Your Ancestors May Not Be What You Think They Were

Bartolomew Stanhope (or was it “Stanhope Bartholomew”?) Clifton, 1828–1884. Update his clothes, buy him a Ford F-250, and drop him right back into Perry County, Mo. — he would fit in.

A lot of us contemporary Pagans have a problem with our ancestors. We feel like there is a huge chasm of separation between them and us. I mean, look at Stan (as I think he was known) Clifton here. He was one of my great-great-grandfathers

Born in North Carolina, he lived mostly in rural Perry Co., Missouri, in or near Crosstown. Like a lot of my relatives on that side, he is buried in the Plesant Grove Cemetery in Crosstown, which is just a dot on the map.

Pleasant Grove is a Baptist cemetery — I have been there — so what could be more different? A 19-century Baptist rural Missouri farmer[1]Maybe he had another trade too, I don’t know, but it was common. versus . . .  me, the Pagan (now) rural Colorado journalist-professor-writer/editor.

I am not picking on Stan, may he rest in peace. He has not turned up in my dreams or anything like that. Our connection seems pretty distant, but, nevertheless, he is part of me — even though he seems so spiritually distant.

It’s easy to focus on the things that separate him and me though. But there is one fundamenal flaw in thinking that way.

Recently I listtened to an episode of the podcast What Magic Is This? called “Ancestors with Chiron Armand.” (His personal website is Impact Shamanism.) There is a lot of good stuff there, but this part stayed with me: Our ancestors are not frozen in amber, so to speak. Whever Great-great-grandfather is, he is not necessarily the same man who died in 1884 — that is the point.

If you want to complicate things, figure in reincarnation. You not only honored Great-Grandmother, you gave birth to . . . him.

While most people who accept the idea of reincarnation tend to think of lives as beads on a necklace, there are those esotericists who say, “No, it’s all happening at once, kind of sort of, if we could only see.”

Which loops back to the idea that we can “heal” our ancestors of their faults and traumas. Assuming we know what those are.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Notes

1 Maybe he had another trade too, I don’t know, but it was common.

Catholic Church Struggles with De Facto Polytheism

This is an old story, but it erupts in new forms. Polytheistic-style devotion keeps irrupting in the Roman Catholic Church, much to the concern of the hierarchs.

From The Catholic Herald (UK): “The Church’s life-and-death struggle with Santa Muerte: The Church in the Americas is sounding the alarm over a macabre new devotion.”

To the great consternation of the Church, over the past 17 years veneration of a Mexican folk saint that personifies death has become the fastest-growing new religious movement in the West. At this point there are no systematic surveys of the precise number of Santa Muerte devotees, but based on 10 years of research in Mexico and the US, we estimate there are some 10 to 12 million followers, with a large majority in Mexico and a significant presence in the United States and Central America. However, the skeletal folk saint, whose name translates into English as both Saint Death and Holy Death, now has followers across the globe, including in the UK, where there are sufficient devotees to support a Facebook group specifically for British followers . . . .

To understand the devotion to death, we must also examine the historical record. Across the Americas, and in particular in Mexico, death deities were prevalent during the pre-Hispanic era prior to colonisation. Many indigenous peoples, such as the Maya and the Aztecs, turned to death gods and goddesses for healing ailments, and also to guarantee safe passage into the underworld.

Yes, devotion to Santa Muerte is huge, and I have heard of some American Anglo Pagans who also participate in her cult, particularly in the Southwest.

El Niño Fidencio (Kid Fidencio), a folk saint of northern Mexico who is frequently channeled by healers.

There are more “folk saints.” One of my graduate-school professors, of partially Mexican ancestry, was fascinated by the cult of El Niño Fidencio, one of several folk saints who emerged from the chaotic years of revolution and civil war in early 20th-century Mexico.

Another of that period is Jesus Malverde, considered the patron saint of drug traffickers. It’s not to hard to find statues of him. He is one of a whole choir of “narco saints” (the linked article includes N. S. de Guadalupe; she is versatile).