He threw bits of bones and things onto the mat and began to talk about my life from their patterns that only he could discern. He said I was being guided and helped in my work by a great aunt on my father’s side. He instructed me to meditate to get her name and then to give a dinner party for all my ancestors. I left this session with the wizened, gifted African healer, P.H. Mntshali, as amazed by the accuracy of his reading as by the strangeness of it all to my western mind. However, I dutifully meditated for my great aunt’s name and got Emily. That evening I placed food in as many tiny saucers as my kitchen table would hold, sending a mental invitation to all my ancestors, including my deceased Dad, to join me in their honor. As I nibbled on the food, I tried to focus on acknowledging my genealogical lineage.
I was startled out of this by the sudden ringing of the phone. It was my Mom, who never calls me unless it is very important. She said she and my sister were thinking of me and decided to chat. Laughing, I told them I was in the middle of a dinner party for our ancestors, and Dad said to give her his love. She wasn’t at all surprised. When I asked if Dad had ever mentioned an Emily in his family tree, she said she’d check his family bible. She reported there was a great aunt Emily among the dozen or so names recorded! That seeming well beyond coincidence, I felt suffused with a loving, warm glow of support and belonging.
Valuing connections to ancestors as an essential part of life has played a central role in indigenous and ancient cultures, among them Native American, Chinese and Hawaiian. In fact, most of these cultures consider pleasing and honoring ones ancestors to be an integral part of daily ritual. “All my relations” is a common greeting used when entering a sweat lodge. When Hawaiians used to chant their genealogy, they would do it without taking a breath in the middle, for to break the lineage with a breath would be dishonorable. A study of the Hawaiian language discloses a deeply ingrained belief in the relationship between everything. Everything, even the most mundane, had a higher connection, which is why they did not separate the everyday from the spiritual. An integral part of fishing was connecting with the presiding deities of the elements, the weather patterns. the ocean and the fish.
It reminds me of a story. This guy walks into a pet store and sees two TV monitors showing videos of two fish. When one would turn, the other turned, in exact synchrony! Amazed, the guy asked how the two fish did that. Well, they had two cameras from different angles on the same fish. The moral is, we may look different but we’re all one fish!