The Case Against Tadhg: Is It Ancestor Worship Or Ancestor Honouring? You Get To Decide

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My confession is…I honour my ancestors. And, for that, I’m in trouble, again.

Druids and pagans are loving me for saying it, but some (and by no means, all) of my Christian friends think I should be, metaphorically,  hanged, drawn and quartered…’in love’, of course. Celts, depending on their calling toward Druidism or Christianity (do we have to choose?) may be a different response.

I was taken aside (some time ago), and told ‘ancestor worship’ is wrong.

‘So, I’ve been told,’ I replied, ‘but why are you telling me?’.

What had I done wrong?

Well, here’s the evidence, for you to decide guilt or innocence:

I had, and still have a table, set aside, a special table as it has items on it of relevance to me, reminders of the seasons, and is a focal point for me to dwell upon, meditate upon, and give thanks.

Currently, although that will change tomorrow as the Autumn equinox approaches, it has an ear of corn on it; a candle that I light for a short while each evening to gaze upon; an open book with a poem about harvest, visible;  and several photographs of my ancestors to prompt my memory. Usually, regardless of the season, photographs of ancestors abound. It was the latter that ‘sparked’ some interest by the one who drew me aside.

To be fair to the person accusing me of ancestor worship, their heart is in the right place, and I bear no malice; however, it did (and still does) concern me at how many people apply ancient text out of context, and are oblivious to it! It worries me. In many cases it may be because they haven’t honed the skills of objective thought, or maybe they have been ‘duped’ by the modern world and its ‘soundbites’ into accepting a view which is modern and shallow, but seemingly and falsely ‘dressed up’ as ancient and wise; or maybe it’s ego on their part. I’m not sure. Nevertheless, it concerns me.

However, I happen to believe history, especially family history, is important.

ancestors-1Part of my family is Italian. When I hear of people talking about ‘taking back control of our borders’ and stopping immigration, I immediately think of that Italian ancestor of a couple of hundred years ago being turned away, and in my mind’s eye the ensuing family tree (chart) being slowly erased…until I finally disappear. What happened in the past, affects me (and you), now. Ancestors are important.

‘People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.’ (Edmund Burke)

One of my favourite phrases is: standing on the shoulders of giants. That is, we are the product of all those that have gone before, and that includes our immediate family, the last generation and the myriad of generations before that. Ancestors are important.

‘Honour your father and your mother…’ (Exodus 20:12, The Book)

For instance. I have blue eyes. Did you know that, ‘…research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.’ (Science Daily, 31 January, 2008). And, so I’m indebted to that ancestor for my blue eyes and  other bodily characteristics. Ancestors are important.

One of my ancestors, according to his marriage certificate has as his occupation as ‘reporter’. I think that that is a mistake by the recording clerk at the time, and that his occupation was a porter in a market, and not a reporter. What persuades me of this? Well, my ancestor (and we’re going way back) couldn’t sign his own name on the certificate, and so put an ‘x’. If he was a reporter and unable to spell he would be the world’s worst reporter! No, I think he was a porter, and am proud that.  Despite him not being able to write, he secured paid employment for him and his family in extremely tough times. Resilience. I honour that. I honour him.

ancestor-3Having used the oak tree as an analogy of a literal family tree, passing on attributes from one generation to the next generation of oak tree, Brian Swimme in his book ‘The Universe Is A Green Dragon’ says, ”Modern humans….regard history as something dead, and fail to realise how this cripples us.’ And he goes on to ask: ‘What would happen if we began to see that the achievements of our ancestors are permanent creative advances, handed down for our benefit?’. It’s like a relay race, and we’re the ones to have ‘inherited’ the baton that has been passed down from generation to generation…except very few people know that, today, and those that do know it are considered as ‘ancestor worshippers’. When, infact, they should be known as ‘ancestor honourers’.

‘The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children’. (Philip Carr- Gomm)

ancestor-2So, there’s the case. I do honour my ancestors, but don’t worship them. I do, however, worship the One behind it all – who guides you and me (on our continuing lineage-journey). But, I do I honour my ancestors, giving gratitude for all that they’ve done to ‘bring’ me to this time, and that reminds me to accept the responsibility of passing on their good works, and for me to do something for the next generation. I would encourage you to take time to honour your ancestors periodically, in some way, not as a chore, but as something lively and joyful, and, well….honouring.

‘Our ancestors did great work for humanity. What will we do for the next  generations?’. (Lailah Gifty Akita)

So, innocent or guilty? You get to decide.

 

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15 thoughts on “The Case Against Tadhg: Is It Ancestor Worship Or Ancestor Honouring? You Get To Decide

  1. Innocent! As a prehistoric archaeologist and landscape interpreter, I am immersed every day in the lives of those who went before me, whether they’re familial relations or not. Yet I feel their memory and their breath on me as I walk the same paths. I feel a great reverence for the transpersonal, shared culture, but also the moments of connecting to their human history too. Does it mean I’m ‘worshipping’ them? I don’t think so. Yet I honour them every day. Because without them this land and this landscape would be totally different, wild, dis-humanified. To have eyes open is to honour them.

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    • Thankyou for words of wisdom. Glad to have you on the jury LOL?

      It’s interesting some of the things you mentioned….as they’re mentioned by Brian Swimme in his book ‘The Unoverse Is A Green Dragon.

      At one point he mentions the need to ‘remember’ (research, remind ourselves etc) of what has gone before us in the cosmos, in the natural world and in human society etc ,and how we are the product of what has gone before, and we carry the memory of that in us! He also mentions that to ignore such memory has the effect of distancing us from creation and that leads, has led us to behave badly to the environment etc, and pollute, to act carelessly etc.

      I’m still reading the book, but I highly recommend it. Meanwhile, thank you for your comments. Greatly appreciated. Blessings, Tadhg

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  2. Innocent. History both forms and informs us, and our family history is important. As you say, Exodus gives us guidance and the Bible gives many references to family history. With regard to items of seasonal relevance, isn’t this what we do in our churches at Easter, Harvest and Christmas?

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    • Thankyou for your kind words declaring my innocence.

      Yes, I agree with you…many ancient texts encourage remembering parents and the wider family (and even strangers), and the ancestors. Doing so, roots us in the past and gives us a foundation to live in the present. Sadly, I think many, and society as a whole, seems to have taken an axe to the root, and we’re the poor, as a society, for it. Thankfully, that might change, and on an individual-family-person level, I know many who (through spiritual events, ritual etc) remind themselves of their roots, their ancestors and benefit from it.

      Many thanks for your positive words. Blessings, Tadhg.

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  3. The problem being that some people believe that because their ancestors came in the early days, before they set the standards higher, they are better than those who came later.

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  4. Innocent. I wonder about those who came before me. During the troubles in Ireland these brave folk kept their Catholic faith alive to my great benefit. I know stories of two great grandfathers and look forward to seeing them and all the rest in our eternal home.

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    • I don’t think they’ll burn us just yet. LOL. Ancestor photos are interesting…..though some old photos that I have of those gone before me, look like tinkers LOL. But, photographs or not, we carry their DNA and life-story within us, and that’s a blessing.

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  5. Innocent! Like you I honour my ancestors. I often think about them and am grateful that because of their yesterday’s I have today. I have spent countless hours researching my family history and I feel a great connection with all who have gone before me. I’ve also had people look askance at me and wonder if it’s ancestor worship – it’s not. How can we know where we are going if we don’t know where we’ve been?

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    • Thanks. Karen. Thank you for stopping by and reading that article. Like you, I honour rather than worship the ancestors. Each one of us are here because of them, and we really are ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, and are indebted to then. Do stay in touch, Keren. Blessings.

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