Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Honoring the Ancestors


Ancestor Ceremony 

 On the weekend of February 4, or in some areas January 28, people will observe the Ancestor Ceremony. Some of you have asked how they can conduct the ceremony. While the Internet is hardly the place to teach or even discuss ceremonial practices, this is more of a family observance. The formal ceremony is one that has been passed down through your family. If none has been passed down, the simplest thing to do is to set an extra place at the table. This is in addition to the "spirit plate" that is prepared and taken outside to share hospitality with any creatures who care to partake. 

 This is the day in which the departed ancestors may be remembered with stories, or reviewing the photo album and family tree. It's a good day for teaching the younger generation about the ancestors they never had the chance to meet in this life, but who tradition says will be waiting on the other side to greet us. For example, I recently learned that one of my ancestors was a Confederate cavalry officer who was at the Battle of Petersburg, Virginia, the bloody encounter seen in the 2003 film “Cold Moon”. He also served with Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who led reconnaissance into the area of Marion, Kentucky, where I now live. 

 The important thing, according to all I've been shown, is not to "summon" the ancestors, especially not to "call" them back, but rather to let it be known that there is plenty of food, and all are welcome. One reader said this brought back memories of the family custom of holding family reunions in a graveyard, complete with table and chairs. The eldest grandmother, who was the ceremonial leader and stone carrier of the family, would say prayers in Cherokee over the headstones of the eldest ancestors. Since this was a private family cemetery, a table and chairs were set up, and a covered dish dinner held. Just why this had to be done in freezing mountain February never made sense to this reader, until she saw the mailing on the Ancestor Ceremony. She was able to recall details, even though none of the family had taken the time to explain what was happening to the youngest child. 

 One thing is to share parts of the ancestor’s lives… bringing out heirlooms they left. I have wooden candlesticks made by my carpenter grandfather, a steak knife from the family restaurant. Usually we’ll have cherry vanilla ice cream, because it was dad’s favorite. For those of you carrying an old tradition this weekend, bless you. For those of you renewing or initiating it, my best wishes. But either way, please take the time to explain it in ways that even the youngest among you can understand. Family gatherings and teachings, speaking, listening, hugging and sharing, are the true way to keep traditions alive. Blogs and mailing lists are a poor substitute. 


Ancestor: tsunigayvlige-iyu, tsunigayvliiyvlistanv 
Family:    dudatihnavi, duhldinavi, tsidanalu, sidanelvhi 
Clan:        tsuniyvwi, usdahlvi 


 - 2012 Cherokee Calendar with Manual
 - New Cherokee Hymnal
 - 13 Moons Calendar 
 - New Cherokee Dictionary 

Over $40 if purchased separately, $29 as a package. 


Brian Wilkes

No comments: