A Reality We Sometimes Ignore

It was a few hours after he died that Leonard showed up in my garage where I’m mourning him like I’d never mourned anyone before.

He appears as I first met him, at a Peyote ceremony at his home where we both find ourselves looking south of the family hogan, into a dark valley. There’s something, some substance, to the darkness that emanates from that little valley, besides all the stars in the Navajo skies.

“Yeah,” he says, like he hears me thinking, “It’s always dark out there.”

The night he died he showed me that dark little valley again. This time, though, violet flames are flying out of the dark into the night sky. Triumphant flights indeed, flames flying free.

“You have to get them out of there, free them,” says my brother’s ghost. We are both looking toward the valley again, where the thick darkness still talks.

“You mean the ones still in the dark?” I ask.

Before he disappears from my garage he answers, “They’re holding back the living.”

Then I broke down.

In essence Leonard came to tell me the Ancestral Hoop is clogged.  

In communities where stories of ancestors and the dead are in the daily fare, the event above reminds community members they need to look after the departed.  Sightings of the recent dead, mourning events and practices, celebrations for the dead, petitions from and for our dead, and all kinds of lights, candles and offerings – trust us ­– do much more than stir up spiritual sentimentalism.  

At this altar, as at many, the ancestors are in everything we do – healings, meditations, teachings – all of it. Our departed can be the main event or an addition to any event, or the ancestors can simply be named and honored. The ancestors form a hoop with us living and sometimes souls stay in the hoop too long.

This results in the need for a constant healing of the blood. More times than not, ancestors are the key to healing or providing answers, and in some ways, the key to the power needed to confront the situation.

Those of us who have the ancestors in our vocabulary hear judgments about the functionality of revering our ancestors, about us living in the past, trying to hold on to hollow, empty traditions. In the last two or three decades, however, it’s been science that came to validate our traditions, to validate the truth of our blood inheritance, the reality our ancestors died to defend and pass on. Stay tuned: Part 2 of Ancestral Hoop Blues comes next week with suggestions for what you can do.