I’m currently working on the assignment for week 12 of the ADF dedicant program, and this section is all about connecting with one of the three groups of spirits ADF focuses on in our ritual work: Our ancestors, otherwise called “The Mighty Dead.”
As with most things in ADF, who your ancestors are and which of them you choose to worship it totally tailored to you.
They also do not need to be just blood-kin ancestors. The definition falls under these four categories (as defined by Rev. Michael J. Dangler in “DP Through the Wheel of the Year”):
Blood-Kin: These are ancestors of your blood, such as Grandpa Winston, or your mother, or you sister, or your child. All of these are Ancestors, or would have been considered so by the Indo-European peoples.
Heart-Kin: These are the close friends with whom there are ties of love, respect, and strong friendship. They are family, even if there is no blood tie.
Hearth-Kin: These are people who have shared your hearth religion, though they may not be close friends or blood-relatives. (Also called “Spirit-Kin.”)
Mentor-Kin: These are teachers, guides, and friends with whom you share an intellectual lineage: perhaps you learned something from them that profoundly affected your life, or you are following in their footsteps in learning.
Thinking about this concept of kin and who we personally honor as our Mighty Dead reminds me of this quote by author Dorothy Allison (from one of my favorite books):
Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is just this- if we cannot name our own we are cut off at the root, our hold on our lives as fragile as a seed in the wind. – Two or Three Things I know for Sure, a memoir
This quote resonates for me for a couple of reasons. Finding “our own” is something that is incredibly powerful for everyone to seek, and can be defined in more that one way. It doesn’t have to be folks weren’t related to, and often it’s not, but what’s important is that we find our own, we find our clan, and we connect with them.
Blood kin is very important to me, even though I don’t have contact with most of my living blood relatives, and I take great joy in learning about my family’s history, good and bad. I like to feel that connection to the past. I was overjoyed when I found my father a few years back and was able to finally know where the heck his people came from. Going on Ancestry.com and watching his side of the tree unfurl in front of my eyes, hundreds of years of generations appear in the span of minutes, was such a feeling of pure delight. I never knew so much of it, like I’m part Dutch and had an ancestor named Joost!
I keep an ancestor shrine in my home and have written about it in this blog before. It is just as large and well-tended as the shrine to the Shining Ones (gods) that I keep in my home too. (I’m now realizing I need a Nature Spirits altar! Gotta have all three Kindreds represented, right?) Included on my ancestor shrine are pictures of family, deities I feel a familial connection with, along with flowers, items that belonged to family, and regular offerings of chocolate and steaming hot coffee (family favorites.)
For this blog post I wanted to share examples of a few categories of Mighty Dead listed above and who I honor for each. I have a wonderful family, but also wonderful other folks alive and dead who have deeply influenced my life and I seek to honor their memories as well.
This is one of my most prized family photos… It’s of three generations of my matrilinial line. The baby is my great-grandmother Hazel, holding her is her mother Musa Campbell, a strong and formidable woman with bright red hair, the young boy is Bertie, Hazel’s brother, and the eldest woman is the incredibly resilient Saphronia Moody, my great-great-great-grandmother. (I don’t know who the second baby is.) Saphronia’s story is one that is still passed down in my family. She left her abusive husband, unheard of in the 1800’s (love the Campbells but they were a hot mess), and rode from Missouri out to rural Washington in a covered wagon where she set-up shop as a seamstress and never remarried. Musa was adventurous too, she moved to Los Angeles and grew such an amazing garden that her family wanted for little during The Great Depression.
Needless to say, few women in my family stay in one place or wilt in the face of opposition.
I grew-up apart from my blood relatives, except for my mom. She’s gay, and so left the rural town she grew-up in as soon as she possibly could. She grew-up out in The Bible Belt, where her father was a Southern Baptist minister, so I don’t blame her for running away to California. Because of this, I never interacted with my two uncles and only had significant contact with one out of three aunts (the other gay sibling, Becky.) My parents friends then became like aunts and uncles to me.
My favorite psuedo-uncle was Gerry. He was long-time friends with my mom’s wife, and was always such a joy to have around. He was constantly witty and hilarious, the most fantastic conversation partner, and he aspired for a long time to become a screenwriter, but never got a break. He was so kind and supportive towards me when I was little. Gerry sadly passed from this earth a few years ago from brain cancer and is very missed.
If you know me well you know I consider my earthly Muse to be Louise Brooks, the silent film star, modern dancer and writer. I acquired her biography at the age of 16 and immediately knew I’d found a kindred soul, though she had died in the 80’s. She was not only stunning, but a fiercely intelligent and independent woman who basically told the head of Paramount to go fuck himself and was blacklisted from Hollywood for it. She lived a life that was both charmed and tortured, experiencing incredible success in her youth but was an abuse survivor and alcoholic who was crippled by an autoimmune disorder in old age. But through it all she was passionate and resilient and phenomenally talented and I adore her. Her image was my first tattoo at 18-years-old.