Just invoking the word “ancestors” creates a sense of personal mythology, of belonging to something larger than yourself: “Ancestors” are those people from whom the magic of you sprung, who did things “the old way”, lived by a different set of rules, and carried throughout their lives the hope that the traditions passed on to them would continue to be passed on after them. They are the ones with the best recipes, the secret ingredients, the ancient rituals, the origin stories, the deepest intuition, and the greatest wisdom of how things “should be done”.
But somewhere, along the way, many of us lost ties with the traditions that were ours to inherit—particularly those of us from immigrant backgrounds, who relocated to or grew up in countries and cultures far from those of our origins.
In my shaman work, I often hear from women who feel a great sense of loss around their inability to access ancestral wisdom. Many times, for one reason or another, they never had close contact with their grandparents, great grandparents, or other relatives growing up. Those of us who are part of the Asian diaspora often grew up with extended family living on another continent or were adopted into a Western culture with little similarity to our own. Others experienced traumatic interactions with relatives in childhood, creating relationships that were stressful, limited, or nonexistent and left little space for the passing on of wisdom.
The common thread in each of these stories is the sense of disconnect—a profound absence and longing that is very real for many people. But it does not have to be.
In many ways, those of us who have been disconnected from our ancestral wisdom, by circumstance or by choice, have an opportunity and a gift to reclaim those wisdom traditions in ways that honor our heritage while celebrating our modern authenticity. I believe that our “ancestors” need not be limited to our direct family. The wisdom offered by ancestral traditions extends far beyond our direct lineage: Beyond what is scribbled into family trees, encoded into DNA, or recorded in legal documents. Instead, our ancestral ties include the land we come from and its collective history and culture, as well as the culture of where we were born or raised, and all the places and traditions we experience in our lifetime.
I believe this is also true for cultural and spiritual traditions, ancestral magic, and healing wisdom, as well. Regardless of your direct connection to your genetic ancestors, the traditions, magic, and healing practices they learned and lived by exist far beyond them—the energy of that ancestry was passed on to them, lived through them, and now belongs to you. Whether you’ve been able to access it as deeply as you would like, or not. The vibrational energy of geography, cultural history, art, music, literature, and traditional practices are constantly manifesting and re-manifesting, being created and re-created. By opening your mind to a broader understanding of ancestral energy, you can realize that you are not so limited in your ability to connect with your ancestors. The origins of your collective ancestral wisdom are already deep within you. All you have to do now is unlock their energy. Consider these five approaches to unlocking and connecting more deeply with the energy of your ancestral wisdom:
- Nurture a personal, spiritual connection to your wisdom traditions. Researching and practicing the traditions of your ancestors is a helpful place to start, but the true power of connecting to your ancestral wisdom traditions is ignited by approaching that wisdom in an awakened, spiritual way. Nurturing a regular spiritual practice that quiets your mind and opens you to the divine is one of the best ways to receive downloads and messages from Source, Universe, God, your higher self, your guides, angels, or ancestors—no matter what you call it, the magic is the same. Establishing a daily or weekly meditation practice is a great starting point, even if each session is only 10 minutes. Beginning small will help build consistency. Once you’ve established that consistency, then you can grow towards longer meditation sessions. Before sitting for meditation, set an intention for your practice. A few examples I love include:
- I open myself to the wisdom of my ancestors and other divine beings.
- I open myself to guidance towards my highest good and greatest joy.
You can also support your meditation practice by engaging with daily rituals like practicing gratitude, journaling, or drawing a card from your favorite tarot or oracle deck. If you are of Korean descent or have a karmic connection to Eastern culture and spirituality, be sure to check out my Morning Calm Oracle Deck.
- Spend more time connecting to nature. The earth of your “motherland”, combined with the geography of where you grew up and currently live are all pieces of your ancestral equation. Personally, when I visit Korea—especially the beautiful natural geography—I find that I experience energetic connection and healing in such a profound way. But when I return to my chosen home to Richmond, Virginia, I also feel a similar connection and pull. Setting the intention to spend time in, connect with, and appreciate the natural world can heal and inspire you.
In these moments of connecting with nature, be mindful that you are not just going through the motions, but rather explore how you can tune into the land and its creatures on an energetic, vibrational level beyond your physical body. Relish presence and your own place in the vast expanse of all living things. As you do this, you will feel yourself open to a spiritual, unbreakable connection with nature.
- Explore a variety of cultural connections. Once you’ve begun to open yourself up to what the spiritual, energetic world has to offer you in terms of connecting to your ancestral wisdom, it can be immensely powerful to learn more about what cultural traditions draw you to your origin identity. Consider things like your familial language, traditional food and music, historical and contemporary art, or literature. Discover what specifically your energy is drawn to and how those cultural traditions nourish your connection to your lineage. Do the same for cultural elements of your adopted homeland. Consider what figures you might choose for your ancestors if you could. Learning more about whatever gives you joy, healing, wisdom, clarity, and love furthers your connection with ancestral wisdom.
- Explore your past lives. We are not confined to our biological lineage in our present life. Through reincarnation, our souls have lived multiple lifetimes and experienced a multitude of cultures and geographies. Take time to consider what other cultures you are drawn to and would love to learn more about. Perhaps you’ll discover you’re drawn to a country or culture that you don’t have any conceivable tie to, but for some reason your energy is guiding you there. If this is the case, follow that! In my own experience, I have a very distinct memory of a cottage in a field of wildflowers, located somewhere in Europe. It’s a vision I have often thought of, drawn, and painted since childhood. During other past life journeys and meditations, I’ve also seen visions of Mongolia.
Consider exploring past life regressions on your own, or work with a shaman or other spiritual practitioner if you are unfamiliar with the work. It’s important to remain open-minded and approach past life explorations with a relaxed, playful energy. Take your time and be gentle with yourself.
- Last, but not least: Travel! There is something supremely magical about stepping foot onto your ancestral land. Connecting physically to the earth of your heritage is a powerful way to activate strong energetic connections between you and your biological ancestors. Experiencing the food, the music and art, the architecture and physical land, and the spiritual sites of your homeland are key to feeling closer to your collective ancestral energy. When I embarked on my own ancestral pilgrimage to South Korea in 2018 and 2019, I experienced some incredible synchronicities and connections. In 2018, I was unexpectedly connected to both of my teachers: One during a random day hike and another when I was purchasing a book on Korean shamanism. In 2019, I followed my spiritual pull and guidance and, by complete coincidence, ran into a cousin whom I hadn’t seen for 35 years! My intuition has ushered me to meaningful sites that honor my paternal ancestor, Choi Chiwon, who came to me as my shamanic deity. These are all experiences I may not have had if I did not make the commitment to step foot on the land of my ancestors.
If you have a willingness and the means to travel to your own ancestral land, I highly recommend you make the trip. There is nothing else like it. Experiencing the energy and connection of physical presence with the people, places, and traditions of your origins can unlock the ancestral wisdom deep inside you, healing any generation trauma that might be in your soul. If you identify with Korean ancestry and exploring Korean shamanism in any capacity, consider joining my Korean Ancestry Retreat. You can learn more about the value of this retreat and see a sample itinerary here.
Connecting with your ancestral wisdom can be an awakening, enlightening, and healing experience. In the fast-paced, globalized world we live in, it can be easy for those wisdom traditions to fade or get lost in all the noise. Nonetheless, their magic lives within you. All you have to do is access it.