Working with Recent Ancestors

In my recent re-exploring of the Ma’at current, I have been struck by the importance of how we work with concepts of balance and time within the magical project of personal and collective alchemy.  As already considered, for me part of the genius of Nema’s work is the way in which the scales of Ma’at seek balance in the present by consciously engaging with the future (as embodied by N’Aton), and the history of our primal drives (the forgotten ones).


The moment of Truth

As part of my day-job I run a small family therapy clinic that aims to help groups of people consider how they communicate with each other. When I sit with families of all different shapes and sizes (some formed by biology and others by intention), I try to invite them to be curious about how they connect to each other and also whether there are ways in which they would like to improve communication. Part of what we do together is to adopt a detective-like interest in the often unspoken principles that shape our interactions. When these principles are applied to the practicalities of daily life they often become manifested as ‘scripts’ that determine the way people relate to each other. As with scripts in a play, we are often given rules about a whole range of things (such as who cooks the food and who resolves the arguments) that have been handed to us by previous generations. These scripts are often shaped by deep-seated beliefs regarding gender, illness and success, and within families we can be warned against departure from these via cautionary family legends regarding disasters that will befall us if we do.

In exploring with people why they think this type of therapy might help, our initial piece of work is often focused on trying to bring these previously buried beliefs above ground. One tool that we can employ to unearth this material is a genogram, or family tree. By mapping out the members of a family through three or four generations, we can begin to gain a picture of how styles and stories have been co-created over time. The scripts we inherit aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but often the people who attend family therapy are doing so because these scripts are no longer functional and are causing people to get stuck.

This is a process of externalisation where (at least for that moment) we consciously consider a difficulty as if it were separate from the group or individual reflecting upon them.  When we can name the scripts at work and the principles that might lay behind them, so we can create a small sense of space to explore within. In being able to stand slightly Meta to these narratives, we can begin to consider the possibility of improvising new styles of interaction that allow different types of behaviour to be considered.


Genogram, or Sigil; or both?

As you are reading this description of this style of work, I’m hoping that you as magically curious folks are beginning to spot parallels with some of the ritual processes that you are engaged in. Magic that has a focus on the initiatory transformation of Self almost inevitably has to engage with some of the baggage and conditioning that we have inherited. If my magic is focused on allowing more liberated and peaceful versions of who I am, then I will need to begin a process on naming those inherited scripts/thought forms/entities that I experience as limiting. Whether we describe this conditioning in terms of Tantric Kleshas (shells) that need breaking down, or as parasitic entities that need to be ritually contained, by magically externalising them, we create the possibility of engaging with them in a more creative manner.

This process of trying to understand repeating patterns of behaviour and how they have been manifested within an individual’s history has also been helpful in my own work with my ancestors. At the beginning of our monthly Zen Hearth we consciously honour “Our Gods, Our Ancestors and the Spirits of this Place” and like many people not every ancestral relationship is an easy one. For me, being able to take one step back in trying to understand the origins of difficult dynamics has allowed me to gain some insight on any positive values they have passed to me. This does not absolve anyone of abusive behaviour, but it does provide a potential opportunity for gaining a new and wider perspective.

For me the therapy room and the magical circle have a number of similarities. Hopefully both provide the opportunity for safe exploration, the gaining of insight and the potential for healing. Both of these environments invite us to take risks, but hopefully the scaffolding of solid theory and good practice allow us some degree of confidence in stepping out. In my experience, both work well when there is a high level of transparency about the process being undertaken and sensitivity to the dynamics of power at play.

Part of why I continue to describe myself as being as a magician as well as being a bit of a mystic, is that in contrast to some forms of mystical encounter, I work hard at naming and understanding the process of what I do. Yes emotional and/or mystical stuff may occur as a result of my framing of my ritual activity, but the scene setting and conscious structure of the work allows me a more conscious process of integration. I have lots of builders and crafts’ people in my family line, and although many of them might struggle with the strange path I have followed, I hope at least that they can appreciate my attention to detail!


4 thoughts on “Working with Recent Ancestors

  1. Bill A says:

    Nice article. I am reentering the field of Social Work through substance abuse. Your example of group and family dynamics awoke meny interesting ideas. I would be interested in more discussion along theses lines.

  2. Lunam Grove says:

    Very intriguing! Showing once again the closer links between magick and psychology. Excellent!

  3. Charles says:

    Really resonate with thisko

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