A Spirit Dilemma, Part I

Necromancy comes in all shapes and forms. One person might work exclusively with spirits of dead animals, while another person might practice sin-eating as a service to their community. From my experience, it is difficult to practice all forms of necromancy to any great extent; focusing on two or three specialties seems to be more commonplace among those who call themselves necromancers. My specialty, for instance, is the advocacy of the alternative death and death acceptance movements. But to a lesser extent, I have always wanted to be a grave-tender and spirit worker. I have one foot in those doors already. I can go to any cemetery, reach out to the spirits there, and sense their mood. But there is a certain subset of spirits with which I’ve always had difficulty connecting: my own ancestors’.

Both of my parents hail from the Philippines, and DNA testing has revealed that my genetic makeup consists primarily of people living in East Asia, the Pacific Islands, and South Asia. A sizeable, yet unknown, percentage of my blood is specifically Chinese, too. I am extremely proud of my ethnic heritage and want nothing more than to have relationships with my ancestors, but several things contribute to the disconnect.

First, I was the first child in my entire family to be born in the United States. I was raised there. I have not met most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and I barely know all of my grandparents. Though I’ve asked my own parents about my relatives, their knowledge about their grandparents and great-grandparents have faded with the passage of time. I’ve tried reaching out to my other relatives via Facebook, but nothing will be quite like sitting with them in person and writing down the stories. I could visit them, but the current political climate of the Philippines is too dangerous for tourism. Second, I have the unfortunate circumstance of being mostly headblind. Regular practice and great effort allow me to commune with the gods and spirits I currently have relationships with, but trying to tune into rocks, trees, and my own ancestors has always been difficult.

Therefore, when books on necromancy and related divination techniques recommend building strong relationships with the ancestors first, I stop dead in my tracks. (No pun intended.) This has happened to me with Michele Jackson’s Bones, Shells, and Curios: A Contemporary Method of Casting the Bones and with Martin Coleman’s Communing with the Spirits. Both lessons begin with establishing this relationship. Coleman even recommends writing full-page biographies of ten ancestors, three of which must be deceased, in order to understand them as people instead of as merely concepts. The idea is really good, and I wholeheartedly agree that this should be the first step. But for me, it is less of a step and more like trying to eat a bowl of delicious soup with only a knife. It’s really hard.

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My half-finished ancestor shrine, featuring a photo of my great-grandfather, Agustin Lo.

In an act of desperation, I reached out to my friend Ariadna, a student of espiritsmo living in Philadelphia. She has had success revealing the spirits influencing other people, so I figure she’s the best (and most accessible) person who can help me connect with the spirits in my life, ancestral or otherwise. She has requested that I travel to Philadelphia soon for a spirit reading/consult, which I plan to do this November. In the meantime, she provided me techniques which I can try to use to sense spirits better. Once my schedule dies down with the end of Pagan Pride Day this weekend, I also want to try devoting time every weekend to sit with my spirits and start forming a bond. Ariadna says that even if we do not know the names of our spirits, they are there influencing us, eager to form relationships with us. And I must start somewhere.

Expect Part II of this series after I return from Philadelphia this November.

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