Tending To The Ancestors Through Grief & Ritual

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We’re opening up the ancient portals that lead us into the great river of grief. Most of us are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain how to hold what we’re witnessing and feeling into at this moment in time. We feel the duty to remain aware and fierce in our actions. And yet, we often feel ill-equipped to sustain ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually while we fight the good fight.

While it is essential that we not turn away from the pain and injustice, we are doing ourselves a disservice by not acknowledging and allowing ourselves to grieve. And yet, why would we? We have no elders or communal guidance showing us that to grieve these sorrows is ok or even necessary. Instead, we become exhausted in our anger. I see this manifesting in shame, or blame, and eventually dividing us even further as our anger is displaced upon each other for not doing enough.

What if after a long day of doing all we could with what we have, we gathered together to share our sorrow and our grief?

I have a sense that the antidote to our suffering is in practicing our ancestral wisdom. A wisdom that includes community rituals for grieving, a wisdom that includes daily tending and ritual offerings to our well ancestors and more-than-human kin. If we continue to see ourselves as separate from the natural world than we cannot engage in a sacred and reciprocal relationship. A relationship where we exchange offerings and blessings and ask for the help we are in need of.

And we must remember that this ability to do so exists within all of us, regardless of how long ago the severing of these ways occurred. We have all come from lineages that at some point in time practiced the old ways of sacred reciprocity. So we must also seek to connect with the ways of our people and cease taking from others. 

I carry with me a heavy underlined copy of Francis Weller’s book, The Wild Edge Of Sorrow. This has been a companion for me as I too cry into the night sky and dig holes to fill with offerings to acknowledge the pain I am feeling. Francis puts language to the various streams of grief that are present within us that often go unrecognized. In his naming of these distinct gates of grief, he offers us a place to tend to our collective pain so that we can continue to hold space for the work we feel called to do in effecting change.

The Fourth Gate of grief he names “What We Expected But Did Not Receive”. This gate speaks to me most deeply of the expectation to live on this Earth engaging in our Old Ways. The ancestral ways of tending to the unseen realms and practicing sacred reciprocity. We have become severed from these ways and have forgotten that our most profound relationships (and ways of being) are not solely human. When our relationship with the Sacred is as nurtured as our most intimate human relationships we have access to endless guidance and support. We no longer feel at a loss for not knowing what to do or how to help when our modern world becomes increasingly more unjust and inhumane.

In essence, I see this engagement of tending to the unseen realms and honoring our grief as our ancestral inheritance. By attuning and communing with the ancient voices of stone, flower, honey bee, wind, and spirits of place we are fortified against the sorrows of the world. This is in no way to say that we should not rally and be fierce in our actions. It is simply an urgent call to remember our ancestral wisdom so we can stand longer, and be more fierce in our stance against oppressive forces.

I urge you to dig your hands into the earth, carve out a hole that will hold your tears, and fill this space with offerings and blessings that acknowledge the ancient ones who are here to assist you. Invite ritual back into your daily life, because it is the language of the soul, a way to effectively communicate to the sacred that you are seeking relationship with. Notice how this practice of tending and grieving shifts your feelings of overwhelm and helplessness. These are the gifts of our ancient and loving people.


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Hey Wise Womxn, I'm Adrienne

I help womxn answer the call for ancestral belonging so they can heal that place within that longs for deep connection and ancestral guidance.