Here in the North the season of dying back is upon us – the leaves are falling away and the trees and plants are going deep within, sending energy to their roots for the long winter’s process of repair and new growth beneath the surface. The rains are coming to nourish those roots, the low grey skies lend their shelter to migrating birds resting briefly on the stirred-up seas before traveliing south, and the air is rich with the smell of earth and a hint of ferment. Last night we heard an owl mewling in a tree very close to the house.
Festivals of the dead are in progress. Friendly ghosts and skeletons are everywhere, but also, we find friends and neighbors honouring their ancestors along with their more recently departed with special meals, altars, and remembrances.
Everything is calling us to study the dark, and to contemplate our roots. We may be craving more rest and solitude, as our psyches too seek to go deep repair and nourish roots.
I came across an article recently about epigenetics – the exploration of the possibility that our genes can retain experiences and memories, and pass those along to subsequent generations. This did not surprise me. I have always felt this as a truth in my own being. I have ancestral memories.
Does this idea feel true to you? Sensing your way into the roots of your psyche, what do you find? Deep in our cells our foremothers speak to us. For me this is most clear in my relationship to the natural world around me, and to the cycles of nature.
In many ways, our culture is bereft. We have lost the art of living with our awareness embedded in natural cycles and the ecosystem. In traditional cultures, women’s wisdom was paramount. We held the knowledge of plants for medicine and food, the stories of survival, the practices of birthing and dying, the keys to physical pleasure. When I say this I am not referencing some hopeful fakelore about the mysterious and magical powers of the feminine. no, I am speaking of the same practicalities of survival that women deal with today: front line child care, elder care, food and medicine sourcing and preparation, and the emotional nurturance of familial and social bonds. The difference today is that much of this work is mediated by the overculture – agribusiness, the pharmaceutical industry and all the other structures that even when benign or benevolent serve to distance us from the source of power and wisdom that is the natural world. We suffer from this disconnection, we suffer physically, emotionally, and spiritually.Our craving for connection sometimes leads us down unwholesome paths, but this is unnecessary. Connection is as close as our own mind and body. Connection is already embedded in us, in cells and spirit.
The arising of ancestral wisdom in us can feel at times supernatural, but most often it feels so ordinary that we don’t question or notice it. Fragments of memory and images, visceral responses to odors, subtle desires and gentle yearnings of the body at certain times of year and in certain weather, our attraction to certain plants and flowers; many of listen deep, pay attention, and these are revealed as the gentle voices of the women who came before.
Do you want to nourish your roots? Become quiet enough to hear these gentle, wise voices. Pay attention to the world around you; go outside and smell the air, walk out into the ancestral night and allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. What do you see?