Ancestors and Beloved Dead

Originally posted at Sex, Gods and Rockstars by Del Tashlin


Many different forms of Paganism and Polytheism put some level of emphasis on honoring and/or working with Ancestors. This can be problematic for those whose parents/guardians were less than honorable in their parenting skills, whether that mean abuse, alcoholism/addiction, neglect, or abandonment. It is also difficult for those who were actively or passively “kicked out” of their family – whether their family has explicitly told them to go away and never come back, or if repeated attempts to connect with family show that they have no interest in connecting with you. Having a family whose identity is strictly bound to a certain religion or faith tradition that is incompatible with your life choices and/or spiritual beliefs may also complicate matters or make them impossible. Children of adoption may not have any knowledge about their blood lineages and may feel disingenuous trying to work with their adoptive lineage. In short, many Pagans may find it difficult or impossible to understand why Ancestor veneration is considered a meaningful and important part of spiritual practice.

At first, I made a fiat decision that I wasn’t going to include Ancestor work in my practice. I only know shreds of information about my paternal bloodline, and my father was abusive and neglectful. I felt very close to my mother (and still do in some ways), but my maternal family has never felt very comfortable with me, nor I with them. I also know that my father’s family was Catholic and my mother’s is as WASPish as they come, so attempting to integrate them into my wacky Northern Tradition Pagan-inspired practice seems disrespectful of their beliefs. Also, when I attended rituals that encouraged us to “look back and greet the Ancestors”, I heard nothing but crickets. No long-lost great great great uncles or nieces came lunging through the darkness to guide me in jack shit. So I would stand in respectful silence until that part of the ritual ended.

Later on, at a Samhain ritual, the priest used a phrase that changed the way I thought about Ancestral work entirely.

“You are the product of a million hopes and dreams whispered into the darkness; the yearnings of hearts longing to be remembered for their life’s work and the marks they left upon the Earth, among the people you stand with today.”

I wrote this down and spent a long time thinking and toying with this idea. I spoke about it to other Pagans who had similar reasons to disconnect from the traditional thoughts about Ancestor veneration. The more I tried to deconstruct the concept of “Ancestor”, the more I got an energetic sense of “Yes! You’re on the Right Path! Keep Going!”

So I started to play a game. I thought about what was happening in the world at approximately around the time I was born. Although I am sure in some ways I am the product of my birth parents’ hopes and dreams (and maybe Loki too), they are only three out of millions. So if I am the product of millions of hopes and dreams, who was doing the hopin’ and dreamin’?

The first and most obvious leap was to the early Gay Liberation movement. The mid-70’s was a time where many gays and lesbians were starting to come out both personally and politically. I’m sure that being able to live life as a queer trans* man without being locked away (in a psych ward or a jail) is something the gay liberators desperately hoped for the children born around them. Instead of taking on the whole movement, I looked for specific members that I personally resonated with – ones whom I thought would be honored and pleased when their names came from my heart and lips. Even before she passed in 2008, I considered Del Martin someone who would be pleased to see her struggles made manifest into pleasures in my life. I also felt compelled to find a genderfucker that I could connect with, and when I approached Divine in a meditation and asked her if she would be my ancestor, she gave me a giant hug.

I did this with many other outlier groups: I particularly felt drawn to working with those who died in “insane asylums” or other mental health facilities, especially those who were abandoned by their families (and possibly erased from those family’s trees). I also reached out to some who were working with estatic states of worship, regardless of their religious tradition. There are a few who died via suicide because they were lonely and forgotten. There are also some who died because their illness was not diagnosed or treated in time.

Before I knew it, I started having a pretty respectable list of those who have passed, who may have dreamed that someone like me would have the kind of life I have now. Doing this has made me incredibly thankful and gracious about the freedom and acceptance I enjoy, and I am painfully aware that many people laid down their lives for that freedom and acceptance.

As time has passed, I have had many close friends and family members, most recently my mother in early December, who have gone on to become my Ancestors and Beloved Dead. These days, I laugh a little when I remember how I used to think I had no ancestors to work with; now I never know who is going to show up when I make space for them in my altars and during my rituals.

I encourage you, regardless of how close you feel to your lineage, to play the same game. Think about who you are today, and whose dreams you are fulfilling. Do some research into what the world was like when you were born, and who has been forgotten or overlooked that you can identify with. Maybe even go to a local cemetery and find a grave that is in desperate need of tending; spend some time there and see if you feel some sort of permission to groom their grave and leave small offerings. See if your local historian society has an idea who that person was, what their life was like.

There are millions of dead who want only to be remembered, and they may not care whether you’re related to them via blood or not. And remembering someone is not very difficult, and can bring you a sense of connectedness and continuity in your life.


Don’t forget, Wardenheart Kindred is hosting our annual Samhain Dumb Supper on 11/1 in the Philadelphia area. Please feel free to join us in honoring our Ancestors and Beloved dead. Please see above link or our Facebook Invite for details.

 

Advertisements

Dumb Supper 2015 – Location and time Confirmed!

Hello again, Wardenheart and Friends!

We have set our location for our annual Dumb Supper. A friend had graciously agreed to allow us the use of their apartment, the Firebird’s Nest, just outside of Philadelphia.

This location is accessible via public transportation, has parking available, and is also handicap accessible. Address will be provided up on RSVPing.

The date will be Sunday, November 1st. Our gathering will be open for guests to arrive at 5pm.

The Supper will start at 6pm sharp – later comers will be turned away by our Guardian to preserve the sacred silence of the meal.

While we are a Northern Tradition Pagan Kindred, this ritual is open to any and all paths and we love visitors, so please feel free to let others know and feel welcome to join our Feast.

The Dumb Supper is our chance to sit down and share a meal with our Beloved Dead.  The entire meal, from setting the table, serving, and eating are done in silence and in semidarkness. We host this as a potluck so that everyone can bring a dish that was enjoyed by their Ancestors and Dead.

Afterwards we follow the meal with a sumbel, a Norse drinking ritual where we will toast those who have left us.

Before the ritual, we assemble an altar with items for or belonging to our Beloved Dead – please feel free to bring photos, votives, or any other items or offerings you would like for the altar.

 

When you RSVP, please advise if you will be needing a place to stay that evening, and  please advise the dish you will be bringing as well.

Please RSVP or direct questions to Ulfdis.Jarnvidar@gmail.com.

-In Service,

Úlfdís Járnviðar
Associate Gythia, Wardenheart Kindred

Wardenheart Kindred Dumb Supper 2015

Hello Wardenheart and Friends!

I hope you are all well and warm. It’s *finally* October, my favourite time of year, and time for my favourite Holiday, Samhain.

We are looking forward to sharing our 3rd Annual Dumb Supper with our friends and Beloved Dead on 11/1/15.

Currently, the location is to be determined, but will likely be either at the AEU in Maryland, or my place in Philadelphia. We’ll be sending an update in two weeks as to the location and times.

The Dumb Supper is our chance to sit down and share a meal with our Beloved Dead.  The entire meal, from setting the table, serving, and eating are done in silence. We host this as a potluck so that everyone can bring a dish that was enjoyed by their Ancestors and Dead.

Afterwards we follow the meal with a sumbel, a Norse drinking ritual where we will toast those who have left us.

Before the ritual, we assemble an altar with items for or belonging to our Beloved Dead – please feel free to bring photos, votives, or any other item you would like for the altar.

You may RSVP now, or if you need to confirm the location, you may RSVP to the next email updating us with the specific location.

When you RSVP, please advise if you will be needing a place to stay that evening, and if possible, please advise the dish you will be bringing as well. Please note that should the event be held at the AEU, I can bring up to 3 additional people. Please RSVP or direct questions to Ulfdis.Jarnvidar@gmail.com.

-In Service,

Úlfdís Járnviðar
Associate Gythia, Wardenheart Kindred

On this day, a seed was planted, and grew into the Tree

In October of 2013, Del Tashlin opened his home to friends and strangers, and hosted the first of what would become our now traditional Samhain Dumb Supper.

So many great things happened that night. I will never, ever forget that first supper. For me, it was the first real step out of the darkest part of my life. I had spent most of the year clawing my way out of a terrible depression, dealing with my emergent religious awakening (you can’t really argue when the Gods’ teeth in your throat), I had just ended my marriage, and I was dealing with the death of a friend, which was both sudden and sobering.

I saw this post and knew I had to go on a bone deep level that I can still feel today. So I immediately RSVP’d, requested to stay the night (I live three hours away), arrange the time off work and headed down.

That doesn’t sound like much, but to me it was rather terrifying.  While I had ‘know’ Del for nearly 5 or so years through our shared communities, we hadn’t ever discussed religious matters, though I, like my brother Volsung, was very familiar with his blogs and other writings, and I am basically made out of a ball of anxiety coated with cats. But more powerful than my own anxiety was the driving need for community and fellowship with others who knew my Gods. I didn’t realize then that it was also the desire for family, in a way I had never known before in my life. It took me a long time to realize that.

I remember crying a lot that night, and laughing, and I remember leaving having no idea what had happened. That was when I met Volsung, my brother, and we realized we already knew each other from the internet.

I kept visiting Del. I kept talking to Volsung. I kept talking to my Gods. So when Yule 2013 rolled around, you won’t be surprised to hear that once again I was on the road to Maryland.

After that, things started moving. Our little proto-Kindred had started to form. Many of the same people were showing up over and over, and we worked well together. Eventually, someone said the word “Kindred” (I swear I wasn’t the first!)

In early 2014, the talks started in earnest. We had meetings to talk about things. We started discussing beliefs, ethics, what we wanted to see happen, and started working on building this thing. It took a year; a year of road trips and rough times, of joy and sadness, of good and ill health, of upheavals and change, and some unexpected turns, and then, we were ready.

The weekend of September 25th, 2014 was the date we chose to have everyone sit down and seriously put together this amorphous set of ideas into a thing. (I remember the weekend being very, very long as I had recently quit caffeine. Everyone lived.)

In the course of the year prior, our skills, needs and the way we worked together had become apparent, and many of us had been tapped for the roles we now hold. Most surprising to me was becoming our associate Gythia. I’d never had designs on leadership or the priestly arts, but it felt right, and much like our Guardian, Volsung, I had been doing the job the past year anyway (This was not what I was expecting when I went to Angrboda and said “I want a Kindred” and She said “Then go make it happen”. I know better now.)

On September 27th, 2014 in the Hagarstown City Park, we held our first ritual as Wardenheart Kindred, becoming “Hands-in” members, charging our book, and consecrating our Kindred horn.

One year in “officially” and things are just…amazing. We have had fantastic rituals, both public and private. We have come together as a Kindred in the true meaning of the word, as a family. I have found in my Kindred amazing brothers and sister with whom to celebrate, and commiserate; to learn from and to teach.

I say this all the time, but basically we have the best damn Kindred ever. I am honored and proud to have all you wyrdos in my life, and I am so excited to see how we grow and develop in the next year.

Hail the Gods! Hail Wardenheart Kindred!

-In Service,

Úlfdís Járnviðar
Associate Gythia, Wardenheart Kindred

September 27th, 2015

Our Wardenheart Tree, with a branch each for our first seven members. This art was gifted to us by Brandon EH. ❤

A post shared by Wardenheart Kindred (@wardenheartkindred) on

Midsummer Ritual at Free Spirit Gathering!

Hail! Wardenheart Kindred will be in attendance at the Free Spirit Gathering this year. As the majority of our members will be attending, we have decided to hold our Midsummer ritual at FSG on Friday, 6/19/15, during lunch time.

The exact location is TBD, so we will be meeting at HQ at 12:15 sharp and heading to the location selected then. Ulfdis will be there at noon, and we will head over to the space shortly after 12:15.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to find Ulfdis or any other member of Wardenheart.

We look forward to seeing you!

-Úlfdís

A Note from the lap of Úlfdís

Hail and Welcome everyone, to the first post on Wardenheart Kindred’s new home on the web! We can of course still be found on Facebook, and may eventually include other social media accounts to share our love for the Gods with others.

We are a Northern Tradition Kindred, currently based out of Maryland; however our active members span from New York, Philadelphia and southern Maryland! We came together as individuals in late 2013, and in the September of 2014 ritually celebrated the forming of Wardenheart Kindred.

In our links, you can find links to our member’s blogs and other sites, as well as find further links to more information on Northern Tradition Paganism.  In the future, we hope to share more of our practices and experiences here.

Soon you will find a page listing our open rituals for each year; as Northern Tradition Pagans we celebrate within the tides of the Wheel of the Year. These rituals vary in location, but are always welcome to interested folks wishing to celebrate the turning of the Wheel, and we look forwards to continuing to meet new folks!

If you would like to be added to our open ritual email list, please send a message to WardenheartKindred@gmail.com

You may also reach out to directly to me, Úlfdís, at Ulfdis.Jarnvidar@gmail.com, or my google voice account, (650) 285-3347.

Thank you for visiting!

In service,

Úlfdís, Assistant Gythia, Wardenheart Kindred