On Sunday, those among us lucky enough to have fathers and perhaps even grandfathers still with us will thank and honor them with funny cards and beer and Amazon gift certificates. In no way would I ever diminish the importance and the magnitude of our living fathers and all they have done for us, but enough will be said about that subject elsewhere. Here, it is said – if only by us ourselves – that we may observe a more deeper and archetypal aspect of what many sometimes privately view as a “Hallmark holiday.” In this spirit, we will not stop merely at our immediate fathers and grandfathers but will continue onward–backward, in fact–to honor ALL those who come before. So it is that, approaching next week’s summer solstice and the attendant days of celebration and revelry, we pause now to hold our Day of the Ancients.
Who are the Ancients?
Call them Ancients, call them Elders, call them Ancestors or Predecessors or Forefathers. Call them whichever you like, but they are the ones whose lives paved the paths upon which we now travel, the ones who have handed us all our burdens and all our opportunities. To forget them is to forget not only who we are, but where we are and even what we are.
To our genealogical forebears, we will pause in remembrance. In us, in the present, their genes are made manifest, and through us those genes will be passed onward toward the misty horizons of the times that will come after us. When they lived, the potential within these genes was made manifest in our ancestors, and through their lives and in the wake of their deaths, we find ourselves here. They have left us with our weaknesses and they have left us with our strengths. Through their decisions and paths, the location of your birth was decided, and from there the entire geographical course of your life. Through their relations and the interpersonal seeds they planted and reaped among themselves we find the ways – pleasant or not – that we relate and plant our own interpersonal seeds. Without our ancestors, without the Ancients, we are nothing. We are not here.
We pause in gratitude for the strengths they developed for us through blood and sweat, and on them we relinquish all blame for our inherent handicaps – for we ourselves will leave handicaps for those who come after.
To those who came before us in society, we will also pause in remembrance. Their ideas and their construction are what we ourselves are able to build upon. It is they who blazed the trail, however distasteful we may find it upon close examination, and we will recognize that we would be most unlikely to find our own way without the signs which they had nailed to the trees for our benefit.
To those who lived upon this land before us, those whose spirits have gone to fertilize the air just as their bodies have gone to fertilize the earth and give us our grass and our gardens, we will give our fervent thanks. We will respect their continued claim to the soul of this Place and it is with respect, we remind ourselves, that we now are able to inhabit it. In a country like America, this is where we’re starting to go way back. We’re not merely talking about the people who lived in the once-bustling mill towns that have become the tattered hamlets in which we now seek refuge, we’re talking about the tribes of First Nations who were here before the bearded, ugly, diseased Europeans showed up. We’re talking about the tribes who existed before those tribes. We’re talking about everyone who has ever walked here, eaten here, breathed here, sang and danced here, loved here, for it is because of all of those Ancients that our Place is what it is today.
Even to our mysterious, intangible, most ancient spiritual forebears, those Ancients who carved their initials in prehistoric rock and went on to be forgotten to our conscious minds – though alive and well everywhere else. There is an ancient wind that blew upon those Ancients and their rocks and their homes, and the descendants of that wind still blow upon us today.
In fact, we should do so with fire.
Seek out the best tree you can find, and for our purposes, christen it as your Tree of the Ancients. Underneath it, set something on fire. I encourage you to be creative, but you want it to burn for a little while, so a candle is totally acceptable. I like to make a small box of cardboard, fill it with match-heads and lard and oil and other flammable fuels, and set that ablaze. Burn your offering for at least five or ten minutes beneath your tree. Watch the brilliance of the flames but also the flight and the spread of the smoke. As the offering burns, contemplate these things. Say a few words or shoot a few thoughts on behalf of the Ancients, on behalf of all those past and gone to whom we owe such a great debt.
Find solace in your awareness of who you are, where you are, and what you are.
Then go on and prepare your spirit for the wondrous Midsummer extravaganza just around the bend.
Happy Father’s Day, and happy Day of the Ancients.