Ancestral Helping Spirits & Being the Black Sheep

So many of us have felt like “the black sheep” in our families. We look at our parents, grandparents, and siblings and feel like we have no context for our personality, passions, and most natural instincts. This can result in us wondering if our real interests and motivations - those things that most embolden us - are actually our greatest flaws and pitfalls.

What a connection with our Ancestral Helping Spirits offers us is a broader perspective on who we are beyond the limited purview of our nuclear family, the interests (and wounds) of our parents, and even what the culture we’ve been born into happens to value during any particular era. Fads and trends come and go but the gifts and talents that make up our personal unique genius have been cultivated over many, many millennia before our arrival. Engaging our Ancestral Helping Spirits reminds us that no matter what we’re being told, we matter, and we hold dear what we do precisely because it was held dear by many of them. 

Indeed, we choose to be incarnated into our specific ancestral lines for a plethora of reasons, and to continue the cultivation of marvelous talents and perspectives is one of them. 

Under a clear night sky in Athens, Greece, a handsome young entrepreneur asks me to tell him something about himself. “One of your closest Ancestors,” I tell him, “in a prehistoric hunter-gatherer culture was a scout, but might also be read by our current culture as having been autistic. When she scouted a new location for the tribe to move to, they’d come, and then she’d disappear yet again for weeks at a time. It was the ever-moving horizon that was what was important to her. She did her job, and after that, she’d just - keep going - much to the surprise of other tribe members.”

He looks at me surprised. “That’s the whole point of the magazine I launched. I’m always reaching for what’s on the horizon. I’m always interested in what’s at the edge.”

"Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend it's whole life believing it is stupid." - Albert Einstein

"Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend it's whole life believing it is stupid." - Albert Einstein

I’m reminded of the famous comic panel depicting animals from seven different species all being expected to climb a tree. Though it's obvious that the bird and monkey have the greatest advantages, the circumstance that the goldfish is in is almost painfully comical. Being confined to a fishbowl, it's absurd that it's in this line-up at all, held up perilously at the top of a tree stump. Not only does the fish need to be re-membered back to water, its elemental home and proper context, but it needs to be back in the company of other fish. 

 
 

The term “millennials” is getting a lot of traction these days with numerous bloggers and reporters investigating the habits and potential of the most recent generation of adult Americans. In a lot of ways, our collective story about this generation mimics the “black sheep” paradigm. Some are gratefully asking the questions that will best serve this group and the broader society while others focus on pointing blameful fingers for legacies left to them. 

As unique as these times are, they are in many ways like all times before, begging the question of whether or not we will do what we have come here to do and whether or not we'll stand in the way of those who are trying. 

I seriously doubted my own connection to music until resolving the spirit of my great-grandfather, a beloved multi-talented instrumentalist and music teacher. Other artistic forms just seemed a lot more viable for me to pursue. After helping him become an Ancestral Helping Spirit and clearing from my own life the ancestral pattern that been holding him back, music took on new meaning for me and I nearly found myself inundated with information about its connection to the arts I’d been studying.

If we feel amiss in our family - let alone in our society or culture - and it feels like our gifts and unique perspectives are a burden, it serves us to know that there are at least a dozen ancestors in our ancestral line waiting to cheer us on and let us know that not only are we valued and loved, but that that which we feel joy and passion for is not in vain. It was what they felt joy and passion for as well. We are the latest recipients in a relay race of genius cultivation and our engagement with these legacies as they exist inside us is our gift back to them and to the wider world. They can help us fill in the gaps in our understanding of our own belonging not only in this world, but within the context of our families as well.

I journey on behalf an unborn child and express her father’s concerns about the context of her birth to the Ancestral Helping Spirit I’m greeted by. “He’s afraid her being born at this time is going to tear the family apart.” The old man removes his hat and with a twinkle in his eye tells me “This girl is going to bring this family together.” He tells me of the rich gifts of song that she’ll be bringing into this lifetime and how he's just a placeholder for her in-utero. Her real primary Ancestral Helping Spirit was a great singer in the 19th century and it is she who'll be tending the young girl most closely.

I'm shown holiday gatherings and other family festivities where the young woman's gifts will be on display. I'm shown collective fundraising efforts from diverse constituents within the family to get her the training it best serves her to have - all corners of the family rallying around the latest carrier of this gift of song in the ancestral line. I get the visceral felt sense of what this ancestor means and convey it to the child's father.

Not all of us have been fortunate to receive the kind of support the ancestor from the above journey envisioned for his descendant, but that doesn't mean our gifts are any less necessary for the times we've chosen to be born into. It is part of spiritual adulthood in our times to heal the wounded child who did not experience the appreciation and adoration for their unique gifts that they both needed and deserved so that we can come into right relationship with ourselves and no longer carry around the baggage that would keep us from being who we came here to be now.

Through engagement with our helping spirits, we can come to identify our own specific, unique gifts, step into fully owning them, and find the best vehicles through which to share them with the world. This is a path to self-love and to joy.

Did you enjoy this blog post? Sign-up to receive updates and future blog posts about shamanism, healing, and spiritual growth.