Readers expecting the Ancestors to be seen through the lens of Wicca, Witchcraft or Stregheria may be surprised by ideas from New Age philosophy, Western metaphysics, pre-Christian Sweden, Huna, faery/elven/elemental, classical Greek, Mayan, Polynesian, Cherokee and other mythologies. The author intended this book to be useful regardless of where your particular ancestors came from. The lack of any African sources is a conundrum for those with this ancestry or those drawing on the wisdom of more ancient ancestors. Another problem is that there is no unifying theory of the afterlife across cultures. Perhaps for this reason, there is a heavy reliance on modern New Age concepts.
Some New Age influenced ideas which appear in this book are a belief that souls enter into the material world as an arena for learning, that the individual chooses the life circumstances and genetic pool into which he or she is born, that during life the soul transmits information back to the Divine Source. Upon death the soul reunites with the ancestral spirit in the Ancestral Realm and is later reincarnated. The persona, or personality is not reincarnated but stays with the Ancestral spirit where it grows and learns and eventually can become a guide for the living. The first half of the book is focused on the cycle of life and death and philosophical questions about where the ancestors live and what our relationship as the living is to the dead.
Topics of interest were all over the map: spirit riders, the Ancestral Eye, the Book of Enoch and the Watchers, Greek myths of the underworld, shamanic visions of snakes and a link to our DNA, the Mayan vision serpent, Kundalini and Star Gods. Large sections of the book struck me as being more confounding than enlightening.
One of the concepts I enjoyed was that each individual is a Living River of Blood, a repository of the genetic bloodline of the ancestors with a heartbeat that can be likened to a drum beating a rhythm back into the past to the Ancestors and forward into the future to one's descendants. Another idea of interest is that the separation of the soul from the material body after death is similar to the birthing process but instead of contractions bringing forth a baby, there is rigor mortis separating the soul parts. At its best, this text has some poetic and thoughtful ideas.
Gramassi believes that bloodlines work to manifest something in the world of the Living and need a living agent in our material world. He believes that a soul enters a specific bloodline to champion its cause. He favors the idea of a person choosing the general outline of the next life before birth. He does back away from the idea that one chooses everything one gets in this life by admitting that the will of other people can interfere with one's ability to manifest goals. Still, he appears to fall into the camp that believes for the most part that individuals pick their destiny.
One of the weaker aspects of the book is a tendency to use newer scientific theories or findings as a basis for proving or demonstrating metaphysical concepts. Gramassi is a fan of the controversial morphic resonance which has found widespread acceptance in the New Age community but not in scientific circles. His concept of nationality and genetic identity is dated and gives the impression that he is not familiar with genetic admixture and the relative degree of similarity between Europeans across national borders. For example on page 48:
An associated metaphysical perspective is that when different nationalities interbreed the offspring are connected by an interlacing field. In this light, there can be various lineage attachments within the Ancestral Realm. For example, a person who is part German, Scottish, and Italian is connected with those lineage through a type of morphogenetic field that networks with others in morphic resonance.
He describes the soul as a divided entity with different functions and compares this concept within several cultures. The Scandinavian concept of the three selves, the Fylgja, Hugr and Hamr, is compared to Huna's 3 inner spirits known as unihipilli, Uhane and Aumakua. These are then compared with Gramassi's conception of the three selves as the Elemental Body, Human Consciousness and Soul Consciousness and to the New Age concept of Higher, Middle and Lower selves. The purpose of this comparison is to describe the human spirit as being made of several parts in order to explain how reincarnation and other spiritual phenomena take place.
The problem is that the Huna concept of the three selves originates in the writings of Max Freedom Long and not in traditional Hawaiian beliefs. Gramassi states that he originally read Huna philosophy in the '60's and then wished to seek out more traditional Hawaiian beliefs for this book and so he read the Hawaiian author Moke Kupihea who is quoted within the text but is excluded from the bibliography. A quick internet search will show that there is a major controversy in the Native Hawaiian community which views Huna as a New Age story of cultural misappropriation. It is misleading how the New Age concepts of Huna's three selves are rolled into talk of the writings of the Native Hawaiian Moke Kupihea, giving the impression that these two things are one and the same; “The mystical or inner tradition of Hawaii lived on among individuals known as Kahuna, the shaman-like practitioner of a system called Huna.”
It is difficult to tell while reading passages, where much of the source information comes from. Sometimes sources are named within the text but often concepts are introduced with vague statements such as: in old lore; one teaching is; according to one metaphysical school of thought; there is a mystical teaching and other phrases which make searching for the original source much harder than it should be. There is little regard for the serious student who wants to follow up on ideas of interest. I found myself doing internet searches on unfamiliar topics and following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole. This kind of search can be educational but infuriating if you are a stickler for sources.
The last three chapters of the book unveil ritual practices for solo practitioners who wish to connect with their own ancestors. These rituals are clear, poetically worded, easy to follow and structurally satisfying. The style is more in the vein of traditional Witchcraft or Wicca with use of ritual implements like candles, incense, bell, water, wine and salt and a nod to the four quarters. Deity is non-specific. The blessing of a child, funeral rite and healing of the inner selves have a more New Age feel. There are two worthwhile healing rituals for forgiveness to aid with a difficult family relationship and another for soul mending that addresses letting go of fault. I wish the rituals were a larger part of the book.
Communicating with the Ancestors is a dizzying miscellany of disconnected sources and cultures. I preferred the discussions on myth and folklore to the long, almost technical teachings on the soul. This is one book where the rituals are the highlight.
~review by Larissa Carlson Viana
Author: Raven Grimassi
Red Wheel/Weiser Books 2016
pp. 193, $17.95