My eyes were opened to the many ways that I am feeling ancestral trauma and the disconnection from my lineage of ritual. While many of my ancestors rejected settler colonialism, many perpetuated it. Because colonialism happened and is still happening, my ancestors traded in their rich lineages, traditions, values, rituals, and practices for the temporary, perceived reward of “whiteness”. My attempts at reconstructing an ancestral practice have been severely limited. The information just isn’t there. And collectively, many of us are experiencing the symptoms of this disconnect. We have all been victims of exploitative systems. It’s time we acknowledge our collective and individual trauma, grieve what was lost and stolen, and begin to rebirth and reconstruct connection to ourselves, our ancestors, and the land.
Daniel Foor, PhD, is a teacher of practical animism, licensed psychotherapist, doctor of psychology, and the author of Ancestral Medicine: Rituals for Personal and Family Healing. He has led ancestral healing intensives in nine countries from 2005 to present, trained over 60 practitioners in the work of ancestral healing, and reached thousands of people through online teaching. He is an initiate in the Ifa/Orisha tradition of Yoruba-speaking West Africa and has studied with teachers of Mahayana Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, different Indigenous paths, and the older ways of his English and German ancestors. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Asheville, North Carolina, traditional lands of the Tsalagi (Cherokee) people.
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In this episode, author of Ancestral Medicine Daniel Foor and I…
- discuss how Daniel honored his calling as a ritualist without having his own ancestral framework
- discuss “whiteness” and settler colonialism, occupation of land, and the resulting loss of cultural identity and tradition for both colonizer and colonized
- share the need to grieve the loss of a continued lineage of ritual
- share the need to grieve how many of our ancestors traded their lineages for the construct of whiteness
- talk about the intersection of identity, ancestry, and culture
- talk about communing and communicating with our ancestors
- discuss the ancestral repair process
- discuss how engaging with our ancestors relates to cultural healing
- talk about the collective trauma caused by the pain of misogyny, exploitative capitalism, white supremacy, and dislocation from land
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Hey guys, welcome back to the holistic trauma healing podcast. This is episode 28. I’m so grateful that you are here with me today. We have one more week until the spring Equinox. I’m so ready for it. We have already tapped our maple trees. We live on about six acres. In Northern Minnesota. And we put in about 75 taps on our maple trees every year, harvest the SAP and boil it down and make our own maple syrup. It’s the best maple syrup you’ve ever tasted in your life. Once you have the real deal, you never ever go back to the fake crap from the store. So we are in full swing with that right now. The spring melt has begun. Things are thawing and the birds have come back and it’s warming up and it just feels amazing. I live live, live for summer. It’s my favorite time of year. And this is like one more step.
To getting closer to those warm, amazing summer days that I love so much. So until then, though, I’m going to keep podcasting And I’m super excited about today’s episode. I’m talking about settler colonialism, the loss of lineage, collective trauma and ancestral healing with Daniel Foor. In this episode, Daniel and I are talking about ancestral healing. Like what’s the overview of that, how he approaches it , especially as a CIS white male, we talk about whiteness and settler colonialism and occupation of land and the resulting loss of not only how.
You know, quote unquote white settlers took away the cultural identities and traditions of native and indigenous folks, but how they also lost their own. Cultural identities and traditions. We’re sharing the need to grieve the loss of a continued lineage of ritual and the loss of our cultural identity and tradition and to grieve how our ancestors traded their lineages for the construct of whiteness. We also share that it is possible to commune with our ancestors and gain their wisdom that even though they have passed on from this. Three dimensional reality that they are very much still close to us and still accessible to us and want to be part of our lives. We discussed the ancestral repair process and how engaging with our ancestors relates to cultural healing.
We weave in discussions about trauma, especially collective trauma for the loss of our cultural identities. And we’re talking about what’s coming up for Daniel these days. He’s got a really exciting course. And animist psychology coming up and information about his animal psychology course will be in the show notes of the podcast as always. Daniel Foor is a teacher of practical animism, a licensed psychotherapist, a doctor of psychology and the author of ancestral medicine, rituals for personal and family healing.
He has led ancestral healing intensives in nine countries. Since 2005. And trained over 60 practitioners in the work of ancestral healing. His work has reached thousands of people through online teaching. He has an initiate in the Ifa/Orisha tradition of Yoruba speaking West Africa and has studied with teachers of Mahayana Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, different indigenous paths, and the older ways of his English and German ancestors. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Asheville, North Carolina, in the traditional lands of the Cherokee people.
Hello, Daniel. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today.
Thank you, Lindsey is going to be here.
I’m so excited. So I learned about you and your work this summer. Whenever I was listening to your book, ancestral medicine. I’ve been really trying to dig deep into my own ancestry as much as I can for the last couple of years. And I found your book very helpful. It resonated with me in a lot of different ways. And then whenever I was starting the podcast, I made a list of dream guests that I would, if everything worked out and the stars aligned in the universe made it happen, these are the people that I would want to come on and you are on my list. So thank you so much for being here.
It’s my pleasure. I’m glad to be here. Yeah. Let’s just dive in. So tell us more about yourself and who you are and what you do. I know I just read your bio, but give us a bigger picture into Daniel Foor and what your work with ancestral medicine is all about. Yeah.
Let me say a thing about where I’m speaking from my own ancestors of blood and body are early English and German, mostly settler colonialists in North America and have been on this continent for a minute. And so in that way, I’m implicated in the. Histories of harm here in North America. And I live now with my family, my wife, and two daughters and Western North Carolina’s traditional Cherokee lands. And I’m a PhD in psychology. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, but my work primarily is as a rich list, or I guess you could say spiritual teacher, it’s a funny job. And in that I have spent a lot of time in ritual ceremony. Dedicated sacred space in different traditions over the years, it’s been a calling for me.
I wasn’t raised with those things, but I sought them out. And I happened to be an initiate and a student of you of a tradition. So the Southwestern Nigeria Ifa/Orisha tradition in the lineage of a Louisville follow under Sonia, what your day from . And so that informs my practice a bit, but I ultimately take a more. Sort of eclectic or core values or foundations based approach to teaching ritual arts and an animist approach, which is to say an approach that. Recognizes that living humans are just want to kind of person in a bigger field of relationships, which include the ancestors, the plants, the animals, the mountains, and rivers and DS it is, and really all of the others. And so in that way, where I’m coming from is inspired by what people would probably associate with indigenous spirituality or sensibilities, although I’m not an indigenous person myself and And I’m seeking as a cis-gendered privileged American dude to operate from a, an anti-racist feminist queer friendly decolonial deep colonialist ethic or spirit class aware ethic in how I’m approaching the work. That informs how we move it. Ancestor medicine is I’m the founder and of that organization. So we trained folks in how to guide ancestral healing and guide online. Yeah, that’s most of what I spend my time with is working as a professional ritualist and teacher.
That’s amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that. I know you do talk about this in your book, but just briefly, what got you into this work?
Yeah I wasn’t raised with any of it and I started eating psychoactive substances as a teenager, and Strong acid when you’re 15, at least for me meant that I ended up having unscripted, direct encounters with things that felt, and presumably were very real that I didn’t have any category for a framework for I’m like what is that? And so I was already interested in different kinds of, music and poetry, but it set me on a path of seeking out frameworks for understanding things like the spirits or the other worlds or dimensions and stuff like that. And I had the good fortune by the time I was 17 to start working with teachers of pagan Chemonics. Traditions. So revival, traditions from my own European heritage. And that was very useful because it taught me, it gave me a framework early on to relate with the others, to relate with the other than humans. And and that served me really well. And it it was inspiring and motivating. So I knew from really when I was a teenager, this is what I want to be involved with. And so I’ve focused intently on that and had the good fortune to live in some other parts of the world and study different languages and cultures and lineages of ritual. And then my own sense of displacement as someone who’s down lineage from a lot of people who broke their culture, frankly has set me on a path of understanding how does a person of my demographic and cultural upbringing being raised in largely white, suburban Ohio arrive at a sense of belonging and authentic. Culture and earth honoring ritual and ceremony. How do I honor my calling as a ritualist when I don’t have anything in my direct ancestry, at least in the last thousand years or more to turn toward. And so having lived that question in an acute way for. Whatever 25 years 43, I think lose track. It has just meant that I’m, I’ve gradually been able to be useful to others in inquiry as well, because I’d been living it myself.
That’s incredible. I have so many questions already. So I’m just trying to make a note here, as you were talking to remember not to forget. So my first question is you were 15, 17 years old whenever you started using psychoactive compounds. So my children right now are 15 and 17 and And so I’m curious as a teenager, were you using them recreationally and you happen to have a spiritual experience or were you using them ritually and ceremonially knowing that you would have these experiences?
Yeah, it was a mix. It started out a bit recreational, but then I had just enough things in my environment that signaled an interest in ritual or meditation or neo shamanic stuff that before long there was a little bit of a frame, same work, or just some like a basic, some very basic tools to navigate within those spaces. But mostly boundary testing, recreational consciousness, expanding reckless teenage behavior with just a little dose of framework. And then the framework fortunately came, not that much later. And. And then gradually over time, I’ve had the good fortune to sit in more structured spaces like a native American church ceremonies, for example, is peyote ceremony. It’s quite structured or other kinds of spaces, but it’s been years really. And it was not a part of my practice now, although I have a lot of respect for those medicines they’ve they were good teachers for a lot of years. And they’re not for everybody they’re not needed per se, but for the right time, people that can really catalyze some big and useful.
Yeah, for sure. So I want to go back to what you said about, being this kid and Ohio, growing up feeling disconnected from heritage. That’s something that I feel like quote unquote white people really lack is that sense of connection to where we came from and what we belong to. And I think it’s normal for us to wonder those things, because I find myself having conversations with my friends pretty frequently about. I have a pretty similar ancestry as you have the European. I have quite a bit of Scottish ancestry, particularly from the Scottish Highlands and I’ve gone back in my family tree and have identified different clans and where they lived and I’ve looked at it on a map and I’ve looked at the time period and that’s how I’m piecing together the pieces , of that puzzle.
And then I’ve always been very drawn to Scottish dress. I love the accent. I think the Gaelic language is beautiful. I love Scottish music. Just move something in my soul. And I never really understood that until I started digging back into my family tree. And then I got to this point. Big group of people that were very Scottish and from the Highlands and suddenly it all made sense. It was like, I’m so drawn to this because this is actually in my blood. This is part of who I am and I’ve just been disconnected from it because my mom and her mom had no idea where they came from and didn’t have any idea how to pass that onto their children. So when I have conversation with my friends, I find myself asking like, In what ways would a Scottish woman have practiced ceremony or ritual, like a Scottish Highlander, woman who would have been seen as like a witch or a healer or something like that. And I don’t have the answers for that, and it’s very hard as someone who tries to create space for ritual and ceremony in my own life. Sometimes, I feel like I’m just like making it up as I go along because I literally, I don’t even know where to go to look for this thing that I know it has to exist somewhere, but I don’t know what it looks like or where to find it. Does that make sense?
Yeah, of course. There’s a lot to be said about it. For one, whiteness is a, that’s a strange thing. If by that we mean someone of older European ancestries, because of course are many Europeans who are not white. But if we mean by that someone of older European ancestry, whiteness really takes on an even stronger meaning in a context of settler colonialism, whether it’s in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, other places where Europeans have not just enacted colonialist harm, but additionally followed that up through occupation of land and in doing that there’s often a kind of a trade-off or amnesia about one’s roots to try to adapt into a new environment. And the idea really of different races, so to speak is not some kind of ancient idea that it gets especially congealed in the 16 hundreds, around the time of Bacon’s rebellion and the colonies the British colonies or the. Yeah, pre United States. And it is is the enactment or the formalizing of an ideology of white supremacy that would then become the policy to date still in many ways. And that is willful kind of amnesia and forgetting or dissociation from very specific roots. So whiteness as an identity is bankrupt.
And in the sense that there’s no, I don’t. Yes. It’s very important for me, for you, for others to be like, yeah, I’m a white person that has implications in a society in a world that’s still a very racist in many ways. And as a fundamentally nourishing identity, there needs to be a deeper dive into what that identity obscures about our specific origins, whether it’s Scottish or German or Polish or whatever it might be. And so when did any given regional culture stop being in conversation with the land and with the ancestors and the spirits and honoring the traditional healers in the old ways? The timelines vary in the Scottish Highlands. Those understandings are still present residually in different forms, but not as present as they were say 400 years ago. And not as present then as they were 800 years before that, largely from the interference of British colonialism from further South on the Island. And in other places, the understandings are not completely lost.
I was in Estonia in 2019 and participated in traditional smokes on there and the EDA Vero, GIA and Wisco farm. And she’s a white person, but she’s also connected to her own ancestral traditions in a way that wasn’t entirely broken. And but as someone of German and English ancestries, who’s done a bit of a deep dive around what’s left. There are absolutely people who are beautifully reviving and rekindling direct relationship with the land and working with the fragments. But there’s not an unbroken lineage of practice. It just isn’t. So it’s not like you haven’t Google search did hard enough. It’s also not there. So that then brings up the question of the tremendous sorrow that comes from breaking your culture. And the grief it’s I realize that there’s a deep need for this fundamental thing of elders, of community, of coherence, of a container of meaning that can hold the transformations that I need on an identity level and helped me to mature into a full. Person, because I look around and I see some people have that.
And I noticed that I don’t. Where is it? Damn. It’s not there. Correct? Correct assessment. And so what do you do then? One of the things you do I think is as you grieve. What’s not there. And that comes in layers. And that includes recognizing the way that many of our ancestors more or less consciously, because there have also been people all along of European ancestries who resisted the colonialist project and resisted the various kinds of supremacies but more who, more or less bought into it. And so it means facing the way that a lot of our people have benefited from, or even consciously perpetuated a severing from specific identity to, to trade it, to trade that in for the short-term benefits of whiteness as a construct and that kind of supremacy, or that relies on oppression of others.
So that’s a. That’s a downer that doesn’t really, it doesn’t really resolve the issue of wanting like witchy grandmas to help you out. But it’s part of the, it’s part of the process of facing like how shit got broken. And but beyond that, what some good news is that it is absolutely possible. And I would say desirable and healing to come into direct present tense communion with the wives, grandmas, grandpas, and gender blast ancestors of our specific body level lineages. Even if many of them lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago to commune with the mighty and blessed and healed and already hold dead from our lineages and ask them to fortify us and help us to reorient and help us to bring healing to those among the dead and are in the niches who are not yet healed.
And from that cycle of repair with the ancestors and reconnection to arrive at a place where our specific lineage ancestors, even if they enacted harm during their life on earth or in a healed condition. Now they’re backing us and they’re informing our life. They’re guiding us on how to participate in cultural healing and how to show up as a responsible person and to orient toward our various specific destiny and gifts, which are often in inheritance from them. So one piece at least of belonging is the ancestral repair process and the greater, the cultural brokenness, the greater the dissociation from that, the more important it is because it helps to become regular sized. I also work a lot with other white people in not just United States, but in areas with histories of settler colonialism, because there’s a lot of folks who are like, damn, I think I broke my culture.
Can you help me with that? And in that, there’s a lot of good to be had from coming back into relationship with the ancestors in a healed way and becoming regular sized because the. The first layer of white supremacy is to say, Oh, white people are, even if we don’t, nobody wants to say it out loud. It was like somehow better or above or better off than less white people. But then beneath that, if you dig a little deeper, it’s so common that white people actually feel terrible about themselves because there’s a vague or even more direct historical knowledge of how implicated we are in harmful histories. And so I’m better than others and I’m worse than others. They’re almost the same thing. They’re still white centering. And there’s still something other than becoming regular sized and just being able to show up in a non neurotic way with people from other ancestry.
Do you mind if I share a realization that I had early in 20, 20, shortly after George Floyd was killed?
I was just reflecting on. All of it. It was such a smack in the face in so many ways. And it took place in Minneapolis, which is only like three hours from where I live. So it felt very close, and I took a break from social media and I was just outside, walking a lot, thinking a lot, praying a lot. And what came to my mind was that in some of the ancestry work that I’ve done of following those breadcrumbs of history, to try to find, names of people and places that they lived and things like that, I’ve been able to trace back my ancestry on my father’s side to William, the conqueror, and for people who aren’t familiar with who William, the conqueror is, he took over. What was then the empire of great Britain at the time and instituted the feudalistic system of the King on top the Nobel people underneath the King, the Knights underneath the Nobles, and then the serfs and the peasants underneath the Knights. And. So the concept of whiteness didn’t exist then, right?
This was like 900 to 1080 or so. And so whiteness didn’t exist yet. And yet here was this man who was doing atrocious, , horrifying things, to people who looked like him. And so this was after George Floyd and I wasn’t trying to center, European trauma, but I was like, it just occurred to me that the reason why my ancestors and your ancestors were able to come to this land and take it from. The indigenous people of this land, and we’re able to sail to the shores of Africa and round up people and throw them on ships and bring them over here and sell them. I believe personally that hurting people hurt people. And so I suddenly, I used to feel shame that William, the conqueror was in my line because he was the founder of such an oppressive system.
In what is now a great Britain, but then I was like, What must have happened to him in his life? What must he have experienced whether with his family or his parents, or where he lived that made him grow up and become someone who would do that to other people. And it was like, like obviously he had trauma in his life because he was hurting people so much that he had to have been hurting immensely himself.
And I think that. Like it helped me to have compassion for my ancestors to realize that it wasn’t like they just woke up one day and were like, Oh, we’re just going to go take this land from native people. And we’re going to round up black people in Africa and sell them into slavery. Like it wasn’t like they just woke up and had this idea. It was like they were all and Resmaa Menakim actually says this a lot more eloquently in his book my grandmother’s hands that white on white trauma. Was happening long before white on black trauma. That Europeans white Europeans had gotten so desensitized to the torture of their own people because, they would have public executions and public hangings and public drawing and quartering people and putting heads on a pike and putting them out in front of the, the kingdom or whatever. Like the torture of their own people was already like normalized. And they were desensitized to it. They were so desensitized to it with their own people that it wasn’t like, it was that much further to do it to the indigenous people of North America or to the black people in Africa. That’s what I’m saying, making sense.
I follow there’s a lot in what you’re saying. And I I appreciate Resmaa Menakim’s work and I I resonate in many ways with the view that the cultural dysfunction that hadn’t been In advancing on the European continent was exported through the colonialist powers starting in the 14 hundreds and beyond. And so in that way, there is a an exporting or a transferring of white body trauma to other than white body people. So there’s a truth in that. My, my hesitation a little bit with it is the framing of white people as monolithic, victimizers and black people as monolithic victims. In the sense that the hundreds of nations in the Americas and continental Africa, before contact with Europe are enacting their own complex traumas toward one another and having a. I’m a practitioner of traditional Yoruba ways and Yoruba traditions come intersect my world by virtue of the enslavement of Europe, a people especially toward the later part of the transatlantic slave trade and part of what in that enabled Yorba peoples to have their traditions survive. It’s the degree that they did through the atrocities of enslavement is that for one, they were enslaved relatively later on that timeline, because prior to that, the Oreo empire was subjugating neighboring people, other than Yoruba people the new payor bar others and selling them to Portuguese prudish.
French, et cetera, Dutch slavers. And so it, it’s sure the the extreme manifestation of chattel slavery that Europe perpetuated as generally worse than the forms of slavery that were preexisting and. We do a whole different thing about the millions of people enslaved by Arabs as well. So it’s slavery is not unique to just the Americas, but the africans are. Just people in complex native people or just people in complex. And if you’re a Propecia, your view historically of the Aztec or not empire is probably not awesome. There are empires that enslave and butcher people in so in that way there’s black on black crime before any white people are ever involved and same with, native on native crime and whatnot. So I say that not to deflect from the real Centering of harm that has happened through European colonialism. Cause that’s an overshadowing and very real and very much still reverberating only to make sure that there’s not a stark binary or it’s like white people bad, brown people good. And not that you’re coming with that.
And it’s part of what I see about the United States is now I say this in a compassionate way. As a clinician, as a psychotherapist that like, if the United States had a personality disorder, it probably borderline personality disorder. And I say that I know, and I know there’s a lot of judgment around people with BPD kind of patternings and their personality. I’m not coming from that place. It’s a presentation that has a lot to do with early trauma. But one of the features of that is, is sometimes getting into very black and white thinking and being all or nothing about a thing. And I it’s my perception that developmentally in the United States, people have a hard time holding complexity. And so there, people will polarize into a strong victim victimizer mindset, or you’re the good people. You’re the bad people. Or, we love everybody or we need to be in a severe justice mindset. Cause we, you can’t possibly be both loving and justice oriented.
And so there’s, we’re being asked to hold these polarities where on the one hand everybody’s just people. And however, the system is has many inequalities and intergenerational harms and impressions built into it. And so in that way, not everyone is ancestrally arriving to earth with the same advantages and infrastructure. They not afforded the same advantages. And yet if we flatten individuals to only their group, Then we’re saying that white people equal white supremacy or black people equal victims, or African-Americans are defined by the history of enslavement, which is it’s too. Those simplistic, not false, but incomplete lenses through which to view one, another risk perpetuating the harms we’re trying to create.
Yeah. It’s that as essentializing, I think it’s called a essentializing or essentialism.
Yeah. Yeah. Like that. And that’s the tricky thing about. Transforming racism. It’s such a bogus concept at its core that, but it certainly doesn’t work to just ignore it because that’s its own sort of enabling of the problem.
So there, the question is how do we give the right amount of attention and care to those harmful lenses that have been so internalized? Also like lovingly and creatively disrupting them and not letting those ways of thinking. Totally do. Yeah.
Yeah. Wow. Yeah, thank you so much for bringing that up. That it’s not a monolith. I completely agree with you.
Let me just have one piece to it. The one strategy for that. And it’s just one of many strategies is to be culturally specific if possible, like in having spent time in Nigeria, for example, I don’t know that most people in Nigeria have a strong identity as like black people, per se. There’s more like I’m your about Ebola, Houseton, Fulani whatever it might be. And so to see a black Americans, for example, or Nigeria, and be called gumbo is which it’s in Yerba word that often can be interpreted to mean. Person from England or a white person, but it’s the original meaning of the word, but it also just means foreigner.
And for someone who’s African-American and has for really understandable reasons Formed a strong sense of identity around being black to go there and be labeled by a black African as a foreigner is, can feel jarring, but it’s a way w part of what I, and I’m not saying African-American people aren’t savvy to the differences between African and African-American ways of thinking about race, but part of what can feel jarring about it is recognizing that this intense framework around racial identity that’s present in North America because of the miserable histories is not the framework that everybody in the world is operating from to the same degree. So people foreground it more around ethnicity or culture or geography or religious identity or whatever it might be.
Yeah. So important to point out the. Very American centric way that we view things that is just not reality and the rest of the world, and like honoring that and making space for that. And maybe even learning something from it.
There’s a lot of cultural trauma here. It’s really deep. It’s really stark and it comes out as some real polarized black and white harsh, and often punitive ways of moving. Even among people who extensively have very progressive or leftist type values. Sometimes the ways that those get expressed can be from a very punitive framework.
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I agree. I agree completely. So let’s talk about the cultural trauma. How does engaging with our ancestors relate to cultural healing?
One of the toxins that is also very present in at least the culture in the United States. Not that it’s one monolithic thing but let’s say American culture, we can generalize a little bit, at least is extreme individualism and the the emphasis on me, what’s my destiny. What am I supposed to do? What’s my calling what’s should my website be, what’s my story. Who am I? Identity. And that’s lonely making. I get it on one level, we’re unique, we’re individuals and there’s a church to that. And also our sense of belonging is embedded in networks of kinship that include not just other living humans, but ideally include the ancestors of blood and other ancestors that might matter to us and the other than humans, the land, the collective spirits of the plants and the animals and places and elements and deities and all of that. And so coming back into relationship with the ancestors and recognizing that there are legitimate kind of person or relative, or part of our kinship network breaks an old colonialist agreement that says only other living humans and especially only white people and especially only men and especially white men with money, especially in Christian White men with money who are straight and who behave in certain ways are full people. Everybody else has some version, less of a person. And so when you have that framework and that framework says people who talk to the spirits, that’s uneducated, dangerous Brown people behavior. That’s not what you do. If you do that out loud, you’re compromising your access to power. Imagine if an elected official in the United States was talking about relating with their ancestors, they ain’t talking about praying to God.
And yes, I prayed to God for guidance, and this is what I’m going to do. But if I prayed to my ancestors and this is what they told me to do, that I go, my God, what’s that, is that like a native American thing? Because people don’t have a framework for it because the To a degree I’m generalizing. There’s cultural difference, but I’m saying that at some point, a lot of our ancestors traded off those knowings for the ability to buy into a power structure is ultimately harmful. And so when we come back into communion with our own ancestors, we’re breaking those old agreements and they’re good to break. And when we do that, it’s an antidote a bit for loneliness. And it’s it’s a good for our sense of cultural worth and nuance and no self-esteem and it’s also good for a sense of of belonging and a sense of being able to remember specifically what our gifts are and what we’re here to do, and to see other people in a more generational and ancestrally situated context.
And to know that when you’re talking to somebody it’s you and your people talking to them and their people. And it’s like a, really a meeting of two communities and that framework it’s very basic, but it’s not. Present to a large degree and a lot of the culture, at least in the United States. And so part of what I’m focused on is having that be normalized in how we do psychotherapy, how we do educational system, how we do parenting, how we do culture that the dead are not dead. They’re still able to relate. They live in the present and they’re just part of our larger network of kinship. If I say, I’m a fan of social justice. Let’s have social justice, we need more of that. Great. And a lot of people will assume when they hear that, that, living humans ought to relate better with other living humans. And probably we need to change the actual systems, which kind of are their own thing in order to achieve that.
Great. That nothing about that is false. That is critically important stuff. Sincere respect to everybody focusing there. And additionally, what I would say is that if our picture of who society is, does not include the ancestors and the other than human people and the land who is alive and who is sentient and who has many different faces and voices from the spiders to the grizzly bears to the copper or in the earth. Like if those ones are not part of who society is if our sense of justice does not include them as sources of culture as community members, as part of our kinship network. Then we are unintentionally or unconsciously perpetuating a kind of eraser or a colonialist framework. That’s reenacting harm.
Absolutely. Thank you so much for, wow. Yeah. I got like chills a few times whenever you’re saying that. So yeah, let’s then let’s talk about the trauma of it. The collective trauma of losing touch with your lineage and the individual trauma of then feeling this sense of loss and aloneness and feeling lost because we don’t have that connection. So you’re a therapist, you’re a doctor of psychology. How does this ancestral healing square with your training as a therapist and a psychologist?
It’s a big question. For one trauma gets used in a more narrow, in a more general way, both of which are fine, but it’s good to have clarity in how the words being used in a more narrow way. We’re talking about things that would qualify typically for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and we could haggle about exactly how to define that, but people who have that diagnosis and have that symptom presentation know that it’s a thing it’s a body level, measurable thing. And so trauma in that way, it’s brain damage or nervous system damage. Now there’s neuroplasticity and the body can heal and change to a large degree, but trauma symptoms are super hard and they don’t always change that quickly. And things like insomnia or just being really nervous system activated or whatever it might be those Those things are very real. And respect to the way that a generalized use of the word trauma can sometimes unintentionally land as minimizing for people who have real body level trauma symptoms in an acute way. And what we’re really talking about is suffering in a big sense. And so the suffering is real.
However, we label it, let’s move beyond that into what do we do with all this suffering? For one there’s a tendency to say, it’s my trauma. It’s my pain. I’m suffering. Of course we’re the one experiencing it. However, if we come back to this extreme individualism again, What if I said that the pain that you or me, or most people that we’re experiencing is really the down lineage pain of misogyny, and exploitative, capitalism, and white supremacy and dislocation from land. Just like. Bad systems and exploitative behavior that shows up on a personal symptomatic level. And if if it just became extremely cold, let’s say where you’re at and you didn’t have any heat. And someone came along and was like, Lindsay, you’re a loser because you’re too cold.
That everyone would be like, this person is really judgmental. That’s not helpful. It’s cold. You can’t be faulted for the fact that you’re feeling the cold. You don’t have heat. And so it’s a systemic thing which matters because in all of my training, as a therapist, even a marriage and family therapist, as someone who has a systems orientation to healing, I was never, it was not really impressed upon me that anywhere between most and all of our suffering is systemic rather than fundament. The only personal that matters, because if we frame it as personal, though, there will tend to be an accompanying sense of shame, good and isolation. And if we can, I recognize that we are experiencing hardship from broken culture and systems.
There’s actually a sense of okay I can’t transform this all by myself and it’s not all my fault that I’m having a hard time. And so from that, we can start to tap into collective level blessings and goodness. And that’s something that’s helpful about work with the ancestors is that yeah, we might be down many interim legacies of sexual abuse and expectation of behavior and addiction and just bad stuff. Some people are like, why would I do ancestor work? My family and everything I know about the ones before them is a disaster. That’s the last place I want to focus. That’s a very understandable response. And I would say, yeah, don’t focus on the recent generations, but who we mean when we say the ancestors, the remembered dead, let’s say even the last 10 generations are just a fraction of our ancestors. Just the part of the ocean. You can see on a clear day like that 30 miles does not define the ocean. And so the act of coming into communion with often the much older wise and kind, and deeply awake and interconnected, dead, who were linked to through body and blood is in alignment with a bigger collective force.
And that collective force that we’re a part of can start to bring remedy to collective level troubles that we’re experiencing. So if we want to transform trauma, one of the things to do is frame it as not just individual. We need to stay true to our direct experience of course, but it’s systemic what we’re trying to transform. And part of healing trauma is healing. The story like Judith Herman’s early work on translating the trauma that was being articulated, especially from veterans of war to a domestic violence context in a relational context is important, feminist and clinician around trauma and. One of the things that she formed grounded is the importance of a restoring of a coherent narrative. They need to be able to eventually to talk about what’s happened in some capacity. And if our story replicates our aloneness, it’s not really going to be that transformative. So we need different stories that are not based in extreme individualism. In different stories that are not just I’m fundamentally harmful because I’m white or I’m fundamentally harmed because I’m other than white, it’s too polarizing.
I’m so glad that you brought up. Yes. Validating people with PTSD, things like that cause real, serious symptoms and can be identified, but also the systemic trauma of capitalism and patriarchy and colonialism and all of that.
And that’s actually something that I’ve. Wanted to talk about on the podcast. And I just need someone to talk to about it is I want to talk about the trauma of capitalism, like the collective trauma that we are literally all living under. It is the water we swim in. It’s. So apart of. Our daily lives and it informs so much of our choice and of how we live and move around in this world and interact with other people that we like literally don’t know that it’s actually oppressing us.
And so I’m really glad that you brought that up while we’re there for just a moment. It’s a, I don’t know I’m trying to be careful on how I speak of things. I don’t view. Capitalism fundamentally, always in a harmful way, the exploitative global multinational kind of capitalism that’s happening in much of the world. Yeah. Pretty much not working and other systems. Then capitalism can also be exploitative in some aspects or manifestations of capitalism can be positive. Absolutely. So what we’re really talking about is an equal distribution of resources, and a fundamental assumption that I can have a lot of stuff and you can have not enough. And that’s all right. And that’s ethical. So the greed and the in equal. Th the class and the equal distribution resources is I say that just because there’s a kind of intellectual laziness and just being like capitalism’s dumb and bad. I understand what’s meant by it, but I would say that it’s not always like that. There are other economic systems that are not capitalists that are terrible, right?
Yeah. No, thank you. That’s a good, that’s a good clarification. All so we know the importance of connecting with our ancestors. We know the importance of finding a lineage healing culturally reconnecting with those who are well in spirit so that, we can find healing for ourselves, but also for our families, for the people who come after us. How do we do that?
Oh there’s not just one way I the online courses and the people who have trained to guide the ancestral healing work are intended to serve as one culturally welcoming non-dogmatic entry point for cultural recovery. And I say that because it, there are a fair number of. People are more people who are basically saying, Hey, these things matter, you should value them. And I see that with some other colleague teacher people, and then the people work with them are like, great. I agree. Let us proceed to actually like I, I have the buy-in, how do we do it? And so in that way, I feel like I own approaches. I’m a, ritualist, I’m a pragmatic great. We can talk about swimming and we can read about it, but let us go to the pool.
And so how do we engage? There not just one starting point, you can engage in this cycle of work with your ancestors. You can choose to begin your engagement with the ones whose bodies are the land, the other than humans. The plants, the animals, et cetera. But what matters is that you do engage and that it’s, that you understand the difference between talking about a thing and thinking about it and actually stepping into relationship with the others and to see it as a very learnable and doable kind of process. I know I’m not totally answering your question of how it it’s not like a one, two, three in a way. It’s like it says it’s simple as that. You just begin. We’re already in relationship. You just you’re out to dinner and you notice that you’ve been standing. You’ve had your foot on top of the person’s foot that you’re having dinner with.
What’s the first thing you will, you take your foot off. You’re like, Oh, sorry. I didn’t know. Notice was standing on your foot. And so you look around your home and you’re like, Oh, sorry. Houseplants. Hi, I haven’t even said hi to you. I bought you at the store. Like what kind of plan are you? Where are your people from? Like good. See you, you start with what’s close is what I would say. You don’t reach for the exotic thing. You start with what’s close at hand where you’re already at. And in that way I think it’s a good place to start, especially for people who are more culturally dislocated or adrift as a lot of European ancestors settler colonialist folks tend to be just start with the cycle of ancestrally focused work. And to get to know directly your own ancestors and spirit. Cause they function as a, at that once there’s been healing as a internal guidance system, because there are so many other kinds of powers should I get to know the spirits of the whales or of the planet Mars or of this DD I’m interested in or the local plants or I don’t even know what to do. And you ideally let that process of where should I focus? Be informed by what your specific destiny and needs are here on earth, because we’re also all going to be dead soon to focus a little bit. Yeah. Very true. A lot of cool stuff to get into, focus a little if you can. Yeah. So how do you focus where you have to get clear about who you are and what you need to be spending your time with? Yeah. And then you relate with the powers that are going to help you along in that.
Yeah, and I will put in a plug for your book. Your book, ancestral medicine has actual spelled out rituals in it for connecting to ancestors and having ancestors come through. How, like knowing how to work with the ones who are well in spirit and how to let the ones who are well in spirit, take care of the ones who aren’t.
I found your book very helpful. I know this is a very out there topic, very woo topic, but I found your book to feel very it made it tangible, it made it grounded in something that, Oh, here is something that I can do. I’m not just like sitting in my room, with my legs crossed. And my eyes closed expecting that a cloud of people is going to appear to me, although that’s certainly possible.
Sure. I there’s nothing spiritual about relating with the dead. It’s the idea of spirituality and religion is a bogus concept that hinges upon the idea of unspiritual things. And it’s just life. It’s the same way about the idea of nature. Nature is a harmful concept that suggests that there’s humans and nature as if there was ever a split between the two. And there’s nothing special about talking to dead people. And there’s nothing inherently safe about it either. Any more than it’s inherently safe to talk to other living humans, you wouldn’t have a party and be like, I’m going to invite some humans. You can be specific about who you want to invite. So they say it’s the same when you’re relating with the dead. And I just re I would make a plug for the. The practitioners and trainees in the ancestral medicine network, in terms of places to start, there’s currently over 60 folks from lots of different ancestries backgrounds.
And those sessions are available in English, Spanish, French, and Greek, I believe at present and working one-on-one with someone is a good way to go. Like you wouldn’t expect yourself. If you were going to learn another language. You could try to teach yourself, but at a certain point, you need to interact with somebody who’s a speaker of that language and have them hold space for you. It’s much more efficient in that way. Having somebody anchor a space for you is can be really nice. And the way they work is not through being like Lindsey or grandfather says to tell you this it’s more about holding a space for you to connect with your own people directly. So they’re not functioning as mediums or channels. It’s more like a facilitator for you to tune in directly. But again, I just come back to thinking about it and an entertaining it and seeing it as a good thing to do, doesn’t risk that much. It’s actually doing the thing and picking up the phone. That’s the vulnerable part. So that’s the leap. So if people, if your listeners notice like, Oh, this all sounds nice, am I going to do anything about it? And I don’t know. And so explore that so that the vulnerability of actually coming into conversation with our ancestors and feeling Oh, there’s unpredictability in that. Cause these are legitimate others, right?
Yeah. It’s interesting. Whenever I first having more awareness of like ancestors and doing ancestor, work, reading your book, having ceremonies in my house, things like that. So the ancestor that I am, I would say the closest to is my maternal grandmother. She’s my name all she’s the only grandparent that I ever really had. And when she passed. 10 years ago. I got some of her things like a bowl that I used to make chocolate pudding with at her house and her cast, iron skillet, and a few other things.
And so I have those things in my house. And then I also have a picture of her in my office. I had the intention I want to connect with my ancestors. I want to reconnect Memaw if you’re listening, I’m here. It was really, it was very, nonprofessional, non ritualistic. It was just basically like putting it out there okay, I’m open to this thing. Like whatever you could do to show up hopefully I’ll know what it is. And not too long after that. Like we have hummingbird feeder outside of our house that we only have up in the summertime obviously. Cause I live almost in the North pole. But we have hummingbirds coming to the feeder and one day it was just like, I was watching these hummingbirds and for whatever reason, I started thinking about my wall. And then I realized like if my Memaw was an animal, she would be a hummingbird. That is like everything about her reminded me of a hummingbird.
And she even used to make a cake called a hummingbird cake whenever I was little. So I was like, okay, I’m taking this, that you’re signed to me that you’re near, or that you’re watching over me or wanting to speak with me is a hummingbird, however, hummingbird appears. So one day I was at my computer and I was doing family tree work and. It was one of those days where I had so much momentum doing like family tree work that I had literally bought a white pages.com account and called like 10 strangers who I thought I might’ve been related to who might’ve had information about our family. Like it was one of those kinds of days.
And I actually had some really good conversations with people and it was a lovely day. Anyway, at the end of the day, I was. I spent, I was tired. I’d been in front of my computer all day long. I closed my laptop. I was at my kitchen counter. I looked over out the window and right in front of the window, hovering outside the window was a hummingbird. And I was just like, okay I’m on the right track. Memaw, you’re here. You’re guiding me and doing this. And then not too long ago. Of course, it’s winter here. Now we’re recording this at the end of February, 2021. And I was doing a ritual in my office. Where I called on my angels, my, spirit guides, ancestors who are well in spirit and anything else that wanted to support me in my journey. And How did my picture of my name, all that I always have whenever I do rituals, she’s my symbol of all my ancestors had that there. And I had some music playing. It was like a random playlist that I chose. I’d never heard it before, but I just pulled this playlist and I was doing some boundary work and casting, some spells around boundaries and protection and stuff. And then I was done with what I was doing. I was blowing out all my candles. I was putting things away and the song that came up. On the playlist was called hummingbird. So it was like even when there was no physical way that a hummingbird could appear outside my window or in the feeder, my Memaw was still there and she still comes through to me. And that’s about as far as I’ve gotten, other than just feeling leadings toward various things like my Scottish Highlander, ancestry, and my sort of fascination with the Scottish Highlands. And then the way that I communicate with my Meemaw, that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. But it’s like really cool whenever you just put the intention out there that, Hey, I’m open to this thing. However, it ends up coming into my life. It comes in the most unusual and unexpected of ways.
Yeah, that’s good. Nice work with that. And. And sincerely. Yeah, the thing I would underscore is ritual arts, or really just relationships with the others, the dead, the land, the deities, the spirits. However you want to think about it. Those are learned and learnable things. And if you grow up in a culture that normalizes that. Then you get that learning from early on. If you grow up in a bilingual environment, then you have that from early on. Like we’re raising our children bilingual in Spanish, and it’s a delight to see that their ease with the language is probably going to exceed mine. Cause I didn’t get exposed to it. I was in seventh, eighth grade. And so there’s a natural on this that can happen. If you get it early, however, if you don’t, it’s still learnable. And once you’re back in communication, you’re back in communication. Yeah. And so it’s not, you don’t have to be of a certain ancestry or of a certain identity to relate with the ancestors nor does doing that, have to change your sense of identity. You don’t have to put up a, I talk to dead people website, just get in touch with your grandfather or whatever. And so the it’s normal and the other thing is. To be technical about it. You’re talking about the distinction between the term materialist, or we could say colonialist epistemologies or ways of knowing and what I would describe as more animist or you perhaps you could say indigenous, but really more ecological or earth honoring ways of knowing that include things like synchronicity or the dead speaking through animals or through dreams or direct, intuitive knowing, or just direct body levels and, communication, things like that tend to be judged as Wu or fringe and whatnot that we can joke about it. But really there’s a harmful ultimately like racist or supremacist edge.
To that judgementalness that says, if you’re not operating from a materialist reductionist view, then you don’t get buy in to the power structure and you get marginalized. And that added it’s a supremacist attitude that controls what ways of knowing are permitted. Wow. It has real direct day-to-day harm and the lives of people and their connection with the land and the ancestors and all of it. And it’s possible to. Interrupted and to do it a different way, for sure.
Yeah. Thank you so much for pointing that out. Okay. You were talking about animism, and I believe you have a new course coming up. So what is exciting for you? What are you teaching these days that people who are listening can learn more about and possibly sign up for?
We have four developed online courses now through ancestral medicine, the ones happening this spring are animal psychology and foundations of ritual and the animal psychology. One is the newest one that’s been created and it’s my attempt to bridge my training as a therapist and doctor of psychology with ritual. And it’s, that’s enjoyable. I, the. Ran the course for the first time in the fall of last year, it was very well received. And the other is on just how to get started with ritual. How to think about it, talk about it, practice it, what to do. And then the other two courses will happen again in the spring, they’re currently underway. Our ancestral lineage healing and practical animism, which is how to come back into relationship respectfully with with the dead, with the human dead, and then also at the land with the other than humans. So they’re foundational courses, but I enjoy that kind of work and creating off-ramps from the dominant culture for people to not just identify with cool earthy stuff, but to actually gain the skills, to be able to have conversation and Solidarity through purchase a patien with others who never left a more relational framework.
That’s beautiful. Thank you. That’s exciting. We will have links to all of that and how to get in touch with you and your book and everything else in the show notes of this episode. Thank you so much for being here today.
Thank you Lindsey for your time and for your service with the podcast.
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