So few degrees of separation

William Brewster

William Brewster

My parents, at 92, don’t really shop any more.  So for birthdays and holidays they give a check and I pick my own gift.  This year for my birthday I bought an Ancestry DNA test and then took advantage of a sale and purchased six months of membership so I’d be able to take advantage of the test results.  I’ve been immersed in research ever since and feeling such shifts because of it.

Thomas Prence

I’ve filled in some extensive branches of the tree, found out I’m a Mayflower Descendant, a many times great granddaughter of a governor of the Plymouth Colony and a distant cousin to Frank and Jesse James.  Oh and my great grandfather died as a result of wounds sustained in a knife fight with a Constable who was trying to arrest him.  Whew.

Thomas Gaitskill stabbing

All the research I’ve done before this seemed to lead to poor tenant farmers who left the British Isles to try for a better chance over here.  And everyone I’d found owned a farm over here.  I thought of my ancestors as up-by-the-bootstraps poor folks, some of whom prospered well in the “new land”.  I saw poverty consciousness, anger and repression.

Now I see the Gaitskills were actually ship captains for a few generations.  And bunches of my ancestors were fairly prominent in the Virginia Colony.  It’s hard to describe the inner shift it creates to feel I came from people from all walks of life and that they weren’t all poor and scrabbling.  I have the qualities of those leaders and movers and shakers in me as well.  It makes me feel…  different.

As I discover surname after surname on my tree, read histories of Colonial Virginia that are loaded with these names, check out the migration pattern of all those names into Kentucky, and extend my tree, I’m so amazed to realize all these connections.  To see that I have cousins of various levels by the hundreds of thousands out there [just to give you an idea, they estimate the number of current descendants of my one 10x great grandfather Mayflower passenger is multi-thousands and we all have 4196 10x great grandparents — do the math!!!].  Suddenly it’s so clear that the “one web” isn’t just an amorphous spiritual concept but a physical reality.

Just as I found out several years ago that an acquaintance of several years is actually my double fourth cousin, we’re all probably passing cousins in the street all the time, friends with cousins, working with cousins.  My seemingly all-British roots turn out to go back to Europe and ancestors who entered Britain as part of the Norman invasion, according to the DNA test.  And there are hints of ancestors before that who go back to some sort of migration from India.  Slaveholders in my tree have provided me with Black cousins.  My cousin’s children are half Chinese.  I’m connected to every other race and many ethnicities even though hundreds of years of history say I’m WASP through and through.

I’m sure the same is true of most of the people who wear their whiteness as some sort of badge of honor that makes them better or more entitled or whatever their goofy thought process is.  If they only knew their whole ancestral picture I wonder if it might change them?  It becomes so clear — at least to me — that we are all separated by only a few degrees.  One.  All one.

Healing the Ancestors

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you know that I’ve been exploring various aspects of ancestors and their influence off and on for some time (if you haven’t you can put “ancestors” in the search bar in the right column and you’ll see other posts about it). When I wrote my novel in the 90’s, Echoing Ancestors, I obviously had inklings of the big role our forebears play but it’s really only been in the last few years that I’ve worked my way toward more understanding. I guess the shaman who told me there was an issue in my maternal line that went back seven generations led me to begin exploring.

As often happens, the more I aware I became of how my ancestors have influenced me, the more information about it appeared. Recently I started feeling that a lot of the remaining issues in my muscles were inherited from my ancestors. In conversation with Kreig about Bodypatterning he provided a lot of information derived from Rupert Sheldrake and David Bohm about many kinds of physical patterns that can be passed down for many generations. Genealogy research led me to realize that most of my ancestors came to America very poor and that regardless of whether they did well or not they lived from a place of poverty consciousness and that that has continued to the present even in branches of my family that had been wealthy for some time.

In a long discussion with Kreig—who, like me, has deep roots in Kentucky—we agreed that probably most people whose families go back for many generations in Kentucky have some degree of poverty consciousness as part of their legacy. So we decided that it would be interesting to invite some Kentuckians for a healing ceremony for the ancestors.  I wanted to keep it small so I invited six people and suggested that they could invite a few more (although I secretly kind of wanted six). The numbers waxed and waned and by the day before I felt a little nervous because it seemed to be getting big, but in that way the universe has of resolving all things a lot of factors intervened and in the end there were exactly six of us.

First, we just talked about ancestral issues, with Kreig and I discussing the path that led us to the ceremony and everyone discussing their ancestral tales. Then, after resonating into heart energy, we created a circle in which each person spent some time in the middle with the whole group sending healing energy to all that person’s ancestors. As we worked we felt the room filling with ancestors and a growing energy. After each person experienced healing for their own line we all chanted the lovingkindness chant for all of Kentucky’s ancestors. All of us agreed that it was a powerful experience.

Kreig wisely pointed out that an important feature of this work is do the work but let go of the story. In other words don’t get caught up in the story of poverty consciousness so that you’re held there, just be aware of the influences from your forebears, heal it and move on. He also reminded us that the ancestors aren’t just a big problem to be eradicated but that in shamanic tradition you can also call upon the ancestors for assistance—so why not ask them to help in this healing?

As I saw different participants in the next week I heard lots of tales of being spaced out for a few days or feeling that something had shifted. I have moved into a much better space both physically and mentally and suddenly a lot of things about my business life—which had seemed mired in some kind of block to success—started moving. Now, of course, I’ve been doing practices, seeing bodyworkers, and working hard to release issues, raise energy, etc., for many years (including lots of Reiki and EFT for my ancestors and ancestral issues) so I have to say I don’t know that that one ceremony would have produced such a powerful effect without all that came before, but it still feels like a big turning point.

Some of us are talking about having an ancestral healing ceremony every couple of months because we felt it had such a profound impact. I’m hearing that some therapists are starting to recommend doing some genealogical research before starting therapy as the ancestors have such a powerful influence on our lives. I highly recommend exploring your family tree and figuring out what kind of ancestral healing you’d like to do.

See also:,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&bvm=bv.41524429,d.b2U&fp=99bbb1d5e9938d35&ion=1&biw=1366&bih=643