Theorising conceptions of 'the ancestors'

One of the most significant reasons contemporary Pagans I have interviewed are concerned about prehistoric human remains relates to the spiritual significance of 'the ancestors'.

From my own engagements with contemporary Paganism I have conceptualised three categories of ancestors:

Ancestors of blood - our direct genetic ancestors

Ancestors of tradition - those people who have shared our beliefs and influenced our ideas

Ancestors of place - those people who have dwelt in and shaped the places in which we now live.

After speaking to local Pagans at the University of Wales Lampeter and at the Carmarthenshire Pagan community network moot in Carmarthen. it is becoming apparent that whilst most people I have spoken to share some or all of these ideas, There are several who limit the definition to the first category of genetic ancestors. One also included animal (totem?) spirit ancestors, presumably inspired by Australian Aboriginal beliefs.

I am now looking to examine how Pagans interact with their ancestors spiritually and how beliefs regarding ancestors fit in with and influence their view of teh world and their interactions with it.

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Comment by Alice C. Linsley on June 6, 2010 at 5:42pm
Veneration of the ancestors (sanguine) is virtually universal before 5000 B.C. The common practice of burying rulers in red ochre dust indicates belief in the afterlife and the hope that the ruler would act on behalf of his tribe in the afterworld.

Animal totems and spirit ancestors are not unique to the Australian Aborigines. The totem of the Horites was a Falcon. The totem of the Tribe of Judah was a lion. The clans of the Central Asian steppes had animal totems.

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