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Posts Tagged ‘matronae’

The Ancestors play an important part in my spiritual practice. Under many names – the Ancestors, the Mighty Ones, the Mighty Dead, Idesa and Alfar – they are one of ADF’s Three Kindreds and an important practice in the Norse and Anglo-Saxon cultures.

The Mighty Ones are the Ancestors, those of our folk who are presently resting in the Land of the Dead. They watch over their descendants and lend their power to aid us. It is proper for every Druidic worshipper to honor her immediate ancestors, her Grandmothers and Grandfathers, as well as the Heroes, those great women and men who are honored by her folk. – The Worlds and the Kindreds

Some articles and references for the Ancestors, particularly the Disir/Idesa/Matronae (Female ancestors and guardians)

Historically, the Norse/Germanic/Anglo-Saxon cultures had strong beliefs about their ancestors being a part of their family’s good fortune. These beings – which are sometimes confused with Nature Spirits after awhile, especially if they are connected to a burial mound or site – watch over their descendents and protect them in life, often interfering to bring good fortune or luck in battle. If you wanted to speak with a particular Dis, you would go out and sit all night on her burial mound, seeking her council (a practice called out-sitting).

In my personal practice, the Ancestors are a part of my daily life. I make regular offerings to a group of Idesa I call my “Prairie Godmothers” – women whose strength and courage helped bring their families to the United States, where they lived as pioneers. Every time I clean my kitchen, I light a candle to them, and make them a small offering of thanks. I want to channel their courage and inner fortitude in my own life, so I invite them in regularly.

I’ve also been called directly (through a blog-friend who does Seidhr) to work more with my dead and spend time with my ancestors. I don’t know exactly what this means, but I have tried to incorporate more work with them into my practice, and to spend additional time with them when I do ritual. I’m not very good at it yet, but I am trying to make this more a focus of my practice. As part of this, I’ve been collecting family genealogy from both my and my husband’s family in a central location in our home. Keeping this information current and easy to reference helps me connect to my direct ancestors. I would like to expand this practice to more spiritual ancestors, whether they be ancients or just other figures in history who can guide me in my spiritual work. Hopefully this will help me fulfill the request to pay more attention to my dead.

I put a lot of stock and respect in the answers I got from Beth on the subject (prompted by my constantly receiving the rune Hagalaz while not seeing elements of destruction and chaos around), so I trust that this is important, both to my ancestors and the mighty dead, and to Hela herself, as the goddess of the underworld. Admittedly, I’m a little intimidated by cultivating a relationship with a Goddess of Death, but I am well aware that my being uncomfortable is either something she doesn’t much care about, or is actively seeking. It’s definitely outside my comfort zone.

I had some particularly interesting dreams about two ancestors of spirit, back when I was practicing Wicca, but I haven’t seen or sought them out again. I need to begin seeking some Anglo-Saxon and Norse ancestors, particularly women ancestors (for some reason I am very drawn to them). I don’t know much else to do beyond granting them offerings and paying attention to them, but as I develop better trance and meditative listening/journeying skills I hope I will have some better ideas of things I can do – and maybe even names or personalities I can begin to associate with them.

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I’ve felt a strong pull toward working with the Ancestors recently, I think brought on by finding some genealogical research that my family has done. My mom and my (paternal) uncle have done a lot of research into our family histories recently, and it’s been really interesting to see where people have been. My husband’s mother and aunt are both extremely interested in family history as well, so I have pretty well documented family trees that go back several hundred years (in most cases) to the various places of our ancestry.

My heritage is pretty well mixed, but the largest parts of it are Scottish and Italian, with some English, Irish, and Dutch, and possibly French or Belgian (I have an adopted grandparent, so it gets confusing). My husband is German (Frisian) and Danish, with some French (Huguenot) as well. (He looks like a Viking. I look like an Italian peasant. It works out!) At this point both of our families are pretty jumbled up, even though my Italian family didn’t come to the United States until around World War I, and his German family has been in Texas since just before Texas joined the US (in 1846).

Which, of course, makes it a little harder to say “I’m working in this strain of Paganism because I have family heritage there”. Though I certainly have English and Dutch relatives, some of whom have been in the US since New York was called New Amsterdam, I have no idea if they were Germanic (Angles/Saxons) or Celts or Gauls in descent, though there’s some rumor that my ancestral family ended up in England via William the Conqueror’s army. (Alternately William the Bastard, depending on your preferred side in that conflict.)

What I do know, however, is that I am descended from hard working people in both my birth and married families. My (mostly Scottish) grandmother grew up on a farm in the Great Depression, and my husband’s family is still farming in South Texas. While his family no longer speaks German, his father grew up speaking it a little bit at home, and they are very well connected to their history in the hill country of Texas.

So while I am sure I have ancestral ties to my pagan forebears, I have no idea what their religion might have been! It’s likely that they are a pretty mixed bunch at this point.

Still, some (admittedly basic) internet research says that most of north west Europe had a devotion to the “Mothers” (Matres and Matrones), and that’s something I’d like to continue, especially since this seems to have been a very widespread practice (and, if the shrines of gratitude are any suggestion, a successful one).

I’d also like to continue to honor my American “Matrones” – the women whose hard work brought their families here to this country and kept them alive. My grandmother and great grandmothers were strong, determined, independent women who I am proud to be related to – and I have begun to feel the same way towards the mothers of my husband’s family too. Life was hard in the hill country, and they made it work.

I’m especially drawn to find strength from my ancestors (whether Matrones or Disir) when I’m struggling with my mental health, since I need all the extra strength I can get to continue to advocate on my own behalf and work towards balance and wellness. It’s a combination of needing strength and protection, which fall into the sphere of the family pretty nicely.

My first steps toward growing that practice has been lighting a jar candle on my hearth (stove) every time I’m in the kitchen. I light it and say a prayer for guidance from the Ancestral Mothers and for their protection over my home and family. (This makes my kitchen smell nice too, which is a fun side-effect).

I’ve also specifically been mentioning them when I light incense (almost daily), and when I do my morning devotions with my tea at work. I’d like to build a small shrine to them somewhere in my house or yard (and also make an effort to get all my family genealogy gathered into one place in the house).

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