I, Ancestor

It’s my daughter’s birthday, and it suddenly hits me—I am an ancestor!

Ancestors are not dead, dusty old skeletons. They are people that precede other people, and we are all ancestors, even if we don’t have children, because we pass on our consciousness, if not our genetic material.

Working with ancestors is also a way of dealing with my fear of death and dissolution. Regardless of my efforts to see death as just another transition, or a release from pain, a deep-seated fear remains. If I can bring the words of my ancestors into the consciousness of the present physical world, perhaps my words will someday be brought forward as well. I will not vanish and be forgotten.

In the Dagara tradition of West Africa, ancestors are seen as guides to help us through life. Through divinations—like the one that led me to my great great grandfather’s diary—and rituals, people stay in close contact with the ancestors, honoring them and taking advantage of the larger mass of information available in the Other World.

They Dagara consider the lack of devotion to the ancestors as one of the forces leading the West toward self-destruction.

I wonder if the Dagara fear death as we do?

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