EARTH

Boundaries

&

Welcoming

 

MINERAL

 

Separation

&

Life Purpose

 

WATER

Grief Listening

&

Praise Talk

 

FIRE

Injured Lineage

&

Mythic Allies

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NATURE

Reaction

&

Response

Researcher Free Course—Fire—4 of 5

Fire Medicine:  Engaging the Ancestors as Wild Allies

 
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INTRODUCTION

Elements | Fire | Introduction

Do you hear the old voices calling? There is always a part of us that is growing toward the work of mentoring or leading, with an ear for trouble and a voice of guidance.

Voices of ancestors, eldership, and myth

There is traditionally a job called "Eldership," but it is one which these days falls to anyone of any age who cannot turn away from the truth, is willing to weep, and wrestles with the question— "What is to be done?" And the traditional teachings also caution that when speaking is done in this way it is a "moment of Eldership."

 

World over, the human heritage has dealt with crisis by forging an alchemical partnership between the heat of youth and the insulation of Elders—including ancestors. The old myths are a reliable doorway to this needed heritage.

Fire Themes

Myth

Ancestors

Protection

Personal Benefits

Healing injured ancestor legacy relieves the sense of being under attack and replaces it with powerful alliance and support. 

Facilitator Skills

Literacy around myth and ancestral energy is a map and compass that you are able to orient in time and space to support your clients and students.

FIRE WISDOM

Elements | Fire | Wisdom
In this section:
  • Healing ancestors and hungry ghosts
  • Plans of the ancestors
  • Tradition and innovation: a fiery tension
  • Teachings of the fire clan through myth
  • This week's video
  • This week's blessing

Healing ancestors and hungry ghosts

A broad definition of ancestors can include the Elements themselves, and indeed, living things whose evolution is a precursor to the primates. Fire could be considered the oldest ancestor, first on the scene. Closer to home, in human culture, there is the possibility of human lineage. Note that there is a distinction between the simply dead, and a state that does not happen simply by becoming dead.

 

Simply dying is not considered as the automatic certification of the status of ancestor. A powerful indigenous understanding is that the dead will not complete the journey to the ancestral realm without proper grieving. It can be imagined that a grieving process is what allows the past to be over. But what if there is no grieving to send the dead through to the realm of ancestors? Here is where the image of "hungry ghosts" originates.

 

The energies of injuries that are not metabolized and overcome remain present affecting living people. Malidoma Somé says that it is not fully true to personalize ancestors. An historical figure that you admire could be a positive guiding ancestor. The hungry ghosts in the lineages of other people you are close to affect you as well as them. Just as the living people can not be considered outside of the group context, likewise, healthy guiding ancestors and hungry ghosts are both influences upon us, the living.​

Plans of the ancestors

We could do well to consider what the architectural plans of the ancestors were. It can be imagined that the things they undertook while alive were at least designed to help their offspring and future generations survive. They themselves may have had some appreciation for those who came before. Here we are, in a similar location—between the balancing point of the past and the future. Could it be that some projects are only possible in a time scale of generations?

 

The Dagara among many cultures, see the living and the dead as the co-creators of joint projects—of which we, the living, are the builders of. There is a current interest in researching ancestors, as if somehow the connection  with them will impart a desired authorization and inclusion. In a prayer directed toward ancestors through the element of Fire, it can always be mentioned that since they do not currently have the trouble or enjoyment of embodiment, they are left with us to do the actual work on the joint projects. And for our part, we ask them to contribute to the unseen work behind the scenes. We can each do something the other can not.

Tradition and innovation: a fiery tension

One way that modernity (and some say civilization itself) attacks real culture is to make everything contemporary, to wipe out traces of the past, and to pretend that there is an ongoing future of consumption without limits. This results in a lack of any meaningful care for either the past or the future. Dagara knowledge says that tradition and innovation are always in tension within healthy culture. 

 

It is not hard to notice that youth are sometimes recognized for their fiery natures, while Elders may seem to be the calm waters that can listen to the storms. Mere olders want to work to organize the energy of youth into the social order. Elders seek the awakening of genius that possesses a mongrel quality containing both tradition and innovation. This has also been called "Freedom to . . . " versus "Freedom from . . . " The rebel without a cause wants freedom from. The rebel with a cause is willing to work in the demanding conditions of the freedom to create and make.

Teachings of the fire clan through myth

The Dagara conceive of Fire clan people as dreamers, initiators, high vision people, who can "spark an idea," or "see the big picture." They are renowned as those who can bring actual night time dreams to the awareness of community which are then transcribed as instructions for what my colleague Phil L'hirondelle calls the "next best step."

This idea of the "next best step" can be called a stepping down from the modern greed to have it all at once. Fire moves one thing to the next, and in a natural setting, comes to a swing or a rest periodically. Our current problems with fire are in large part related to an improper stoking that can cause a ravaging damage. In the same way, fear can be stoked until it is the raging inferno of xenophobia. Or conversely the frantic denial of the need to take action.

Myth, of course, is from the past. It can be imagined that the myth contains what has been found to be essential after a period of time. From testing the idea of working with myth, it can be seen repeatedly that myths are relatable to by contemporary people. This is one of the easiest doorways to having a practical relationship with ancestral forces, once a method and a few skills are learned.

This week's video

Here is Malidoma Somé speaking about the Dagara understanding of ancestors.

This week's blessing

Fire, thank you for your heat, your light, and your instruction. We humans have worked with you since can be remembered and before. Help us in these times when there is too much fire loose and disrespected. If it is true you are a gate to the ancestors, let us have a little bit of that knowledge in our dreams, in our visions, and through the old stories. Help us learn once more to have a proper relationship with you, and keep our communities safe. Ashé.

The "Ashé" (pronounced ash-ay) is a west African "Amen."

Quotes

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“By trying to feed the Holy in Nature the fruit of beauty from the tree of memory of our Indigenous Souls, grown in the composted failures of our past need to conquer, watered by the tears of cultural grief, we might become ancestors worth descending from and possibly grow a place of hope for a time beyond our own.”

Martín Prechtel
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“Climate change is profoundly related to the troubled dead and the growing number of troubled ghosts now on Earth.” When Oya, a Yoruba goddess of storms, transformation, and the ancestors, communicated this to me during ritual, I was taken aback. I’ve related consciously with my own ancestors and guided others in ancestral healing work for over a decade, but I had never imagined a direct link between climate change and work with the dead.

Dr. Daniel Foor
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ASSIGNMENT

Elements | Fire | Assignment
In this section:
  • Finding some wisdom from a myth
  • The emergent versus the transcendent
  • Working with the ancestors through myth
  • Extension: a medicine or divination walk
  • Fire and ancestor prayer
  • Extension
  • Declaration and support
  • Radical ritual of fire medicine

Finding some wisdom from a myth

This week, we will try to access some helpful guidance from the ancestors through one of the old myths. By way of introduction, I should say that I understand the canon, the entire group of myths from one culture or culture area, as providing a unified view of the mythic world. Dreamtime stories in the original cultures of Australia, for example, have no "beginning" or "end" like Homer's Odyssey or Western art. Likewise, European myth can be understood as a similar "field" where characters appear, disappear, and reappear in their different guises and moments.

A King in a Grimm's myth, in a sense is all the Kings, or we could say that all the different Kings we encounter are aspects of possible Kingliness—including the gritty. Any one King could have a life exemplary of one or more aspects, but all the Kings face the similar circumstances and trials which lead to the differing behaviours of Kings that we encounter in the stories. In this way, the group of stories, taken as a whole, apparently know a lot about Kings, Queens, initiations, and many other associated topics. In that way, myth, old myth, myth that has come through the oral tradition, is very streetwise to the circumstances of life.

The emergent versus the transcendent

This week we will work with a Grimm Brother's myth. The two brothers were early ethnographers, travelling through Europe collecting folktales in the 19th century. From their published work (and of course, others who similarly recorded oral tradition) we have a valuable resource. 

 

This task is possibly a bit challenging for the preconceptions of the modern mind, because we are going to try to move from the dominant expectation that the value will be found in the transcendent. Instead, we will insist on the value of the emergent. By this I mean that we will not look to a story for the "moral" of the story or what it means. We will simply find a detail, ONE detail, in the story that seems to affect us emotionally. We are trying to give authority to the valid response of the body instead of intellectualizing and marginalizing the body intelligence and the emotional intelligence. 

Working with the ancestors through myth

To begin, read the instructions below before you read the story. For your part, bring a worthy concern. What is going on in your life? You will not be asking for the issue to be magically fixed. Imagine that you are going to speak to a wise advisor. There will not necessarily be an exact prescription for how to "solve your problem," but you may indeed hear a different perspective that will make you have a broader view. ​

You are going to read one of the old myths. While doing so, or when you complete it. Decide upon one, and only one detail that you will work with for this exercise. Choose the detail that impacted you the most. Ways of getting at this are any strong emotion, or saying, "Ah, I know what that is like," or if you notice yourself saying "Damn, when that happened that was very unfair!"

Choose your concern, read the story, choose a point in the story to work with, and then return here.

The story is The Donkey, from the Brothers Grimm.

Extension: a medicine or divination walk

You may see that there is some relationship between the trouble or concern that you brought and what jumped out in the story. That is a kind of mythic thinking, a thinking that gives validity to image and emotion as sources of guidance. It may also be that the relationship is not clear. Sometimes it is a very new thing to work in this way.

Either way, if you want to continue the conversation one more step, plan a little walk somewhere, even for 15 minutes. Before the walk, light a candle, and ask for some further guidance, but then definitely blow the candle out before the walk. On the walk, something will be the most interesting point or moment. Look for it, use your intention, trust the old bone knowledge that is in you just because you are human, and we are made for dealing with story.

The result of this work is meant to be practical, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you literally will find a treasure chest full of gold! The practicality can also arrive because you get a new view of yourself that places you more in relationship to the Living World, as Danny Deardorff, who you will meet in the next module, called it.

Fire and ancestor prayer

Light a candle before your walk. Or every day for a week. PUT THE CANDLE OUT before you go to sleep, or before you leave for your walk. That is the procedure when you are new to fire work. Please respect this. Again, as with all the prayer, say it out loud, so that your body is engaged. If you want to dance wildly while you are singing the prayer, that is ok, that is your indigenous self coming alive.

"Fire, let me speak with those rascals, the ancestors. Hey ancestors! Give me your attention. It seems from this perspective that you are off on a coffee break while there is work to be done. Let me remind you that our joint projects won't get done without my cooperation, since I am the one currently in a body. So follow the ancient partnership, and work to open the doorways that only you can open for the energy to flow in a supportive fashion. "

Notice that this week, there is a "Coyote Talk," or "Trickster Wisdom," style to the prayer. This is what is called a joking-relationship in many indigenous settings, and can be very full of respect . . . it just doesn't have the usual appearance of deference, timidity, and docility. It has a wild quality to it, an urgency, and an excitement. That is a kind of holy as well.

Extension

To get a further conversation going with the element of Fire, make an ancestor shire. A red cloth, and items that are symbolic of energies that you would like to be more in contact with from healthy guiding ancestors. Every day, go and speak out loud two things. First is your current situation and troubles. Second is what you would like to happen. Of course, you can begin with a greeting, and close with a thank you. Before you start, light a candle. At the end, stop the candle from burning. Put it out. DO NOT put any pictures of living people on the shrine. But you can include troubled ancestors that you would like to have evolve into good advisors. Including them is no curse, it is the beginning of a transformation that they can undergo from being hungry ghosts into being allies on your team.

Declaration and support

Next week is the completion of the course with an exploration of the Nature element. Before you go, as always, I invite you to write about your experience this week on the Tribe platform.

Radical ritual of Fire medicine

Larger community rituals can be done with fire. Conditions at the site must be safe enough that the fire will not escape dangerously. The benefit of a fire ritual is the connection or strengthening a relationship with our vision, dreams, and ancestors. Fire is also used as a key element in rituals of initiation, and in such cases, needs to be balanced with a presence from Water. Indeed, all rituals of this elemental kind, no matter the cosmology, probably have some kind of presence of all elements, even when it might be described using the wording "a Fire element ritual."

 

MORE

Elements | Fire | More
In this section:
  • A Thousand Books of Histories
  • The Water of Life

A Thousand Books of Histories

Episode 11 from

"Medicine Without an Expiry Date:

Indigenous Remedy for Modern Trouble"

by Randy Jones.

Read for free in pdf through this link:

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The Water of Life

by Michael Meade

The best book connecting the deep meaning of myth with the real world activism of ritual and healing. Meade reflects on his own journey, weaving in anecdotes from the Men's soul work gatherings, and gives great insight on how myth is contemporary in application.

Buy direct from the author through this link:

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INVITATIONS

Elements | Fire | Invitations
In this section:
  • Continue the course now
  • Other programs
  • Hosting or requesting an event near you
  • Bespoke rituals

Continue the course now

The next Element is Nature. Simply navigate there on the top menu of the site to:

 

Elements | Nature

Other programs

Our programs are organized as "Journeys." This course is the journey of the Researcher, since it is independent study.

To find the Quick Facts & Figures on our other programs, simply use the main menu and navigate to:

 

Welcome | 5 Journeys

Hosting or requesting an event near you

If you are interested in hosting an event, please read the information on the Healing page. The last section on the page describes the requirements and process of hosting an event. Then please use the contact form to connect. 

Journeys | Healing | Hosting

Bespoke

Communities that had, or have, ritual literacy, of course bring the issues that need addressing to a community specialist in ritual. Please use the contact form to connect if you are wondering about the possibility of doing this in your group or community. Find the contact form through the main site menu here: 

Welcome | Connect