Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.
- Epicurus, "Letter to Menoeceus"
My family is a bit odd, and always has been. We tend to be rather non-contact, and by that I mean we don’t talk or get involved in each other’s lives. I have Uncles I have never met, a brother I talk to once every couple years, parents whom I talk to maybe twice a year, and see only every 3 or 4. It isn’t that we’re mad at each other, or in some sort of feud. We just are not connected by anything other than genetics, and that makes relationship hard when you don’t even live in the same state. We have no reason to just sort of run into each other, and so the only contact is that which we are willing to work for. We seem to just be too lazy to work that hard at it.
I think it is this family dynamic that has made ancestor work so extremely difficult for me. My contact with my living family is so nebulous, so how could I possibly know where to start with those gone into the grave? Enter National Geographic and their gene/deep ancestor test. I figured it was as good place to start as any. Being a woman I could only trace my female line, and somehow that seemed appropriate. The women are so easy to loose in the paper trails because of name changes and being lost to the emphasis placed men’s lines. So, I spent my money and swabbed my cheek expecting a result of England or extreme Western Europe. I was extremely surprised. The men’s last names in my family (especially on my mother’s side) almost come exclusively from western Europe, but my genetic test showed that the furthest west the female line comes from is possibly Romania, and that might be pushing it. I have more in common genetically with the Bedouin then I do with anyone from England, according to the test.
This allowed me a chance to focus on something a little more substantive during my trance work that focused on my ancestors. It didn’t solve all of my issues in trying to connect with this rather elusive group, but it did help. Part of the issue I do have with ancestor work is...how long does someone stay dead? Is it forever, or do people eventually reincarnate. Do they just devolve/solve after time into the ether of nothingness?
What happens after we die is a question that almost every major religion has tackled at some point. Each has come to same very different conclusions. My first response to what happens is, Who the hell knows, and even those who do know, don’t exactly tell much about it in clear terms. In the books I have been reading on Thanadoula work, I have learned of what is called, "Nearing Death consciousness." People who are in the process of dying often will see visions of those who have died before them, as well as a place that they cannot describe, but only speak of it as an amazing, beautiful place beyond words.
If we follow Terry Pratchett’s views on the subject (and I tend to think the man is on to something profound), everyone gets what they are expecting. If this is true, I most as like end up no where near the place that many of my more recent Christian ancestors found themselves after the great ending. Will I wake to find myself on the plains of Asphodel when I die? I doubt I will have been virtuous enough to get Elysium, or evil evil enough for Tartarus. Will I wind up in the heaven of my childhood faith? ~Shudder~ I certainly hope not. Will I eventually drink from the River Lethe, forget who I was, and be reborn? Will I simply slip into nothingness? I certainly have no issue with this last one.
This brings me back to my ancestors, and my work with them. Are the deepest, oldest of them still there to work with? I have no fast or ready answers. I just know that in my work, I feel something there. Perhaps the most recently dead, or those who have died and been reborn so many times that they can choose to stay as spirit? Hard to say for sure, but I guess I’ll know the truth of it, or lack there of, when I get there.