Yet another blog for spewing. This one may end up with a lot of religious and social content.


A is for Ancestors, Before Us They Came

Many pagan traditions pay at least lip service to ancestors.  But very few realize that we inherit more than our dashing good looks and health problems from them.  We also inherit the society that they built, warts and all.

One of my ancestors was FFV - First Families of Virginia.  Let that sink in to your head for a bit.  If you are at all socially conscious, you are aware that Virginia was a "slave" state, which means my ancestors owned other human beings with the full force of law behind them.  Not a thing to be proud of, and not an attitude that I want to "inherit" or perpetuate.

I can't disavow my ancestors, they were who they were, good and bad.  Part of my pagan path includes honesty with myself, about myself.  Not always a pleasant thing.  I have to acknowledge that I am heir to people who created a society that made other people slaves based primarily on the color of their skin.  Sure, I have other ancestors who came to these shores later, but they had their warts too.

I'm not going to embrace all of the attitudes that they held, or even a large part.  I'm not going to go off and be a whacko white supremacist because my ancestors were European and colonial American slaveholders, who probably participated in the subjugation of Native Americans, too.  But I can't run away from the truth, either, and sweep it all under the rug with "Oh, but that was then, we've all changed now", when the attitudes, stereotypes and systematic racism that they built their society on still persist today.  I inherited their privilege, and I would be ignorant to deny it.

Then, therefore, comes the question: If your tradition has an ancestor reverence component, how do you honor them and atone for the horrible things they did?  Because you do, in many ways, inherit the fallout for the screwed up things that they did.  If you are white, you inherit the white privilege and structural racism that they built their, now our, society on.

This comes into play for everyone, in a large or small way.  All of us have ancestors who weren't perfect, maybe who were criminals, slaveholders, liars, fanatical Christians, whatever.  Our ancestors were human, and had all of the foibles and imperfections that we and our friends have.  Yes, they also have their good points too.

For me, I honor them as who they were, and also consider it my duty to "do better", to be a better person, to help undo any wrongs they have wrought.  Even though I have, and will have, no children, I consider any small increment of improvement that I can contribute to society and the world my gift to the future, to those who would consider me an ancestor in spirit.

I can't undo the harm that my ancestors have done.  The past is fixed. But the future, and the wyrd of the world is still mutable, and I have the will and the magic to change it,even if only slightly.  Accepting this, and being the best I can be, is one way in which I honor my ancestors.  How about you?

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