flow of life that continues after a loved one has departed. When past family or community rituals have been forgotten, or actions unresolved, members in the current family system are charged with repeating the pattern or resolving it.
Ancestral constellations as an approach involve helping those who wish to heal these unresolved problems or difficulties. By looking back through the transgenerational line to explore and surface past family patterns, there is a chance for greater peace for future generations. Put like this, it seems simple and straightforward, right?
The Power of Difference
A question to ask when we look at the present and past family problem is “what has created the situation?” Often it is differences, differences that result in conflict, or violence or trauma. If we look to history, there can be a personal or familial aspect of this but also alongside it a wider community or national issue. War, slavery, colonialism, genocide are all large scale events that have historically impacted generations.
So when we are doing ancestral work of any kind, we are working with peaceful ancestors who are fortuitous and happy to help. And there are those who in their life may have been angry, or frustrated and did not find peace in the afterlife because of their past deeds.
Those of us with African heritage who are called to this work may find it challenging. In RE-Membering ‘old traditions’ lost during slavery and colonialism, we may find ourselves confronting difficult issues around our own life experiences. For those who have been brought up in Western knowledge systems, remembering the past can be very unsettling.
For those in search of lost roots and looking for awakening, peace and healing in our lives, forgetting our past means that we have been sleeping. In this deep sleep, we can be ashamed and confused about where we came from and to which cultures and communities we belong. If we are of African heritage, there can be a tendency to deny our relationship to the past and have guilty feelings about stepping onto an ancestral path to lead us into the future.
Raised in European Traditions
Raised in the European traditions of the church and slavery denied us our African and tribal roots. We were told that we were inhuman, that our culture was base, tribal and evil and we believed this, becoming afraid to reclaim our roots. I know because I too have experienced this, even though for over 25 years I have followed a ‘proud to be Black’ philosophy, still the past continues to haunt me.
When we start to practice and revere our ancestors, we begin to read deeply into and understand our past. When we start to retrace our roots to ‘Mother Africa’, we may do it in a hidden way, keeping our ideas and thoughts to ourselves so that others do not consider us weird, mad and well, just bad. Until we get to a point where we can no longer stay hidden and step out to take the first steps on the path to healing, we will remain lost to these old worlds traditions that can liberate and heal our ancestral lines.