I’ve been immersing myself in ancestral religions—starting, obviously, by diligently trying to forge a genuine connection with my immediate ancestors.
TW/CW: This essay mentions r/pe
“Women leave in inches.” I don’t know who said this goddamn gem of a quote, but I’ve found it to be heavily applicable to my life. I took such an approach when it came to cutting off my narcissistic father. I took such an approach when it came to other relationships demanding way more from me than the other person, ironically, was willing to give. And I’ve found that this was the approach that I used when I finally decided to divest from Christianity.
In my nearly two decades of being part of the religion, small holes that I regarded it with as a child turned into big holes when I decided to really think about it. Though I was pretty devout for my age, and up until I left for college, I remember having fall-outs with teachers and faith leaders over stories like, say, Sodom and Gomorrah—which is REALLY about the sin of failed and perverted hospitality…including the threat to rape your angelic guest, rather than homosexuality like “leaders” claim. And Job—who had his life fucked up over a literal bet between God and Satan. I remember having to personally contend with the not-so-covert homophobia considering that I’d eventually come to the realization that I was bisexual years later. And I remember having to contend with a particularly lethal combination of fatphobia, powered by the forces of darkness known as purity culture and rape culture. I would eventually grow to understand how this particular religion was to the detriment of my own family.
Luckily for me, I eventually moved to Chicago and was able to get far enough away that upon a second glance, I decided that Christianity definitely was not for me.
Of course, having no religion as a Taurus feels odd. This is not to say that I became spiritually empty or anything, but it definitely felt like there was a vacancy. I wasn’t actively trying to fill it, but this so-called vacancy got me to look a little closer at some of the (for lack of a better word) baggage of my former religion. I’m not going to give you the whole spiel about how Christianity, colonization, and capitalism worked hand-in-hand when it came to fucking most of the world over and how this had some of the most perverse effects on the African continent. But I will say, with that history, it’s hard to separate this religion from the legacy of trauma that it brought to the motherland, which includes the fact that many of our people, our ancestors even, were subsequently and violently disconnected from our ancestors and ancient religions.
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With all this in mind, it would be about six years before I even revisited the concept of faith and religion. Which brings me to now.
Since the end of 2019, I’ve slowly been immersing myself in old African religions—starting, obviously, by diligently trying to forge a genuine connection with my immediate ancestors. Which in this case, would be my maternal grandparents. I set out to do this for a number of reasons, mostly because I personally couldn’t imagine myself being devoid of any type of faith whatsoever. Mainly because it was another way to reconnect with my fractured family and ancestry (this fracture happened, as you probably guessed when my mom met my father and the rest of her family obviously didn’t approve—which totally makes sense in hindsight). But also? I had observed my own mother engaging in some, I’d call it, tangential spiritualism or spiritual, “Old World” beliefs. Even if she didn’t think I noticed.
She was highly connected to her spiritual side, even in the shadow of being a devout Christian. She was hyper-aware of something reminiscent of “evil eye”. She believed in manifestation. She did not take any curse lightly and had a whole ritual of prayers she would do to counteract one if need be. Every so often, she would dream about her mom and dad. She would have prophetic visions, letting us know who was pregnant or who was sick or if somebody would be getting good or bad news about whatever. She’d also have dreams about certain people, making it clear that these people were about to die and leave this plane of existence.
She also experienced bodily sensations that she would credit to spirits, the most notable one being that when something really bad was about to happen, her right leg would fall asleep and she would quickly advise the person in question to either not do what they were planning on doing or not go where they were planning on going. And sure enough, if you were asinine enough to not heed her advice, some sort of calamity or accident would follow. I mention all of this to establish the fact that, even without telling me, my mom was deep, deep into “Old World” spiritual practices, no doubt something she most likely inherited from her parents. A connection she still, even if it was tenuous, retained to her parents long after their deaths. And, I assume, long after she and I stopped being in contact (dating back to the summer of 2019).
Which makes my adoption of certain spiritual practices and leanings all that more poignant. Because of her absence from my life now. And because it feels like I’m picking up where she left off.
I still have a long way to go. Though I made it a point to have an altar for them (that I am diligent about taking care of) for quite some time, I only just discovered the names of my aforementioned grandparents (like many of you probably can attest, the record-keeping back in 1918 wasn’t great) in the last month with the help of my brother. There are still pictures I must collect. Stories I gotta learn. Histories I gotta dig up in order to truly understand them and connect with them rather than playing in their faces. But, it has proven to be an extremely healing experience. Because, in a variety of ways, I am healing the gulf that was created between my mom and my grandmother when she left with my abusive dad to America. I am healing myself and the damage that was done when I severed 99.9% of my familial ties. And I am healing the trauma stemming from my family’s embattled connection with Christianity (and the larger legacy of it that looms over our heads for obvious reasons).
I will continue to heal too. And I’m hoping my grandparents will be with me every step of the way.
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