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Ancestral Magic, by Kirsten Riddle

Ancestral Magic: Empower the here and now with enchanting guidance from your past family history, by Kirsten Riddle
CICO Books, 9781800652613, 144 pages, September 2023

Discovering more about one’s family origins has become increasingly popular as new methods are developed to trace lineage through DNA. Perhaps you’ve done a swab to submit to sites like Ancestry and 23andMe, maybe even met some new relatives! As interesting as the physical aspect of our connection to our ancestors can be, there’s so much that can be explored through the spiritual dimension too. Ancestral Magic: Empower the here and now with enchanting guidance from your past family history by Kirsten Riddle is a perfect place to start your journey of connecting more with the potent magic of your ancestral lineage.

Riddle is a best-selling author of spiritual titles including The Beginner’s Guide to Wicca, Be Your Own Goddess, and Discovering Signs and Symbols. Her intention in writing this book was to provide a starting point for those hoping to learn more about their familiar power through the lens of magic, which is definitely her writing speciality! Ancestral Magic is filled with tons rituals, techniques, and guidance to aid readers in connecting with their ancestors, a process which Riddle notes is “personal and different for everyone”1, in a way that feels resonate for them and their path.

Ancestral Magic is composed of six chapters that I felt like intuitively built upon each other, moving from exploration of the ancestral impact on the reader personally to the reader’s connection with the ancestors to the family as a whole. I found this approach was very grounding because the initial chapters centered me within myself before branching out to explore more of the larger family dynamics, stories, and karma in play.

The style of each chapter is similar with descriptions of magical techniques, “Try This!” rituals and exercises, and pages for journaling your results at the end. There are also meditations included for each chapter. Riddle does a great job of balancing hands-on methods of connecting with ancestors (creating altars, gathering photos, writing out family memoirs) with psychic work (dream intervention, cutting karmic ties, scrying with mirrors). There’s also guidance on how to cultivate one’s ancestral gifts, build self-esteem, switch the narrative around, and other spiritual practices to enhance your own perception of yourself and your family.

One thing I will say is that ancestral magic takes devotion and dedication! To really unpack your ancestral karma, reveal limiting beliefs you’re carrying, or deeply explore your family’s stories takes time. There’s a spirit of reverence that seems to come naturally when doing this spiritual work, which invites you to slow down your pace. Plus, family stuff is very personal, and it can bring up a lot of emotions, which it is important to integrate at your own speed.

Riddle provides enough exercises that I have no doubt one could easily spend months, if not a full year, mindfully exploring their ancestral lineage. Certain sections might take longer to work through than others too. For instance, it took me about a week to set my intention for my ancestral magic, do the meditations, reflect on the questions posed by Riddle, and actually do the “Try This!” exercises in the first chapter, which is focused mostly on the reader themselves. Even when it’s made approachable, fun, and creative as Riddle has done, ancestral magic requires actually doing the work to reap the rewards.

But for those who move through Ancestral Magic, discovering their own inner gifts, discovering and maybe even rewriting their family narrative, doing the shadow work of ancestral karma, and opening to embrace the support of their ancestors, there is so much potential for a positive future! This is magic that offers a lifetime of insight and divine assistance.

Everything culminates perfectly in the final chapter, which was probably my favorite part of the book! This section offers ancestral spells for joy, love, abundance, support, and good fortune and an exercise to find one’s family’s totem, which could be a “a place, an object, or even an animal”2 often featured in the family folklore. Riddle also offers protection techniques, intended to help readers feel watched over and guided by their ancestor at all times, and advice on how to create family mantras and affirmations. I’m planning to reflect more on my family narrative (all the stories we’ve passed down through generations) to discover our totem and write mantras and affirmations that I can share with my family as a holiday present.

Overall, Riddle teaches us that ancestral magic is a fascinating and powerful practice. By tapping into the wisdom and guidance of our ancestors, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Whether you are just beginning to explore your family history or have been practicing ancestral magic for years, there is much to discover and learn. Ancestral Magic is your guide to unlocking the secrets of your family’s past and use that knowledge to empower your present and future.

Ancestral Grimoire, by Nancy Hendrickson

Ancestral Grimoire: Connect with the Wisdom of the Ancestors through Tarot, Oracles, and Magic, by Nancy Hendrickson
Weiser Books, 1578637775, 240 pages, September 2022

Lately I’ve been all about exploring magic through a community-based lens. In Western occultism there seems to be an exclusive focus on the individual, but the deeper I’ve dived into my own practice, the more I see the interrelatedness and notice how the dynamics/energy of relationship influence our own manifestation, healings, insights, and so on. And it’s for this reason that I’ve been interested in cultivating a deeper relationship with my ancestors.

My seeking to learn more about my ancestors led me to Ancestral Grimoire: Connect with the Wisdom of the Ancestors through Tarot, Oracle, and Magic by Nancy Hendrickson. Hendrick’s previous book Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future (2021) was the first time I realized tarot cards could be used for ancestor work; I loved this novel approach of using the tarot to know more about my own ancestral lineage. Plus, I trusted Hendrickson as a guide since she also has written extensively on using Ancestry.com to and discovering one’s family history online.

Ancestral Grimoire is the natural combination of her expertise, allowing readers to the next step of using tarot and oracles to enhance one’s own magical practice with the help of the ancestors by creating a personal grimoire, also referred to as a Book of Shadows. This book equips readers with tools beyond the tarot to reconnect with their ancestors, including pendulums, oracle cards, sigils, casting charms, runes, sidewalk oracles, and energy work. But it also goes beyond just reconnecting the reader with their ancestors; Ancestral Grimoire guides readers to discovering their own magic.

“One ancestor can be with you for a lifetime, another for just a moment. Ask for someone to show you the way out of darkness and they will hand you a blueprint no architect could even conceive. Want to know the most potent form of magic? Ask.”1

Hendrickson focuses on four types of magic (family magic, personal magic, elemental magic, and celestial magic) as she guides the reader through a full-year process of creating their own grimoire. The invitation is to both experiment with different magic and also experience the enhancement that comes from trying out these forms of magic with ancestral assistance. No two months are the same, and the variety makes for an interesting practice month to month.

And there’s no need to fret if you start reading in a month other than January. You can certainly pick up right where you are in the Wheel of the Year or you can even skip around and choose to do the magic during a different month. As with most magic, there’s room for variation and a personal touch.

For instance, I started this book all the way back in September (yes, over six months ago!) and have been making my way in chronological order since without concern for the standard January-December year. You might find the book calls to you a certain time or perhaps you want to begin this grimoire with a particular sabbat. Trust that it has come to you at the right time and move through it in a way that feels aligned with your practice.

September has been one of my favorite months so far in this practice. It was a celestial magic month with the focus being sky magic. The tarot spread for the month focused on connecting with my celestial ancestor and discovering their karmic influence on me, the intergenerational sky magic I’ve inherited, and a solar or lunar symbol I could create to honor this ancestor (with ideas included on how to create this symbol). Then there also is a pendulum spread to discern where balance is needed, fitting for the time of the autumn equinox.

But what I enjoyed most about this month was the practice “Messages in Paint and Fire” where I got to play with finger paint! There’s also an option to use smoke signals, but I for one enjoy getting my handy dirty and engaging in the creative process. Hendricks writes, “Keeping your question in mind, look for answers in the paint.”2 I still have my painting hanging up and it continues to give me new inspiration and insight from time to time.

This month, April, is focused on elemental  magic, specifically land magic, using the tools of tarot, a pendulum, and energy work (chakras). Hendricks writes, “I invite you to ask for an ancestor who was a land whisperer, an ancestors who knew how to communicate with the nonhuman entities who watched over the land, as well as with the land itself.”3

Though I haven’t delved in yet, I can see this month for my grimoire that I will be doing a bit of shadow work, using the pendulum to tap into energy points within my own neighborhood, and exploring the energy of my chakras along with land chakras. Exciting stuff! 😀

All in all, Ancestral Grimoire is filled with practices to discover your own personal magic while strengthening the connection with your ancestors. This book is a doorway to discovery about the hidden strengths and shadows of your ancestors that have been inherited, providing you with the tools needed to divine, manifest, heal, and create meaningful relationships with your predecessors. I recommend this book for anyone looking to explore their ancestry while also expanding their knowledge about who they are and where they come from.

Even if readers aren’t familiar with some of the tools used in the book, the month to month practice will build their confidence as the new skills are developed. In just a single book, there’s a whole year of possibility as your spiritual team grows and you learn who to call on for what purposes. It’s comforting to know you’re never alone and there’s always ancestors from beyond the physical realm available to be called on for advice and guidance.

The Relative Tarot, by Carrie Paris

The Relative Tarot: Your Ancestral Blueprint for Self-Discovery, by Carrie Paris
Weiser Books, 1578637627, 96 pages, 82 cards, November 2021

Ancestry has been a prominent theme for me this November. I’ve taken an ancestral astrology class, while also curating book club questions on Hiero for Badass Ancestors. The Relative Tarot: Your Ancestral Blueprint for Self-Discovery by Carrie Paris came along in perfect harmony with these other happenings. So far, it’s one of the most unique tarot decks that I’ve ever worked with. I’m just loving the bridge it opens between past, present, and future.

And this is exactly what Carrie Paris does best, as her work often allows for divination across the barriers of time and space. She holds a Masters in the Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination from the University of Kent, UK. Paris also has recently published Generations Oracle with Lisa Bonnice, which uses casting pieces, such as charms and coins based on the Lenormand Oracle, and a pendulum to connect with ancestors.

One of my favorite divination systems created by Paris is the Magpie Oracle, which uses small charms to cast divinations. I’ve always found her approach to divination very out of the box. It’s refreshing to have new ways to connect with spirit, and it’s clear Paris puts a lot of thoughtfulness into her creations.

The methodology for The Relative Tarot is just as unique. Paris asked her readers to send her photographs of their ancestors, and thus this deck was born of their images and stories. Initially, she planned for it to only be Majors and Court cards, but she received so many portraits and requests to be included that she decided to also include the Minor cards as well.

A sturdy box holds the cards. It has a side-flap for easy opening. Right when flipping it open, a mysterious woman with a mask and wings catches the eye, piquing intrigue and igniting curiosity in the reader. The potency of the deck can be felt as a glittering shimmer of magic that is decades old, now recreated to continue to flow through the veins of time.

The cards are absolutely stunning with their golden edges and beautifully crafted imagery. Old photographs are laid over colorful starry backgrounds with traditional tarot symbolism intermixed too. They feel of a different time, and this out of the ordinary sensation heightens the connection to the slip-space in the cracks of time, where intuition shines.

As I look through the cards, I wonder who these people were and what their story was. It’s like discovering a treasure chest of photographs in the attic, enchanted with memories, hopes, and wishes. You can see the personality of all the ancestral relatives on these cards shining through the looks in their eyes.

I am someone who enjoys historical non-fiction books because I enjoy the sensation of putting myself in someone else’s shoes and seeing what their life was like to live. I listen to their story and then integrate it into my own life, filled with the wisdom of those I have taken the time to learn more about. I feel like this deck gives me the ability to do this, only now these relatives are guiding me in regard to my spiritual path and potential future outcomes.

However, The Relative Tarot is not like a usual tarot deck, and as soon as you look at the guidebook you will see this. This deck is intended to help the reader “to create a divine Tarot Blueprint that will illuminate who you are, and what you’re here to do.”1 Paris writes this deck was created to experience your soul’s truth through an ancestral filter, helping one to see how ancestral influence is affecting one’s personal evolution and ancestral line.

Paris uses three types of cards for this ancestral and self-discovery method: Birth Cards, Annual Cards, and Significator Cards. Birth Cards are Major Arcana cards that represent one’s soul expression, including their personality, core ideals, challenges, unconscious urges, and ancestral agenda.2 Annual cards are also Major Arcana cards, but these change each year, offering a glimpse of the energies of the upcoming year, including opportunities for growth and key lessons. Then Significator Cards are Court Cards that connect the reader to their ancestral imprint, showing what might be impacting our choices and behavior.

To make it easy to navigate these calculations, Paris provides detailed instruction on how to find your cards through numerology. Then the Major and Court Cards in the deck are labeled with numbers to make pairing the cards together easier. The bottom left show the Birth Card numerological patterns and the bottom right indicates the corresponding Minor Arcana Cards with that Birth Card pattern.

For example, my Birth Card pattern is Universe, Hanged Man, and Empress. This pattern pairs with all the 3s in the Minor Arcana. However, it goes even deeper than this because within the Birth Card pattern, there can be shadow cards, whose energy is often unconscious or not tapped into.

To be honest, at first I found the entire system a bit confusing. I had to really concentrate and do the calculations and read the guidebook thoroughly for about an hour to start understanding this system. But Paris does a fairly good job of making this complex system approachable for readers. There’s even a Blueprint Review on pages 50-51 of the guidebook that is a fill-in-the-blank page for all the calculations.

In the end, I did get a lot of meaning out of using this process to learn more about my soul’s path and ancestral influences in my life. I think it would be especially helpful if readers also used this deck in combination with Mary K. Greer’s Archetypal Tarot, which focuses in-depth on birth cards. It’s also worth noting, this system is very different from simply doing tarot spreads to learn more about your ancestors, such as the process described in Ancestral Tarot by Nancy Hendrickson.

While this deck is phenomenal in what it offers, readers should be aware that it doesn’t give any descriptions of the tarot cards in the guidebook. For this reason, I recommend it to more experienced readers that are already comfortable with the traditional meanings of each tarot card, in case they want to use the deck to do spreads or read for others.

But it’s for this same reason that I DO recommend it to advanced readers because it’s a deck tailored to a different system of reading that can yield rich insight. Even though it takes a bit of time to learn it, I think once the general meaning of the Birth Card, Annual Card, and Significator Card is understood, this becomes a potent way to connect more deeply to one’s soul purpose, current lessons, and their ancestral line.

One last thing that really impressed me about the deck was how Paris designed it to have 82 cards, and this isn’t because she added new cards. Rather, Paris offers a much-needed option for tarot decks: the choice of three Lovers cards (one male/female, one female/female, and one  male/male). I thought this customization was just lovely to make the deck more inclusive to all relationships. Then Paris also allows readers to decide if they want Strength and Justice in the Major Arcana to be 8 and 11 or 11 and 8, depending on the system of reading they use.

All in all, The Relative Tarot is a really neat deck to add to one’s collection, especially for advanced readers or those interested in learning more about their ancestral line through the cards. The imagery is stunning and the process of reading with these cards is rich and potent with soulful wisdom. Paris has made a timeless deck that moves us into the liminal realm where our ancestors can speak to us and our intuition can be heard; past, present, and future weave together to open a portal for spiritual discovery and integration.

Ancestor Spirit Oracle Cards, by Jade-Sky

Ancestor Spirit Oracle Cards, by Jade-Sky and illustrated by Belinda Morris
Blue Angel Publishing, 0648746805, 43 cards, 104 pages, May 2021

Opening a new oracle deck is always an exciting experience, as you never know exactly what you’re going to find inside. I’ve used shamanically-themed decks in the past, so I thought I had a rough idea about what I would find inside the Ancestor Spirit Oracle Cards by Jade-Sky and illustrated by Belinda Morris. I was expecting cards themed with different types of elemental energy, sacred sites, and spirit animals, but what I found instead blew me away.

The first thing I saw was the card-backs: a beautiful image of a living bonfire flame dancing on a black background. Very cool. With simply the flames in the midst of darkness, it makes me think that this twisting fire could come from anywhere (or any when) and gives me a sense of connection with anyone who’s ever sat or danced around such a blaze.

When I turned the deck over and started thumbing through the cards, I was surprised to see that each card was designed with people or artifacts from cultures all over the world! Each card depicts a unique group, distinguished by their varieties of clothing, jewelry, architecture, and personal features: from Amazonian tribal groups, to Tibetan monks, to medieval Scotts.

From the get-go, it was clear that Jade-Sky and Morris must have done a ton of research about the vast array of cultures and ethnicities, whether contemporary or historical, that are depicted throughout the deck. The images are packed with detail and, I surmise, meticulously curated to be faithful to the astounding breadth of humanity found within the deck. Of course, I could not always immediately tell what group or culture was on display in the card, but that’s just one of the many incentives to open the guidebook!

In addition to the wonderfully-painted images, each card has a short phrase indicating its meaning (and the name which you’ll use to look up the card in the guidebook), as well as three keywords in a smaller font below. For instance, the card “BEGIN WRITING NOW” has the keywords “Create – Express – Inspire,” while the card “HONOUR THE DEITIES AROUND YOU” has the keywords “Prayers – Offerings – Help.”

There are a couple things that this style of card text does which sets it apart from many other decks you might encounter. First, I love how the card names aren’t just a single word. The short phrases are much more evocative and provide a little more direction for what you can focus on, and do this in a very grounded way. Second, the name and keywords do not dominate the card, allowing for all the beautiful details of the image to speak for themselves. I found this overall card design a delightful mix of aesthetics and guidance.

Opening the guidebook, the Contents section is very straight-forward, with no clutter on the pages and a clear alphabetical list of the 43 card meanings. No need to fuss with a numbering system here! The short introduction provides insight into Jade Sky’s design philosophy, and I particularly like the idea that “Every culture of the world is grounded in its own wisdom, knowledge and tradition.”1 Again, this indicates the depth of research and understanding that went into the design of each card, as the card’s meaning is intimately tied to the wisdom of the depicted culture. 

After the brief guidance about how to use these cards and three sample card layouts (consisting of one, three, and seven cards), the guidebook dives right into the card meanings. The entry for each card spans about two pages. A small, black-and-white photo of the card appears at the start of each entry, so you could make your way through the guidebook on its own to get a whole sense of the deck if you wish (though you’d be missing out on all the colorful detail of the actual cards!).

Each card entry also has three sections. First, a description of the culture depicted in the card and why that culture was chosen to be paired with the meaning of the card. This historical and cultural information doesn’t seek to overwhelm you, and gives you a great jumping-off point if you want to proceed to do more in-depth research for yourself.

Yet, these informative sections are still packed with cool tidbits: for instance, “GO WITH THE FLOW” shows Kai Viti (natives of the Fiji islands) sharing Yaqona (kava). The Fijians often share this drink during “island time,” where they just relax, tell stories, and otherwise enjoy one-another’s company. I felt the energy of the card perfectly matched the sense of ease and camaraderie I could see being shared among the people in the scene.

The next section of the card entry, Ancestor’s Speak, is a more direct message about the meaning of your card. What I especially found helpful here was that these ancestors aren’t merely speaking at me – they’re asking questions to provoke me to stop, think, and meditate upon the meaning of the card.

Divinatory Meaning, the final section, encourages you to engage your senses and feelings related to the meaning of the card. Jade-Sky invites you to participate in an activity or pay attention to your environment in a particular way so that you can observe how you are responding in the present moment, or find ways of deepening your connection to the aspects of the world indicated by the card.

What I liked most about the interplay between the two sections (Ancestor’s Speak and Divinatory Meaning) is how one encourages you to listen and learn from the wisdom of the ancestors while the other is focused on spurring you to action – a harmonized blend of receptivity and activity.

Overall, this is an oracle deck I would wholeheartedly recommend to everyone. While some decks can be a little more niche or thematic such that they may not resonate with everyone, Ancestor Spirit Oracle Cards is truly universal because it speaks to the common element of anyone who might pick it up – our humanity. No matter where you live or your cultural heritage, this deck can help you connect to all people from across time and space. The more I use and contemplate the cards, and the deck as a whole, the more I see how wonderfully holistic it is, with every element of the deck playing a role in its unity.

Without Reservation, by Randy Kritkausky

Without Reservation: Awakening to Native American Spirituality and the Ways of Our Ancestors, by Randy Kritkausky
Bear & Company, 978-1591433842, 288 pages, September 2020

“While most of our journeys take us away from our immediate daily setting, the journey described in this book has not been a journey away from home. It is a journey, yet incomplete, homeward…”1

Without Reservation: Awakening to Native American Spirituality and the Ways of Our Ancestors by Randy Kritkausky is a powerful book, relating the author’s journey of self-identification and awakening the connections to what his ancestry holds as wisdom and an authentic sense of personal and collective spirituality. The overarching message of the book is one of a gentle encouragement by the author to explore your own uniqueness, your own histories, your own lineage and by so doing becoming more wholly who you are.

I will share a quote from “Chapter 17: Microbes and Black Swans,” which speaks eloquently to Kritkausky’s intent for himself and the world at large. This chapter relates the author’s continued experiences as COVID-19 spread throughout the world and the arising of his wish for society’s healing anchored from a Native American perspective:

Native Americans know how to cope with a more powerful adversary while maintaining our dignity. We make necessary accommodations as best we can. . . Crisis can be a time to dig into our historical narratives and to gather their wisdom. The isolation and time-outs imposed on us in the form of quarantines may be a hidden gift, a pause button encouraging reflection. Imagine our families and communities gathered in small groups around a fire, exchanging stories of ancestral wisdom and reimagining our future. Imagine the cultural enrichment that might come if this became routine…2

Without Reservation is separated into seventeen chapters and ends with a powerful writing of the “Conclusion: Untangling Threads of Historical Narrative”, which speaks to what the author’s journey has truly revealed for him…

What I did not anticipate is that in, around, and through my personal reflections, another more complex image would emerge and come into focus-that of “Indianness” writ large. I now see unfolding before me something like a five-dimensional hologram of my collective tribal history through time, and even beyond that, an emerging image of our continent’s human history…3

This historical narrative is not one that is found in academic teachings, but rather one that can only be derived by the understanding and wisdom gained in making the time and taking the effort to step fully into the wisdom of the ancestors and nature and seeing through their eyes the true story.  

I appreciated that the author included a Glossary of Indian Words, chapter Notes and a robust and very thorough Bibliography. These were excellent tools that serve to deepen the reader’s understanding of the importance and profound impact this journey “homeward” had for Kritkausky, while giving insight into the wealth of wisdom held by the Native peoples.

One of the things that sets this book apart from many other books about Native American Spirituality or Native biographies is that Kritkausky is one of Native American descent who did not grow up on a Native American reservation, and so he did not have the first hand cultural and ancestral experiences that arise from those daily interactions within community and family. Additionally, he describes himself as frequently standing…

“… before a mirror. . . The face that stares back at me always has hazel eyes, light brown hair, light skin and northern European bone structure. I am continually reminded that I look more like my adopted family’s Lithuanian ancestors than my biological family’s Potawatomi ancestors.”4

And it was this self-reflection that ignited the flame within him to seek “home”.  He goes on to remind the reader that…

“Who we are and who we think we are is not merely a social construct rooted in the fleeting here and now. Who we are and who we think we are is rooted in historical connections with those who have walked on but continue to be with us. Our identity is rooted in our relationships with the land and with a sentient natural world that shares an active understanding with us. When we wander too far from our roots, our ancestors and kin in the natural world call us home, sometimes with gentle whispers and sometimes with loud voices sounding alarms…5

Each chapter gives a thoughtful amount of Kritkausky’s personal background and how he was raised apart from the Native traditions of the Potawatomi tribe, despite the Native heritage on his mother’s side. The reader is privy to the spiritual uncertainty that arose when his mother remarried a man of Lithuanian descent, who became his adopted father, and life in a geographical location lacking in ethnic diversity or non-traditional options to pursue spirituality. 

“Chapter 2: The Awakening” and “Chapter 3: Before the Awakening” recount the synchronistic events and imminent death of his mother, that brought Kritkausky into the wisdom of his Native extended family and their spiritual practices through a tradition of understanding of and collaboration with the natural world. It is often said of important matters that when the student is ready, the teacher will come. For Kritkausky, the teachers took on the forms of ancestral spirits, animal spirits, aunts, uncles, and kin.

“Chapter 4: Pathways to Knowing” is my favorite chapter of Without Reservation. This chapter provides the reader with tools for consideration as the process of awakening to the Native ways of spirituality begins. Kritkausky outlines them in this way:

• Visitations and Connections: “The most astounding and sometimes the most perplexing encounters involve wonderful, unintended and typically unexpected visitations from ancestral spirits…. direct connections with the natural world, (are) moments when the consciousness of other living beings, flora and fauna, becomes accessible…”6

• Observation: “… comes through intended highly conscious, close observation of the world of nature and the lessons that flora and fauna bring, if we take the time to see and listen…”7   

• Reflection: “This mode of coming to know and understanding requires time and critical self-examination, even an element of skepticism. It often requires asking ourselves hard questions…”8

The questions that are posited are found in many other spiritual journeys, all with the intention of verifying what has been intuited, maintaining a level of integrity around the intention and deepening the resonance of integration of what information is received. 

The last pathway, for me, was the most profound and is that of storytelling, described as…

“… profoundly social rather than introspective and private. By sharing or publishing knowledge and wisdom we have been given, we become teachers and conduits of culture…Our friends, families and communities challenge and confirm us, For Native Americans with millennia-old oral traditions, storytelling comes naturally. For others, this is nearly a lost art form…”9

I love this particular intention and pathway. You can feel the power and deep connectedness arising just in reading the author’s words of description. The reader is reminded that these paths intersect, informing one another and creating the point of resonance that will call to the wisdom of the ancestors, the support of the natural world, and the strength of heritage to find a place of cultural home. 

Without Reservation is a moving and intimate recounting of the author’s desire to know more about who he is in his “Indianness.” This book is dynamic with emotion, historical truths, technique, and masterful weaving of a personal account of seeking family. At the level of nuance, this title evokes in the reader a yearning for a simpler, yet deeply connected relationship with the knowingness of who you are in heritage, in spirit and in the network of ancestry.

For me, personally, it struck an emotional chord.  As Kritkausky relates in the beginning of the book, many Americans know of their Native American lineage, but lack the proof required for recognition by the US government and/or the various Tribal Nations themselves. They remain disenfranchised from their roots and find it easier to remain entrenched in the expectations of the society and cultural experiences they were raised in; taking on an identity that is incomplete and unfulfilling. What knowledge they may have of this other heritage is often fleeting or merely a glimpse of some memento or artifact at best, or a random comment made in passing that may indicate that they are something more.

In my case, it was a picture of my great-great grandmother and the telling of a story by my grandmother about her grandmother. The picture portrayed a beautiful Native woman with braids and clothing, presumably Cherokee. My grandmother did not know much other than what she was briefly told by her mother and when my grandmother died, the picture disappeared.

Without Reservation awakened within me the desire to know more about that neglected aspect of myself. And, I would broadly say that the approach and fervent desire that Kritkausky shared could be applied to anyone’s lineage-European, Asian, African, etc. All have historical narratives and ancestral stories to tell. And, as was true for Kritkausky, in connecting with the wisdom of your history, we can better be suited towards living in harmony and respect for one another and ultimately deepen the connections to nature that all indigenous peoples revere.

Heal Your Ancestors to Heal Your Life, by Shelly Kaehr

Heal Your Ancestors to Heal Your Life: The Transformative Power of Genealogical Regression, by Shelly A. Kaehr, PhD
Llewellyn Publications, 0738764511, 191 pages, March 2021

How much power or influence do your ancestors have over your current life? Some people say that they got their talent for music from their great-grandfather, or their ability to cook from their maternal family of stellar cooks. We tend to easily attribute talents to our ancestors. But, can ancestors have a connection to a physical ailment that you have? How about a personality trait such as a tendency to worry?

In her book, Heal Your Ancestors to Heal Your Life: The Transformative Power of Genealogical Regression, Dr. Shelly Kaehr explores how working with your ancestors through past-life regression can help you heal your life. The book differs from others I’ve read on past-life regression because the focus of this book is not so much on one’s own past-life regression to one’s previous lives, but rather a past-life regression to experience what one’s ancestors experienced in their lives. “By sending healing light through the family tree, clients positively affected not only their own well-being but the lives and future happiness of everyone in their family.”1

Shelley has decades of experience as a past-life regressionist. A previously published author of Past Lives with Pets and Meet Your Karma: The Healing Power of Past Life Memories, she is well-poised to write on this topic. She developed her own method of past-life regression to connect with ancestors and to experience their “struggles and turmoil, triumphs and tragedies.”2 She writes on how we can take the knowledge gained from working with our ancestors to not only heal our current challenges, physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual but also help our ancestors heal while also helping future generations in our families to feel a light of “loving kindness.”3 Remarkably, she also details how those who were adopted can connect with their blood ancestors. 

The book is divided into three parts: Genealogical Regression Overview, Case Studies, and Guided Journeys, which contains exercises. The book concludes with a bibliography and a list of genealogical and DNA resources.

Genealogical Regression Overview is the shortest section of the book, but it formed the basis of the remainder of the book. Shelley writes about Carl Jung and the collective consciousness as well as “behaviors that seem to be transmitted through the collective consciousness and DNA…”4 For me, this section melded college psychology course work that I had long forgotten about with ancestors and past-life regression — a connection that I hadn’t made until now. As Shelley writes, “We have energetic ties to the past, where we’re consciously aware of them or not. Every single soul who has come before us and all who will continue on when we’ve crossed over are part of our cells.”5

Part 2, Case Studies, provides just that – various case studies on which Shelley has worked over the years. What was unique to these case studies, compared to those I’ve read in other books on past-life regression, is how the outcomes were related to ancestral trauma, events, and even illness. The case studies focus on physical healing, emotional, and spiritual healing, plus curses and vows. While, as Shelley notes, the “past-life regression cannot alleviate illness,” it can become “a tool to help the cognitive aspect of the client to come to terms with what’s happened and gain the strength and acceptance to accept what is and to go forward with healing intentions.”6

Two case studies especially resonated with me. The first was that of Dana who worried constantly. It was a relief to read that “some people are genetically predisposed to worry.”7 I come from a family of worriers on my mother’s maternal side. “The undercurrent of fear is a quite prevalent emotion to pass down through the generations.”8 Dana regressed to visit a great-great-great-grandfather who suffered a violent act. Through the regression she was able to bring a healing light over the man, releasing him from his pain. 

The second case study that touched me was Eugene and the Evil Eye. Shelley writes that she became involved with helping people remove curses accidentally. As a woman whose ancestral family hails from southern Italy, namely Benevento, where the witches were thought to gather, I grew up quite familiar with the curse of the Evil Eye. In my family this was nothing to be scoffed at, especially for the generations to which my grandparents and great-grandparents belonged. Through Shelley’s past-life regression, Eugene was able to help remove a family curse, which whether real or perceived was affecting Eugene. 

The final section, Guided Journeys, allows the reader to participate in exercises for their own healing and that of their family and ancestors. Shelley writes that it’s best to do past-life regressions with a professional if one is able. However, the exercises that she included in the book can be done on one’s own. She recommends recording one’s regression to listen to later. I tried a few and found it helpful to record the words of exercise in my own voice to guide myself in the process. I also recorded what I had to say during the session. While not wanting to reveal details, I found the exercises illuminating and well worth the time to invest in journeying. 

This section has three parts. There is one on working with your mother and your maternal lineage and one on working with your father and your paternal lineage. She provides ways for an adoptee to connect with one’s birth mother and birth father and also ways for one to connect with ancestors of one’s adopted mother and adopted father. The last part deals with cord cutting and soul retrieval, as well as visiting future generations of one’s part.

What I liked most about this section is that one does not enter into a past-life regression alone; one is always accompanied by an angel who provides healing light and guidance. As Shelley reminds the reader, during these exercises one encounters the higher selves of our parents and ancestors – the “most evolved aspects of their souls.”9 It removed the judgement to read:

“The higher self (of one’s parent) is calm and neutral, loves you unconditionally, and has come to your soul journey in your current life for very real and meaningful reasons that always contribute to your highest and best, even if their real-life actions don’t ways seem that way.”10

I found Heal Your Ancestors to Heal Your Life very, very interesting. It introduced me to the concept of connecting with one’s ancestors through past-life regression to assist in present-day healing. The case studies were detailed, and the exercises covered a wide range of topics. There’s something for everyone in this book who wants to dip a toe into ancestral past-life regression. I highly recommend this book to those who are just being introduced to the concept of past-life regression as well as those who are familiar with the concept.

Badass Ancestors, by Patti Wigington

Badass Ancestors: Finding Your Power with Ancestral Guides, by Patti Wigington
Llewellyn Publications, 9780738764986, 312 pages, 2020

Within minutes of picking up Badass Ancestors: Finding Your Power with Ancestral Guides by Patti Wigington, I felt compelled to reactivate my ancestry.com account. As someone interested in working with ancestors, I found this book to be helpful in clearing away the noise and getting down to it. Wigington’s book clearly outlines the process of researching personal genealogy as foundational work to learn about one’s ancestors in a meaningful way. Building on this, the research done in finding/naming dead relatives encourages one to honor and work with them in personal practice.

The author of several books on the topic of witchcraft and Wicca, Wigington includes examples of her own application of the processes described in the book using Pagan contexts. I have an appreciation for the depth of historical research Wigington included in the book — a nod to the author’s B.A. in History. She uses her background in history advantageously, as the chapters around veneration in world cultures is thoroughly detailed and well laid out. 

Wigington goes out of her way to make sure that the reader does not feel less than perfect if they don’t know their personal lineage. She understands the various challenges many people face while trying to discover their personal ancestral background and offers concrete resources and processes to help find answers. Her step-by-step process of using various websites to collect data and using charts and spreadsheets to keep track of it all might seem a bit daunting at first, but it quickly becomes clear that her suggestions work and make the task of discovering and cataloguing ancestors a bit less arduous.

She begins the journey by explaining various practices around the world, effectively linking different cultures to show how connected we are as a species. This leads beautifully into the chapters dealing with finding your own people and building an altar so you can work with them, and also contains various meditations and rituals for both honoring and working with the ancestors you choose to involve in your practice. I have to admit though, I jumped ahead of all of that to get to one chapter in particular: “Problem Ancestors – You Can’t Choose Your People. “

In this chapter, Wigington tackles the very delicate subject of ancestors who might be very powerful and well positioned to provide assistance, but due to their actions in life might not be welcome at your table. She is remarkably open when speaking about her own personal ancestors and the lasting effect their actions have taken on her family, which is encouraging for those who are curious about their lineage but might not be ready for what they find. On a personal note, I found this chapter to be one of the best as I have struggled with the ethics of working with ancestors based on what they have left behind as their legacy. It’s not always great, and Wigington reminds us that, much like how we can choose to deal with the living, engaging with the dead is a personal choice that we are each free to make for ourselves.

Throughout the book, Wigington provides a variety of sample rituals that could be used to call in ancestors, honor them, or just thank them for being part of the family. I subscribe to the belief that one person’s rituals might not work for another, but I could absolutely see how these would be effective in approaching ancestors with a view to building a relationship. Understanding that respect is key is helpful to those who might not be fully aware of what they are potentially getting themselves into.

While the book is appropriate for anyone who might be interested in contacting and working with ancestors, certain sections seem to be aimed towards those just beginning their journey, while others are clearly meant for those who have established solid relationships and want to deepen their connections. There is also a section of recipes that could be used when providing offerings to ancestors based on some rough cultural assumptions and time periods, which I highly appreciated as it gives a good starting point for those just entering into this practice. 

While ancestral work itself isn’t necessarily light and fluffy, the topic of personal legacy and arrangements to be made for our own demise is not usually discussed or included, and I firmly believe it should be. I was delighted to find the final chapter titled “Your Badass Legacy” deals with things like providing clear funeral instructions including a living will, keeping detailed journals, and things of that ilk to help your descendants understand your life. Subsections on knowledge sharing, family heirlooms, journals and diaries, and recipes and traditions all provide excellent suggestions on how to get started building a snapshot of your life for future generations. Wigington even includes a piece about digital legacy, something that anyone with a Facebook page or Twitter account needs to take into consideration when end of life planning. 

Wigington does a remarkable job of navigating the various levels of knowledge and provides an incredible amount of information in a way that is not overwhelming. I have been researching my family on and off again for some time and was happy to see that the resources cited pretty much matched what I’d discovered. Having said that, there is so much in this book that I didn’t know and I appreciated the opportunity to learn new things.

One thing in particular that leaped out at me was the idea of appealing to archetypes instead of actual ancestors when you can’t find your people. For me, the idea of substituting an idea of an ancestor in place of the actual ancestor was eye opening. I have been struggling for years to figure out how to fill in the gaps on my father’s side, since I have no contact with that side of my family and no way to get information. Using her suggestion of researching archetypes from my genetic heritage was brilliant and helped me to finally stop feeling like I’d failed by not being able to fill in those gaps on the tree. 

This book really introduced me to how I could work with my ancestors, despite not knowing who they are or where they might be from, and gave me a foundation upon which I can create my own ancestral practice moving forward. One of the better books on this topic, I would recommend Badass Ancestors for anyone wanting to start building relationships and connecting with their ancestors in a low stress and highly effective way.

Ancestral Tarot, by Nancy Hendrickson

Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future, by Nancy Hendrickson
Weiser Books, 1578637416, 202 pages, March 2021

Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future by Nancy Hendrickson immediately drew my attention because it combined two interests of mine: tarot and ancestry. I have been working with the tarot for almost 30 years and have used it countless times for advice, guidance, and clarification. Ancestry has been a newer passion for about the past 10 years. I have an insatiable interest in learning about the different ancestors that live in my family tree, all of them coming from Southern Italy. It’s the stories of these blood ancestors that intrigue me – why they did the things they did and how they lived. I truly feel the blood of these ancestors coursing through my veins.

Hendrickson does an amazing job of illuminating how one can use the tarot as a tool for ancestral communication to: “identify and access ancestral gifts, message, powers, protectors, and healers… and use the tarot to discover ancestors you may not have known you had.”1 As one who has decades of experience in genealogy and tarot, she is well-poised to write on this topic.

In this book, Hendrickson writes that there is really no order recommended in which to read the book. While she understands that one might want to delve into issues around one’s family of origin for example, and start with that chapter, she does suggest doing the tarot spreads and journal prompts introduced at the beginning of the book to form a foundation for working with one’s ancestors

I automatically connect the term ancestor to my family of birth origin, or as she calls them, Ancestors of Blood – grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents – on down the line. Yet I was immensely intrigued to read about how she broadened the term “ancestor” to include two other types: Ancestors of Place and Ancestors of Time. Ancestors of Place are those ancestors with whom one has a genetic connection and who lived in the one’s ancestral homeland a long time ago, but those whose names are not known. Ancestors of Time are ancestors from past incarnations.2 I have this inexplicable draw to Ireland and was hoping to have a “conversation” with those Ancestors of Time to see if there may be a connection.

The book is divided into eleven chapters. Chapters one through three contain an introduction to the three afore-mentioned types of ancestors. Hendrickson also writes about how those who are adopted can work with their ancestors. She provides tarot spreads to help one find an ancestral spirit guide for the journey as well as using the tarot to ask questions about the purpose of one’s walk with the ancestors. As she writes, “Chapter 3 will load you up with a variety of tools for the journey. I hope your backpack is super-sized – because you’ll be given a lot to work with!”3

I did the spread to help me determine what type of ancestors I wanted to work with initially – those of Blood, Place, or Time. While my head was pulling me to one column of cards – that of the Ancestors of Time because it was comprised entirely of Major Arcana cards, my intuition pulled me to work with the Ancestors of Place. 

The majority of my ancestors that I can trace come from the same province in Benevento, Italy. Ironically, Benevento was through to be the gathering place for witches, a place where they would not be prosecuted. I remember hearing about the “Evil Eye” growing up and was given an amulet to wear to ward it off. In fact, when my daughters were born my grandmother gifted each of them with their own amulet. I also remember hearing about great-grandmothers who knew how to do the “overlooks” that could remove the curse of the Evil Eye.

Looking back, maybe it was from my Ancestors of Place that I have inherited some of my interests in Italian folklore such as the Evil Eye and witchcraft. When asked how I could expect to benefit in my work with my Ancestors of Place I drew the High Priestess card – inner knowing seems to be spot on. Finally, when asked what message my Ancestors of Place had as I begin this journey, I drew the Page of Pentacles – learning how to manifest, being a voracious learner – and ironically, the astrological correspondence of the card is Capricorn – which is my birth sign. So much insight just from one spread, which as you can see really helped me to reflect on the unknown ancestors from this spirit of place and make connections to present day in my life.

Moving along, chapter four, “Meet the Family,” held information on using the tarot to work with one’s present family to reveal familial patterns. Then chapters five, six, and seven deepened the work with the three ancestral types. Chapter eight covers the importance of keeping a tarot journal for this journey of discovery. The final chapters nine, ten, and eleven offer ways to create “ancestral altars, sacred space, and crystal grids.”4

While I have provided an overview of the focus of each of the chapters, one should realize that there is a tremendous amount of information offered in each one — too much to digest in one reading. I came to understand that working with one’s ancestors is not a quick walk in the park, but rather a dedication to spending time with the ancestors, more of a slow, multi-leveled revelation versus a quick answer. I realized that I had to dedicate the time to do the spreads and journal promptings, to listen for the answers that bubbled up over time, and to put the pieces together to understand the story. From understanding the story and receiving the communications I could begin to work on self-healing and to experience hidden ancestral gifts emerge.

Hendrickson’s writing style is very straightforward and comprehensible. However, I feel that having an understanding of the tarot is beneficial before diving into this book. A tarot novice might easily be overwhelmed by the spreads, especially since one needs to use one’s knowledge of the tarot for insight into the cards as a form of communication with their ancestors. 

The only downside I encountered was in chapter nine, “Pairing Up,” she writes about using an ancestor’s birth date to calculate personality and soul numbers. Unfortunately for me, the majority of my ancestors were illiterate, and their birth dates are more approximations. Many of the church records that housed information on births and christenings were destroyed. However, I immensely enjoyed the final chapter, “Ancestral Rituals,” which covers how one can honor the ancestors through rituals such as creating altars. This has always been a meaningful activity for me. I truly liked creating an ancestral altar using items that “came” to me as I was meditating on what to include on it. 

The Appendices in the book provide additional information. Appendix A provides an overview of the tarot – or “Tarot 101”5 as it’s referred to. Appendix B offers recommended reading on the tarot and Appendix  C offers genealogy resources. 


I very much enjoyed working with the exercises in Ancestral Tarot as a new way to connect with my ancestors. Through combining tarot and ancestry, Hendrickson has opened a whole new realm of possibility when it comes to communing with our family and spiritual lineage from beyond the veil. I highly recommend this book for those who want to use the tarot to work with one’s ancestors and discover a connection to their ancestors beyond those of their bloodline. I nod in agreement with Nancy’s observation that “the search for ancestors is really about a search for self. Work with the ancestors and the person you find is you.”6