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  • Writer's pictureLaura Perry

Hold onto the Ancestors

My great-grandparents, Eliza Smith Douglass and Frederick Harmon Douglass

These are trying times. The economy has been horrible for a while now. My British friends are struggling between fear and hope after the Brexit vote. American politics are heating up in an ugly way as we near the 2016 presidential election. The climate is causing problems around the globe. Peace seems very far away.

What on earth can we hold onto, to maintain a little sanity in a world gone mad?

The ancestors.

Those are my great-grandparents, Eliza Smith Douglass and Frederick Harmon Douglass, at the top of this post. They lived in a world that was even scarier than mine, before antibiotics, when many people still used outhouses, when world wars were a thing. Two of their children lived less than a week; one died at the age of five. They were farmers, working the land for their livelihood in the American South in the days before tractors and air conditioning and mosquito control. But they survived.

My ancestors are a big part of my spiritual practice. They're the ones on whose shoulders I stand. Literally, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them. Their DNA is in my blood and my bones. I carry them with me every moment of every day. They give me strength in trying times.

They held me up as I struggled to make ends meet working ten hours a day as a seamstress, because I knew they had been through worse. They comforted me as I screamed to the heavens when my five-year-old daughter died. They knew what that feels like, a thousand times over. Whatever I've been through, they've been through worse, and they survived. That gives me hope.

Your ancestors may have emigrated across wild seas, struggled against war and famine, worked their fingers to the bone to survive and eventually thrive. Over countless generations, they've seen a world as unsettling as ours is now, and worse. But they kept on. One way or another, they managed to keep going.

That strength lies within you, in your blood and your bones. You don't need a particular brand of spirituality or a fancy altar for this: you are the altar. You are the sacred space. You're the reason your ancestors kept on, so there would be future generations.

We are the ancestors of those who will come after us. For their sake, as well as our own, we must keep on. We will find a way because we have that strength within us, the will to survive, the ability to puzzle out the solutions both large and small. We have those qualities because our ancestors had them. They survived hundreds of thousands of years of predators, disease, war, famine, every imaginable evil and hardship. They survived.

So will we.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

#ethics #culture #paganism #ancestors

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