We all come from a long line of ancestors dating back millions of years. While our ancestors have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago.
Our lineage includes: Those not yet born, living descendants, you, living elders, remembered dead, lineage between ancestral guides and remembered dead, ancestral guides, and collective human ancestors 200,000 BCE to ancestral guides (Ancestral Medicine p. 117).
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Imagine everything that has happened within your ancestral lines: The emotional upheaval, the celebrations, the magic, the wisdom, the pain, struggle, abuse, ecstasy, and the fullness of the human experience throughout history.
All of these threads from your ancestral lines are part of you. In fact, the information and the experiences exists within your DNA.
How do ancestral experiences influence DNA?
You see, scientists used to believe that we were born with a fixed genetic blueprint that determined our traits, behaviors, and health. Recent discoveries in the field of epigenetics have radically rebooted this theory by demonstrating that our DNA is more of a switchboard than a blueprint.
This is the study of molecular changes that don’t alter DNA code but, rather, influence which genes turn on or off—in other words, which genes express or manifest.
Gene expression governs how the genetic code translates into proteins, which are the worker bees of the body. These proteins include enzymes vital for life functions, and hormones that act as messengers, traveling throughout the body to direct bodily function and even mood.
We know that diet and chemical exposure can cause epigenetic changes that can pass down to descendents. Scientists have been asking if experiences like child neglect, drug abuse or other severe stresses can also set off epigenetic changes to the DNA inside the neurons of a person’s brain.
Geneticists have found that epigenetic change could be passed down from parent to child, one generation after the next.
Scientists are still uncovering the details of how epigenetic works. But it seems clear that our ancestors’ strength, resilience, pain, and challenges alter the expressions of our genes, influencing our lives, dispositions, health, moods, and possibly behaviors.
I think of this ancestral healing as a two-pronged approach
1. Working with the ancestors who are unwell to help them cross to the other side.
It can be helpful to focus on the strength and resilience of those who came before. At the same time, the challenges and traumas need healing.
In recent centuries, our cultures and societies have strayed from traditional burials and ways of handling death. As a result, there are ancestors who are not well and are still in need of healing before they are able to cross over to the other side.
These ancestors are not really ancestors (because they are not helping guides but instead ghosts stuck in limbo). That is why when we summon the ancestors during ceremony and ritual, we always say, “benevolent ancestors” or “ancestors who are well” only.
Whether or not your relatives know that you are working to heal your lineage, you may see shifts in your family members as a result of ancestral healing. That is because when you complete these healings for yourself and your ancestral lines, the healings affect your ancestors and your descendants, forward and backwards like a spider web.
This work is not for the faint of heart—it is the dirty work of shamanism. There are things in our lineages that we may rather not know about, and rather not see. I recommend doing this work with support of a trusted shamanic practitioner. If you do it yourself, take one step at a time, and do not take on too much at once.
We can do this in a couple of ways.
- Work with the ancestors in journey states. Begin to understand the stories and struggles of those in your lineage. What are the patterns that tend to repeat themselves? What is the unfinished business of the dead?
- The next step is to ask what repairs are necessary along your lineage. Then work with the ancestors to make those repairs.
2. Healing one’s own DNA and unlocking the genetic codes that have been suppressed due to ancestral experiences
Those eons of trauma and perpetuated negative patterns of our ancestors have a great potential to hold us back as individuals and as a collective.
For example, consider the systems of oppression that exist within the United States, such as oppression of people of color and oppression of women. These systems of oppression have persisted for centuries and millennia. Is it possible that a mass movement ancestral healing could begin to support shifts in peoples behaviors?
Consider both the ancestral experiences of a) generations of slaves and their descendants and b) generations of colonizers, conquerors, and slave owners and their descendants. It is logical that these groups continue to pass down their behaviors, beliefs, fear, struggles, and pain to their descendants. Without the help of ancestral healing, these perpetuated patterns continue to affect life on an individual and collective level.
After you have done the work to become familiar with what has happened within your ancestral line, there are various ways that you can unlock what has been unavailable to you and your family within your genetic code. You can do this through creating ceremony, ritual, or through shamanic journey work.
Shamanic ancestral healing can shift cultural patterns and world trajectory
Ancestral healing and unlocking previously unavailable genetic code is available to us all. Those who are practicing shamanism have a responsibility to assist and support their communities in doing this work. As a result the effects of these healings can reach far and wide in service of shifting the cultures that we live in.
It’s clear to me that we have lost our connection to ourselves and the earth. I believe that when we clear harmful mindset patterns and ancestral wounds, life on on earth will shift.