Ancestral Belonging & an Afrofuturist Lens
The brink of Autumn is a potent time of year. I don’t know about you, but for me, Fall (in the Northern Hemisphere) is a time of slowing down (where I can), taking stock, reflection and deepening discernment about where I place my energy.
It’s also the time of year in which we recognize the changing cycles of light and dark. It’s the time of year when many traditions acknowledge the spirits of the dead, our ancestors, and even have elaborate rituals and ceremonies honoring the ways in which we continue to be entangled with them, such as Dia de Los Muertos.
What are those cyclical traditions of light and dark for you, or around you?
Inside Rooted, we’ve been swimming in the realm of ancestors all month.
We dedicated time to becoming acquainted with the histories, stories, and meaning-making around the dead and our continued relationship with ancestors (acknowledged or not).
Daniel Foor from Ancestral Medicine was our guest this month inside the Village. Daniel is a teacher and practitioner of practical animism who specializes in ancestral and family healing and in helping folks learn to relate well with the rest of life. He is a doctor of psychology, marriage and family therapist, founder and director at Ancestral Medicine.
With us, he shared the work and play of ancestral belonging, and with the Day of the Dead — we thought you might like to join us in a study of belonging beyond memory.
It’s been juicy. Contentious at times. Intimate. And, ultimately, another thread in our exploration of belonging.
We were struck by how, dare I say…. Run of the mill, ordinary, and possible, Daniel makes the idea of ancestral re/connection.
We were left with thoughts like:
What does it feel like to know that, for generations, what is real or not real in the ancestral realm - would not even be a question? For those in past generations, it was all interrelated - the ghosts and the living.
Belonging in terms of ancestry is about developing a direct back and forth relationship.
Ancestral work isn’t about creating a list of names and dates - it’s more mysterious than that.
This energy is everywhere, so connecting to it is not just connecting to the past - but the living present. The dead surround us, in that way. And it takes a kind of humility to recognize the depth of connection available to us. It’s a different way of thinking about memory and time.
Daniel stressed, over the course of his workshop, how an active ancestral connection requires, to start, not much more than an active interest in speaking to the ancestors directly, ushering them in, and interacting with them. Kind of like you would with a friend over coffee. And it brought into stark contrast the dominant culture’s narrative of separation (in how we view and experience ourselves and each other, and in how we think of death and ancestors).
Our time with Daniel reminded us that “we can't arrive at more belonging without questioning our fundamental stance of individualism. And it's tricky to question that, because it's the Self that's very individualist who is doing the questioning to begin with. And so, the way of getting at is to wade into relationship and stay there. Gradually, things start to shift.” — Daniel Foor
Since Re-imagining Relationship and Belonging is a core theme we’re exploring inside the Rooted Village this year and next…
The month spent delving into the world of ancestral connection felt like a potent key, unlocking passageways between our ecological belonging, our interpersonal belonging, and belonging inside our own heartminds.
Daniel said, “To experience intimacy with the earth and rivers and trees and ladybugs (though he doesn't want to speak for them) [becomes more possible for humans] who recognize their embeddedness and their connectedness with the rest of life — than humans who walk around and strongly wearing the illusion of separateness and isolation."
What I have experienced over the course of this month, is just how much a desire for understanding, recognition, and participation in my ancestral connection, might help me to become a more trustworthy co-conspirator with my habitat, social justice action taking, and peace of mind.
Take this for example:
“We often see our people, our ancestors, through the lens of what is known in our recent histories. Here Daniel added that by “recent” it can mean a generation or two back, or hundreds of years.
“However far back we are able to see, it’s a narrow scope that leads to the dynamics of projecting our experience or knowledge of recent ancestors onto our much older ancestors.
…What we're doing in that moment is taking the part of the ocean we can see from the beach, and projecting it out on the whole ocean. And if we have an understandably bad attitude, at times, toward the wrongs of our recent ancestors, that means we're going to feel bad about our own humanity in a fundamental way. That actually is not very helpful. It's sad, it's painful, but it's also not based in reality, there's no reward for that. It's psychologically performative, because you're saying, Well, in solidarity with justice, I identify with my harmful ancestors,... and therefore, I'm less deserving, as a human being, to be alive.
Where's that lead you?” (You might take a moment to more intentionally reflect this question).
Your life as a laboratory - experiment with this:
Our resident somatics and movement guide, Weena Pauly-Tarr, wove this theme into an exploration of our bodily impulses.
If we were to acknowledge that some of our movement patterns come from the survival impulses carried through generations of bodies before us, how does that change how you might relate to your impulses? What would change if you listened to your impulses as if they were an expression of your ancestry?
Daniel said - “It’s not enough to just think about your ancestors — you need to talk to them.”
Talking to the dead can feel like a wacky thing to do for some of us! If that is true for you, can you embody a spirit of play and silliness and take that risk?
Settle into your body, wherever you are, maybe even at a long stop light, (ideally, in a place you can release into your experience unencumbered) and consider your ancestors, maybe from very long ago, and then out loud, you might say something like “hey… I am just trying to connect with you but I don’t know how and I don’t know who you are.” (Daniel Foor)
And then just listen.
For me, Karine, the communication comes in through sensation, feeling and images. Learning to trust what comes and not dismiss it because it “doesn’t make sense” or seems irrational, is key to keeping that door open.
What do you notice in your body? What is it like to be with that possibility, this unknowing space, in a felt-sense way?
All of this has led us to wonder…
Where might the deepening of our ancestral connection lead us - especially if we’ve been cut off from it?
Upcoming Live Event Announcement!
This coming December, Rooted is hosting an incredibly special Live, 3-day event devoted to The Afrocene: Making Room for the Strange and the Possible. And EVERYONE is welcome to attend this free to the public offering that will center the dreams, imagination and creative impulse of the African diaspora.
We’re wondering how this event can be a bridge, a wandering web into deepening our collective ideas around what’s possible for humanity next - through the stories, histories, and traditions of the African diaspora, projected outward through the lens of afrofuturism.
What is Afrofuturism?
“Afrofuturism is more than just breaking down racial constructs, it is really a way of triggering the imagination so that people can look at themselves and celebrate. . ..It is about reclaiming humanity outside of racial norms. As one might guess based on the name, imagining the future of black people is an intrinsic part of Afrofuturism. However, not every futuristic setting that contains Black people constitutes a work of Afrofuturism. Central to the movement is its commentary on the place of Black people and Blackness in the future.''
— Ytasha Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture
An Event Focused on a Shared Inheritance: Darkness
Come explore belonging as it relates to the depths of the cosmos themselves during our 3-day BiPoc led LIVE event. As Barbra Holmes stated, “In the beginning there is darkness. It is the womb out of which we are born.”
“...Darkness may be the blessed dimming of ego-driven striving, a destination and condition of safety and repose. In this state of trusting refuge, the light of divine revelation, which pierces but does not castigate the darkness, may finally be seen. This is a mothering darkness that nurses its offspring.”
Join us for "Forward thinking as well as backward thinking, while having a distressing past, a distressing present, but still looking forward to thriving in the future.” — Kathy Brown paraphrasing Bennett Capers' 2019 work in stating that Afrofuturism.
We hope to see you in December at the Afrocene! You can register for it now!
Until then, may our ancestors watch over us well, and know us more intimately, as we take steps to know them.