Picture frames and heirlooms on a family ancestral altar.
Part of my ancestor altar, Samhain 2014.

I was the first grandchild on both sides and the only girl for a long time. Both my amazing grandmothers doted on me, and they loved to tell stories about the characters in their families and what it was like growing up poor and country in the early 20th century Midwest. I think this is where I learned to love genealogy, and as many a Witch will tell you, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump over a broom from genealogy to Ancestor Work.

From my first days in the Craft, I knew I had witchblood. Not that any of the ancestors I knew from genealogical research or family stories were straight up Witches as we use the word today (but maybe?) but more that I felt a connection to other Witches that outshined time. I knew I was part of a long lineage of magick workers—and this knowledge gave me a lot of confidence in my early spellwork. It also helped me feel a sense of groundedness in the beauty of a moonlit circle, and most importantly, it helped me remember the spells and magick of my childhood and past lives.

Today I have a full-blown ancestral practice, and I created an 8 part series on how to get started in ancestral veneration that is free to download via the Reaching for the Moon podcast. Of all my magickal practices, I find Ancestral Work the deepest. Through techniques I learned in Faery Seership, I am unraveling ancestral trauma in my lineage and teaching others to do the same. I have come to see my academic work as an archaeologist as a way I bring ancestral veneration to the mainstream over-culture. I truly believe that no magick will work unless the magick-worker has gone down into the Underworld of their family lines and done some tidying up. I’ll close with one example of that Work from my own life that I hope will make clear how powerful this path can be.

Woman visiting family grave.
Visiting my Beloved Dead in Wisconsin, 2015.

I am a true American mutt, in that all four of my immigrant grandparents have a different ethnic heritage although a lot of it is central European. My father’s father was English, and his mother was Czech. My mother’s mother was Scotch-Irish, and her father was southern Germanic. Energetically I am closest to the Czech family, and my father took me to Prague when I was in my early 20’s just after the Velvet Revolution. It was a transformative experience for our relationship, so when I had the opportunity to go back with my own kids a few years ago, I made that a magickal priority. Sitting on a quiet balcony in Prague under some friendly apple trees, I reached back to my great grandmother who left everything she knew and loved to come to the US in the early 20th century. Her name was Rose, and she is often present for me when I need guidance on cooking, healing, and matters of the heart. She reached back to me that day, and I felt this immense wave of gratitude from her. She was so overwhelmed that I had returned to her homeland. I thanked her for all her sacrifices and told her those sacrifices had born fruit—here I was with two beautiful sons and the resources to cross the Atlantic on vacation. This moment helped heal part of the ancestral trauma my family carries—the trauma that comes from being desperate, poor, and without any other options other than to flee. Hopefully, my kids won’t carry any inherited anxiety that everything will be taken from them, or that they are without choices. Understanding and releasing inherited trauma is just one part of why Ancestral Work is so crucially important to me.