In the most recent episode of Magical Experiments podcast, Maviiin and I were discussing identity and at one point we talked about the identity of family and how it can shape a person positively or negatively. Maviiin made the interesting suggestion that we should be able to change our names at 25, if we want to choose a different one and I like that idea a lot. Yet a recent conversation with a family member got me to thinking about how family identity isn't just constructed by your parents, but also by your ancestors. And why I think that's important is because when we work with our identity, its worth spending some time exploring the environmental factors that play a role.
Family is one of the most significant environmental factors in a person's identity, but for the most part when we think of family, we tend to think of the immediate preceding generations, mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, sisters and brothers (if you have them) and perhaps more distance living relatives. Beyond on a genealogy chart I don't think much thought is given to ancestors further back because those people are dead. They aren't immediate and yet I would argue that their impact on your identity is immediate, in the sense that they had a role in creating the identity of your parents and grandparents and that in turn was passed down to you via your parents and grandparents.
Now you can sometimes learn about your ancestors either via stories told by your parents or grandparents or through their own written accounts (if they left them), and it can give you some sense of who they are, but what is told and shared is filtered to some degree. You can make some guess work about your own patterns of behavior and your family's patterns of behavior to get a sense of how your ancestors might have contributed to those patterns of behavior (A person's behavior doesn't show up in a void after all. A lot can be discovered by looking at how your family handles different emotions for example and comparing it to how you handle your emotions). This isn't to say that you can't be a different person from your family, but I would suggest that even choice to be different is shaped by the identity of your family and the origins of that identity via your ancestors.
So if we're going to do identity work on ourselves its worth considering how we might also work with our ancestors or at least learn from them? How do we work with them magically (if we choose to) and should we even work with them? I'll admit that I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to work with my ancestors because I'm not sure it would be helpful. What I really want to learn, if anything, is their role in my identity so that I can work with that. And my goal in doing that work really is liberating myself from identity constructs that come from the family or at the very least being aware of them and making whatever changes are most useful as a result.
One thought on how to proceed is to make an offering to my ancestors and ask that if any are willing to communicate to come forward so that I can speak with them. However I've also considered doing a magical working where I access their lives via the genetic information we possess. While there will be some genetic drift, especially as you go further and further back, I would think that as long as I have some genetic similarity to an ancestor I could access their lives through that (kind of like Assassin's Creed). I'll be developing a meditation technique for that process to give it a try and see what happens (and I'll report back here with what I uncover).
I'm curious if any of you, my dear readers, have done any experiments along these lines and what you discovered.