Seasonal Salon

In Search of the Ancestors

Eager as I am to heed the promise of Spring, it is with much ambivalence that I leave the cave…The Deep. There are, after all, gifts in the darkness—the silence after a snowfall, the crackling fire in the hearth that invites…no insists on an afternoon of reading; the looking inward, not outward. The time for reflecting and dreaming, remembering and for reclaiming lives in the cave of Winter.

Carolyn Hillyer, one of the most inspiring teachers I’ve had (and I’ve studied with many) has created an oracle which has been my companion and inspiration through the Deep. Ms. Hillyer’s intention is to teach European white women of their ancestors…their/my long, prehistoric lineage of the women, to re/call their stories, their wisdom.

Hillyer’s own story is an amazing one. An artist, a wordsmith, musician and traditional drum maker, she lives in a thousand year old longhouse farm on the wildland of Dartmoor in the southeast of England where she creates, dreams, hears and travels to discover the old ones.

Since, Imbolc of 2018, I have been a traveler with her “Weavers’ Oracle.”* The journey cards are created from paintings and mythic tales she’s intuited. While it was my intention to attend to one of the hauntingly exquisite cards in each of the following fifty-two weeks, I found the vow I made at Imbolc was both unrealistic and too daunting a task…and too disrespectful of the wisdom being revealed. Each of the Weavers has so much to teach. Unlike other “oracles,” The Weavers are multi-layered and complex requiring more of me—a traveler—than I anticipated.

So it is that I have become fascinated with the questions: Who are my ancestors? What is my lineage? Who are the women who survived on the tundra, who performed the “end of summer sacrifice” as she “destroys the old dance of the land” and prepares for harvest; who, with her sisters, honors the dead one by washing her in glacial water and paints sacred red ochre while singing “this is to remind you that this land will not forget you” and finally with her spirit spindle wraps her with birch bark while reminding me that to understand beginnings, we must know endings.

Be assured, dear reader, this is not a book review, nor is it a commercial. Rather, my intention is simply to re/member, to open the door onto a path that holds stories of my ancestors, of the ancient ones whom I have not forgotten…and cannot remember, for the myths resonate with something ancient and hidden in the mists of time. The Weavers teach me of the old ones, the travelers who have journeyed before me. And, hungrily I listen to the whispers from eons past.

Robin Morgan writes, “It is not your fault if you don’t know something, but it’s somebody’s fault if you’ve been kept from knowing something.”**
And yes, from patriarchal beginnings, we have been systemically kept from knowing.

Who do you know? Who are your ancestors? I suppose Ancestry.com can give you somewhere to begin. I admit I’ve not traced my genealogy through Ancestry.com or the Mormons’ Family Search.com, nor is there the family Bible to find names of those who have gone before me.

I want to know of the old one who “summons raw joy to the land.” Her name is Wind and in the early spring “when new light washed over the land, the morning maiden arrived, carried in by the pale sun. Her skirts were stitched from translucent mosses, her hair was tangled with euphoric breezes. She shone like raw joy…..”

I want to re/member the ancestor who was a story carver, a scar maker, skin weaver, shape shifter…” who sang, “This tale will be remembered, I mark the words so they will live, I do not let a story die.”

Surely this old one is one of my ancestors. Who are yours?

*Seventh Wave Books, www.seventhwavemusic.co.uk
**The Robin Morgan Blog, 2/11/2019

Nancy VanArsdall is an ordained Priestess of the Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess. Her recently published novel, The Thousandth Telling, is available at nvanarsdall.com, as is Coming Full Circle, Honoring the Rhythms of Relationships, her revolutionary exploration for achieving healthy partnerships. Editing The Seasonal Salon, a quarterly online magazine, is her service to RCGI. She has returned home to Indianapolis with her beloved.

 

Category: Spring Equinox 2019