get link Cemeteries were often located at the edges of a farmstead or village. Their placement there served as a representation of the claim the living inhabitants felt they had on the land they worked. The living could point — literally — to their ancestors having lived in and worked the same land.
The ancient Germanic conception must lie somewhere in the middle, although precisely where is impossible to say — due, as with so many other areas of our knowledge of this worldview, to the sparseness of the primary sources. Land spirits and elves occupied much the same role as the ancestors in the religious customs of the pre-Christian northern Europeans. They were propitiated in much the same way and held influence over many of the same aspects of the lives of humans. Even the dwelling-places of these types of beings overlapped; elves were traditionally associated with the burial mounds and chambers of the human dead, and would commonly receive sacrifices at these places.
Perhaps the most striking example of this connection comes from The Saga of Olaf the Holy , one of the first Christian kings of Norway. The same passage also insinuates that King Olaf is the reincarnation of the deceased Olaf,  presumably through the hamingja. Part of the elder Olaf seems to have become an elf, while another part has been passed on to Olaf the younger. Today, we tend to think of the dead as either ceasing to exist as anything besides a chunk of inert matter to be stuffed with formaldehyde so as to delay its reintegration into the land, or as an incorporeal, floaty thing sufficiently removed from the tangible world as to have no influence upon it or relationship with it at all.
For the ancient northern Europeans, however, the dead continued to reside amongst their human and ecological community in some capacity, and had the power to bless those who blessed them. On her side, we have records of the German family in the United States going back to the s. At one point they were Pennsylvania Dutch, so for a long time I thought that meant we had Dutch ancestors too. The family ended up owning farmland in northern Indiana in a town with a road still named after them.
He was deployed to the Pacific to fight the Japanese and involved in Iwo Jima. Our grandmother told us a story about being at a party while the men were deployed, during which they broke plates because they had been made in Japan. My grandfather returned with several hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder and rarely spoke of his experience. Catholicism gave my parents common ground, though Irish and Italian Catholicisms are quite different. Irish Catholicism brings a lot of the influences we negatively associate with Catholicism in terms of severity and denial of the body and sexuality, though it also evokes a high level of mysticism and awareness of the spiritual dimensions of reality.
Italian Catholics seem far more about the culture, the pageantry, and the rituals that unite. In my experience, Italian Catholics listened to the guidance of their priests, bishops, and the Pope; then, they went to do whatever the hell they wanted; then, they came back for Confession and called it good. The God of my recent ancestors has been Jehovah, the Christian God.
My immediate ancestors prayed for the dead and honored a version of the divine feminine in Mary. Some of them believed that God, Mary, and Satan truly walk this earth at times, intervening directly in our lives. Some of them believe that Mary blesses her faithful, turning their rosaries gold to signify their devotion. Yet how could I honor a God whose churches said I was objectively disordered and living in sin as a gay man, whose teachings seemed increasingly out of alignment with my own truth?
Yet if I did not honor that God, how could I feel at home with my family, who prays the rosary together in times of great need and crisis? The Greek myths, the Graeco-Roman overlaps, the stories of Christianity all intrigued me. As a baby witch trying to connect to ancestry, I looked to the Celtic, Norse, and Roman pantheons and myths to see if any of those Gods were interested in me.
My community honored Brigid during Imbolc, and I felt a friendly affinity toward her. Another community that I worked with has a deep relationship with the Norse, but Freya and her kin seemed uninterested in me.
The Dwarfs venerate their ancestors instead of worshipping otherworldly gods. They believe that the spirits of the Ancestors watch over them, guide their actions, . In African indigenous religions, the principal deities, spirits, gods, ancestors, and personal and impersonal forces are regarded as active agents in the created.
Roman religion was of a distant, intellectual curiosity, more for the questions it raised than the practices and deities associated. Gods whose lineages, teachings, and practices originated across the known world, reaching back even to Egypt, worshipping Isis, an Egyptian Netjeru who became exalted upon the world stage.
Indeed, images of Isis nursing her infant Horus preceded or perhaps inspired later images of Mary with her infant Jesus. The more I thought about it, the less it made sense to me to think I had any idea who the Gods of my ancestors were. Or maybe my soul reincarnated from a past life in which it was dedicated to the Netjeru. I simply know these are the Gods who call to my soul, to whom I am called, and studying what I can of Kemetic history and practice inspires and nourishes me. What concerns me more is the need to argue with these explanatory models and teachings that ended up having little to do with my experience.
The other unspoken parenthesis comes into play when white Pagans talk about people of color working with their ancestral practices. As though the descendants of slaves, who were forcibly brought to this continent and experienced years of servitude and sexual violence by white masters that produced children, have no genetic lineage to Europe!
Though we share the same Italian-Sicilian grandparents, would a white Pagan counsel them to study Italian witchcraft? My Italian and my Irish ancestors were only granted access to whiteness relatively recently. Italians were subject to racism and lynching even into the earliest twentieth century. I recognize, and get reminded when I forget, that I must humble myself in study and contemplation of a world and society for which I have little understanding.
The Two Lands thrived for millennia, its remains still standing strong, but the teachings and ways of its people are very little like the life I have in the Pacific Northwest today. The Netjeru were as much entities of place as they are connected to the larger principles of life, the cosmos, and humanity. The inundation of the Nile is distant, I cannot comprehend its significance in a deep and direct way. Not long after I began my courtship with Anubis, my father and his wife went to Italy so he could immerse himself in the language and research our family heritage.
My sister and I were able to visit him in Florence. I marveled at walking the same streets as Dante Aligheri. Perhaps I even walked the same streets as my ancestors, though the ones we knew of came from small towns. At the Baptistery of San Giovanni, my sister was surprised when I pointed out the Zodiac imagery painted in its interior.
The same Zodiac whose symbols have been found inscribed in Kemetic sarcophagi, symbols whose roots go back to Babylon. Inside the neighboring Duomo, we lit candles and knelt in prayer. I knelt awkwardly, the old prayers feeling a poor fit in my mouth, but I knew I was in the house of the God of my ancestors.
But if you care for my family, then I will honor you for that. After a few minutes I felt myself soften and begin to offer gratitude and respect for what I could. I sensed a beam of spiritual energy touching my heart, emanating from the altar. It was not a conversion or a moment of divine ecstasy; it was a rapprochement. I felt we were at peace with each other. In my core witchcraft practice, we have a notion of what we call Self-possession, when the God Soul descends to permanently and immanently connect with the body and other parts of soul.
Descriptions of this are of a sphere surrounding and intersecting the top and back of the head. Here I am, though, being problematic again.
This makes me more likely to look at foreign contexts and project my biases onto them, rather than humble myself to their difference. And cultural purity is a bizarre concept. It defies millennia of documented exchanges and migrations. It defies how culture works, how it gets transmitted and transformed and reformed.
How it becomes imprinted on the body, created through the body, transforms the body, but is not the body. A person who identifies as white in the United States has no claim to cultural purity. Whiteness is not an ethnic heritage. Whiteness is not a country of origin from which our ancestral practices, language, religion, clothing, and art emerged.
Whiteness is a culture, insofar as it prescribes us to speak, act, believe, and dress in particular ways. It punishes those of us who do not conform, all the while trying to pass itself off as an apolitical universal norm. Cultural purity in the hands of whiteness is another weapon against people of color.