Tag Archives: ancestors

Remembering Women I Never Met

Five Generations and Rosemary, originally uploaded by Ninth Raven.

These are my maternal ancestors, photographed in Oklahoma in the mid-1920s . The baby is my grandmother’s older sister, Hazel Fulmer. The woman holding her is her great-grandmother, Betsy Strickland. Clockwise from her is my great-grandmother, Mabel Fulmer; her mother, Betsy McWhorter-White; and Granny Gepford, Hazel’s great-great-grandmother.

I never met my grandmother’s sister. I did know my great-grandmother Mabel. She lived the last few years of her life with my grandmother and died when I was about thirteen or fourteen.I didn’t really know these women, but their blood runs through my veins. I know that they were strong, capable women who managed homes and farms, who traveled in covered wagons from Illionois to Oklahoma, who midwived babies, who made herbal remedies, who knew more about how to survive with very little than I can imagine.

I feel thankful and strong and humbled looking at this picture. These women gave everything for their family–and ultimately me. They believed in the future because they lived in the present. They had to to make ends meet when their husbands labored in the flour mill, while they and the children worked the family farm.

How can I not honor them? I may not have agreed with them or gotten along with them, if we had known each other. But I hope that they would count me as a strong spirit, willing to do what was necessary to live and make the world a better place for my loved ones.

On this Samhain, what lessons do you live, what messages do your Ancestors give you from your very bones?

Problematic Family History

“When We Talk to Our Dead, They Talk Back” ancestor altar,
installed at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, Alexandria, VA,
for “Dia de los Muertos: The Art of Remembrance” exhibition, 2011

How do we relate to problematic ancestors, family secrets, and past betrayals of faith and trust? Honoring the ancestors seems to imply that you accept them and their life choices. But who doesn’t have issues with their blood family? Can we really look way back into our family tree to those ancestors we never knew and ignore the ones we actually had relationship with?

I am the daughter of two Spiritualist mediums who, when I was young, channeled discorporate entities on a weekly basis for the public. I wholeheartedly that the dead lived on as spirits and could communicate directly to the living. The world was a magical place where all things were possible. As I got older, I was introduced to some of the family trade secrets. Not able to see anything real beyond the illusion, I turned my back on the religion of my family.

But beyond the showmanship of Spiritualism’s physical phenomena, the ancestors continued to call to my heart. As an adult, I have struggled with what is real, hoping that the world wasn’t as cold and empty as I sometimes saw it. ¬†As a Pagan priestess over the past ten years, I have walked between the worlds and experienced the spirits directly without the mediation of mediums. And yet, I still feel mired in a morass of self-doubt–is what I am experiencing real or am I making it all up in my head?

As I cross into middle age, I grapple to understand my family’s past and hold compassion for myself as I explore the intersection of what is real and what is illusion. I am starting to come to peace with this part of my past. As the slate on the altar reads: The Sight is real, the Show illusion. I honor my experiences because they give me insight into the complexities of life lived in a world filled with contradictions. Nothing is what it seems at the surface, especially if it seems simple. Decisions that others may judge easily and quickly as right or wrong are full circumstantial caveats, if one really looks at the constraints and motivations of the people living with those decisions.