As Shamanism aims to help us exist in harmony with ourselves, the planet, and the spirit realm, it also urges us to recognize our place within the story of humankind.
We all have ancestors, and we will all have descendants, as our legacy continues whether or not we personally procreate.
This happens in a variety of ways. When our bloodline continues through our family members, those future generations are also part of our legacy.
But legacy extends beyond the physical transmission of DNA.
Our legacies also continue when we share knowledge and experiences.
Acknowledging this gives us a reminder that we are a small part of a much larger whole.
It teaches us that in the same way the karma of our ancestors plays out in our lives, our karma will play out in the lives of our descendants.
With this in mind, we should always make space in our personal practices to thank and honor all who came before us.
In the previous section, we discussed the difference between our ancestors and our ancestral helping spirits.
Our ancestors are all of those who came before us, whereas our ancestral helping spirits are resolved beings who help us with our incarnate paths.
While we only want to establish working relationships with the latter, both types of ancestors should be thanked and honored.
To honor your ancestral helping spirits, set up a shrine or altar just for them.
If you want to set up an altar for your ancestors in general (unresolved or otherwise), make it a separate shrine from the one for your ancestral helping spirits.
These altars generally do not have images of our deceased family members.
Instead, they are filled with power objects and offerings for your helping spirits.
They can be items such as bells, stones, and other objects that resonate with you.
The offerings usually are seasonal flowers and plants, as well as foods left in special dishes.
As you begin to develop a relationship with your ancestral helping spirits, you can and should request their help on specific projects in your life.
They can help you overcome difficult situations and succeed at new endeavors.
As your working relationship evolves, it will be important to thank them for their help through offerings, and you can journey to ask them how you can best honor them.
We have discussed how to meet our ancestral helping spirits and how to honor them, but this is just the beginning of the ancestral work that Shamanism opens us up to.
This brings us to why we should honor even those ancestors who are still unresolved.
It is important that we situate ourselves within our lineage, as it helps provide context for who we are and who we want to become.
The more we understand our place in the bigger picture of our ancestral lines, the better we can define our goals.
We all carry ancestral patterns of thought and behavior that are passed down through the generations.
If we are to truly heal ourselves, we must address these inherited wounds.
This type of work is referred to as ancestral healing.
Trauma affects us on a genetic level. Epigenetic research is uncovering that childhood trauma affects our DNA and can have an impact on our health later in life.
Traumas our ancestors experienced have been passed down to us genetically, spiritually, and psychologically.
Part of our duty to our descendants is to prevent trauma from continuing to be transferred to future generations.
The only way to do this is by confronting this baggage we carry and working toward resolving it, so that we can end the cycles of perpetuation.
Asking your helping spirits for guidance is always a good place to start any healing work.
Just remember that you want to journey either to your power animals or to your ancestral helping spirits, not to the unresolved ancestors themselves.
Research has shown that severe trauma can become encoded in our DNA, so while part of your wounds are your own, some have been passed down to you. Shamanism provides you with tools that can help you heal trauma, both personal and inherited.