Fire, water, and ancestors

My ancestor shrine

Notes from Glenn Leisching’s course on Dagara spirituality:

Ancestors are a reflection to us of who we are – we are the residue of what they left behind. They know what they left behind, left undone, and are desperate to help us resolve it.

When a person moves into the other realm at death, everything reverses – usually people are old when they die. There they go through a cleansing, get younger by shedding layers of baggage brought into the other realm. Finally they are reborn as a baby. We can help them get rid of baggage so they can come back to birth sooner.

There are barriers to the process of getting what we want, fulfilling/knowing our true purpose. Without a passion for life, it’s impossible to break through the barriers – we need the fire of passion.

It takes work to go back and let go of the ideas of who you are that are actually other people’s ideas. The death of who you think you are is painful.

How do we let go of other people’s ideas of who we are? We must ask the ancestors.

Why do you want to connect to the ancestors? It’s ok to want an exchange. It’s helpful to offer something – ash, or something valuable to us. Ancestors are the gatekeepers of potential. We can demand assistance from them – be expressive – let them know we mean it.

Fire is passion, intuition, inspiration. Water is the emotional realm, seeking harmony, sensing what’s happening around you. They need to be in balance.

Among the Dagara, when there’s a conflict between 2 people (spouses or others) that cannot be resolved, they are placed in an ash circle, with an ash line down the middle. They both say what’s on their mind, yelling at the same time, letting out the fire. They are surrounded by the community—if you shout loud enough, they cannot hear what the other person is saying about you. When the two people are done shouting, they pour water over each other’s heads.

In the first class, we built a fire altar to the ancestors, with red cloths, pictures of our ancestors, objects relevant to them, candles. In the third session, we built a water shrine: blue cloths, bowls, sea shells, watery objects.

In our water ritual, we carried bowls of water, in procession, to the ancestors’ shrine. Glenn spoke an invocation to the ancestors, to the heartbeat of a drum. We took the bowls in our laps and sat, still and silent. Then Glenn went to each of us and, looking into our eyes, sprinkled, patted, and stroked our faces with the water from his bowl. We all went around the circle, doing the same to every other person. The water helped to make a simple, wordless, and sweetly intimate connection among us.


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1 Response to Fire, water, and ancestors

  1. barbara may says:

    this is so beautifully expressed!

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