Moirologia by a graveside in Mani, Greece, 1962
GRIEF RITUAL LINEAGE
I, Ahlay, attended my first grief ritual in the PNW in 2018 with Nala Walla and Laurence Cole. The ritual was being held in the lineage of the Dagara People from Burkina Faso, brought to Turtle Island by Sobonfu & Malidoma Somé in the 80's & 90’s.
The emergent grief circles we hold today are first and foremost informed by the grief ritual of the Dagara people and I would not be doing this work without being impacted by the ripple of Sobonfu’s (in particular) work. However, the emergent grief circles we hold today do not pretend to be the rituals brought by the Somé's. They are a combination of something ancient and something being birthed by the times we are living in, and of Lands we are a part of.
What I mean by something ancient is what comes through my connection and work with my ancestral lineages. The ancient peoples of Europe too, had grief practices, long before we called it that. In my own bloodlines, in the Jewish tradition, the Mikonenet (one who laments) embodies the pain and truth of change. My Scandinavian ancestors practiced "sitting in the ashes," where our duty is to mourn, travel the underworld and rise back as tenders to the village during great times of adversity. The art of keening is practiced by my Irish ancestors and the coronach by my Scottish lineage. There are long histories of lamenting wombxn & non-binary folks in many ancient European cultures (with very few still existing) who were professional mourners, improv poets & song bearers that attended funerals, cemeteries and other collective ritual spaces to channel the grief on behalf of the individual or community and to catalyze wailing.
What I mean by being birthed by the times we are living in is: what have we created in this era that we belong to? What are we already creating? What do we have access to right now? This could mean song, listening, trash, Water & salt, Earth, Fire and smoke blowing with Wind. How does the community become the healer together? Where can we grieve together and normalize the depth of ache that is living in the collective field? What does it mean to grieve in public spaces?
One of my teachers, Francis Weller says, “I am not sure if we were made to hold so much grief.” If there is one thing I know for sure, we are living through a time where humans need sanctuary to grieve together, so that there may be more possibility for it to be transformed, morphed into action, shapeshifted into compassion.
Some of the sacred space we create together are through the altars. The resiliency altar - where participants bring offerings that represent support for their journey. The transformation altar - where participants bring offerings that represent something they are working with to be shifted/changed. The rage altar - a permissionary space to purge anger, hatred & vitriol. And the grief altar - where we make beauty with flowers, cedar and salt water. As a teacher Martin Prechtel says, "Spirit eats beauty." This altar is an offering that, post-ritual, is returned to the ocean - for the soul of the world to be reminded that WE ARE STILL LISTENING.
As a cis-woman of European descent born on Turtle Island, I am born of dozens of generations of the uprooted & rootless. For myself and others like me, we were born spiritually emaciated with no intact culture to teach us the cosmologies of our deep time ancestors, to teach us reciprocity with Land, to teach us how young we are as humans amongst vast ecosystems of ancient wisdom holders such as Plants, Animals and Fungi, to teach us how to honor the sacred, the elements, the songs, the dances, the dreams, the community, the rites of passage to mark transitions in life. Where are our elders of European descent to help us remember our roots? We should be washing your feet. The grief I carry, as a result of this absence is profound. We must become the mentors that we are seeking. These grief rituals are an emerging remembering and an act of rebuilding culture where it has been deeply lost, stolen and forgotten.
I have limited experience on Earth as only living in this one body. Some of my experiences include survivorship, queer, cis-woman of euro descent living with advantages of having white skin, neurodivergence, cptsd, housing security, parent, nomad, traveler, shadow worker, dreamer, relationship with suicidal ideation and depression, low-income, working towards gift economies, equity & life-affirming systems.
That being said, these rituals are open to all people, with the understanding of my limitations. I seek to learn, to expand and to honor our humanity and our differences.
I always co-facilitate these offerings. As those collaborations emerge, you can be informed by signing up for my newsletter.