Many spiritual traditions espouse that we are the human incarnations of our ancestors. Others see the death of the physical body as a necessary part of the life cycle. One common belief shared amongst a variety of spiritual traditions is that the individual's spirit - what allows us to differentiate me from you - does not die with the body; rather, it remains. The continuance of the spirit allows us in the physical realm to continue a relationship with a person now that he or she occupies the spiritual realm.
It is my ongoing observation, that people's experience of spirit, be it an ancestor, or a spirit guide, is what drives them to a spiritual practice. This often manifests subconsciously and somewhat quietly, until all of a sudden a person finds themselves receiving messages in dreams that come true in the physical realm, becoming clairvoyant, and/or clairsentient. It has also been my observation, that upon realization of these spiritual gifts people are wont to do a few things: share their newfound knowledge in the form of a business offering spiritual services; seek out the current trending spiritual tradition without a thorough investigation of whether said tradition, or said priest or priestess is the right fit; and as a result of the aforementioned, often end up initiated and/or involved in a tradition, which does not suit their needs.
Let me be clear - one does not need initiation to venerate their ancestors; one does not need initiation to communicate and work with their spiritual guides. One does need a reliable and knowledgeable mentor who can teach both the theory and the practice; who will monitor your development through the necessary phases until you are proficient enough to operate on your own. These relationships are not easily found, and they require a lot of humility on both the part of the mentor and the student.
As I reflect on the training I've had, and continue to have, I see now that what I thought was a calling, by the Orisa themselves, to the Lukumi tradition, was in fact propelled by my ancestors. I see now that my strengths and proclivities in Portuguese and other languages are ancestral. My ability to speak things into existence is a trait and a skill that exists in my maternal lineage. I see all of this now after being taught how to identify the difference between ancestors, spiritual guides, and divinities. This is after fifteen years of involvement as an uninitiated lay person in the Lukumi tradition, and after five years of initiation and priesthood in the Palo Mayombe tradition.
So what is the point and why does this matter? Central to spirituality are questions of one's ancestral lineage and the history of those ancestors' lived experiences. Their lived experiences build our identities, whether we realize it or not. The things we pursue in our earthly lives now link back to similar deeds pursued by our ancestors. Establishing a spiritual practice is the way in which we learn their wisdom and leverage it to lead our best lives.
None of this, however, is a solo pursuit. However proficient one is in their practice, the ability to be an autonomous practitioner is not to be confused with having a solo practice. If you are doing your spiritual work, you soon realize that working with you, if not through you, are your ancestors and spirit guides. You are never truly alone.
Your ancestors are your first line of defense. When no other entity human or otherwise is checking for you, they are. You belong to them and death is not a barrier that will keep them from you. Spirit guides are generally not related to you but have accompanied you, and before you, your ancestors, throughout the generations, and like your ancestors, have your best interest at heart. They function as your personal cheerleaders, protectors, and support network. Cultivating a daily practice with them that includes not only veneration and communication, but actually working with your ancestors and spirit guides, will result in large scale, ongoing transformation in your life that not only moves you forward, but moves your family and your lineage forward too.
Negarra A. Kudumu
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