What is Ancestral Healing?

Ancestral healing comes in many different forms. There are numerous methods, both modern and ancient, that address this type of therapeutic healing work. No matter how it is approached, though, ancestral healing primarily addresses the patterns, traumas, and what can be referred to as “ancestral karma” of a particular lineage, and the influences that these have on an individual.

The idea that our family lineage passes down certain patterns to us is not new. Scientists worldwide use genetic studies to better understand and find treatments for many diseases, disorders, and conditions that appear to spread through family lineages. There is no question that our DNA holds many secrets to healing when it comes to our physical, mental, and emotional health. Epigenetic studies have greatly advanced our understanding of how our DNA affects our health, well-being, and inherited attributes, and we have learned through these studies that our inherited expressions are not necessarily set-in-stone, but can be greatly influenced by environment, trauma, and personal experiences. This means that our habits, actions, and mindset can affect the activation or expression of certain genetic codes that we hold. But what about the unexplainable patterns in families that seem to manifest without an obvious genetic cause?

A majority of energy healing modalities acknowledge that for every physical manifestation of disease, imbalance, challenge, and life experience in general, there is an energetic cause first, and this energetic cause must be addressed in order to fully heal the physical circumstance or condition. Ancestral healing is a form of energy healing in that it works with balancing the energetic dynamics of trauma, belief patterning, and certain programming or habits that are passed down through family lineages. This type of healing takes into consideration that many of an individual’s challenging circumstances are a direct result of ancestral trauma and the resulting beliefs and patterning from those traumas that manifest in our lives.

Sometimes these patterns are taught in a very physical way through a family. We see this with certain beliefs, prejudices, and preferences that are taught from parent to child down the line. Other times, our patterning and the way we react to the world around us is more subtle and we may not be aware of how certain traumas way back in our ancestral line may be affecting us. Ancestral healing uses many different methods to address these patterns in an individual so that they can break the patterns of the lineage that are not serving them well in their own life.

Diving Deeper into Ancestral Healing

Who are Your Ancestors?

In the context of ancestral healing, ancestors are a much more diverse group than one might expect. Firstly, our ancestors include those that we are genetically related to, both living and deceased. This group is who we primarily think of when we are talking about ancestral healing, and is what is primarily addressed in most modern therapeutic mental health modalities and allopathic medical practices. There are many twin, family, and epigenetic studies that support the idea that our genetic connections deeply affect our physical, mental, and emotional circumstances in life, and many allopathic methods have been developed that begin to address these influences.

From an energetic and shamanic healing perspective, ancestors can also be connections that we have through what is sometimes referred to as our soul lineage. Soul lineage ancestors include “past” versions of ourselves from different lifetimes and other individuals genetically connected to us in these different lifetimes. The concept of soul lineage ancestral healing takes into consideration the multi-dimensionality of an individual, and works to heal ancestral energies not only on a genetic level, but on a soul level as well.

What are the origins of ancestral healing?

Indigenous cultures worldwide have been practicing the honoring and healing of their ancestral lineages for millennia through traditional shamanic, ritualistic, and mystical practices. Many of these cultures recognize their relationship with ancestors as a critical aspect of tribal spiritual practice. While each culture has their own unique methods and rituals for working with their ancestors and lineages, the principles of why this work is done remain relatively consistent among many indigenous groups.

Take, for example, the seven generations ancestral healing principle that is based on the ancient Haudenosaunee philosophy that our choices and actions should take into consideration the effect they will have on the following seven generations. This principle recognizes that our choices and experiences affect those that come after us, and is not strictly a philosophy of the Haudenosaunee, but of many indigenous peoples of North America. The understanding of the importance of ancestral work is not only integrated into traditional practices of indigenous peoples, but fundamental to their relationship with life itself. In many ways, science is catching up to what ancient indigenous cultures always knew, that ancestral work is integral to the health, prosperity, and vitality of an individual as well as the entire tribe.

Indigenous peoples of North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and throughout Asia can all be found to have some form of ancestral healing ceremony, ritual, or practice of honoring ancestors. This is not a practice that is limited to any particular group or region, and methods used for ancestral healing are as varied as the people and cultures who practice them.

Other cultures around the world have deeply integrated the honoring of the ancestors into their spiritual and cultural practices. We see this in celebrations like Día de los Muertos in Mexico, and Obon, the Japanese Buddhist celebration to honor ancestral spirits. This cultural acknowledgement of ancestors and our connection to them has been significantly lost in the modern western world. Unfortunately, this means that practices of connecting with ancestors that can be very healing for a lineage and for humanity have also been lost, which is why reconnecting with ancestral healing is so important at this time.

Patterns and traumas that were often addressed by tribal medicine people through ritual and a variety of healing methods, now run rampant through entire cultures of people unchecked. We see patterns of racism, prejudice, poverty, and many other toxic dynamics in our modern society that have become compounded generation after generation. Without dedicated ancestral healing practices in place in a culture or society, it is very difficult to correct these toxic patterns. This is why it is now up to individuals to explore this type of healing for themselves, as the cultural support does not exist for ancestral healing in most modern western cultures.

Modern Ancestral Healing Practices

Individuals who practice ancestral healing in the western world come in many forms. There are forms of mental health counseling and behavioral therapy that address familial patterns and belief systems. This can be considered a type of ancestral healing, even if the councilor isn’t aware of the energetic dynamics behind their methods for helping an individual heal. Other teachers and practitioners of ancestral healing learn methods and rituals directly from indigenous cultures or tribal shaman, and then use those same methods, usually extra-culturally, to heal and teach others. There are also healers who have developed ancestral healing skills through their own authentic shamanic initiation experiences.

The wonderful thing about energy healing and metaphysical practices of any type, is that they work outside of any specific cultural paradigm. Indigenous cultures have taken universal spiritual wisdom and integrated it into practices and expressions that they understand through their cultural lens. This is why we see ancestral healing in so many different cultures, expressed in so many different ways, yet they each acknowledge very similar principles and understandings when the cultural context is stripped away. This means that the principles of ancestral healing can be applied in many different ways, and can be adapted to any culture or spiritual understanding. This makes it very accessible for anyone interested in working with their ancestral lineage in this way, as there are so many approaches and methods for doing this type of work.

Join Anya’s Newsletter