As part of the general UK trend towards growing numbers of practitioners of non-Abrahamic faiths, residents of the British Isles are looking to their ancestral practices and beliefs as a way of challenging a society that grows more challenging socially, politically, financially and environmentally every day.

The 2022 ONS study found 62% of people over the age of 16 worries that they would be severely affected by climate change by 2030. With many ancestral practices emphasising the importance of nature and building a close and symbiotic (rather than extractive) relationship with planet earth, the climate crisis is just one example of a catalyst for someone looking outside western capitalism to figure out how to live in the world.

Once on a spiritual path, people find themselves called more to spending time in nature and bringing more nature and nature friendly practices into their home. But it doesn’t stop there. Particularly if you believe in ancestors and ancestral veneration, the practice gets into every corner of your life forcing you to evaluate, alter and evolve every facet of your being.

Much of this starts with the kind of internal healing that allows you to let go of negative patterns and self limiting beliefs. In the culture of African Traditional Religions, and other indigenous religions, ancestral veneration is the entry point, the basis and the anchor regardless of what other specific traditions or practices you end up taking on, or they end up leading you to.

Ancestral veneration involves making physical and intentional space in your life to communicate with your recently departed, right the way through your ancestral line depending on where you feel called to look at that time. The research on epigenetic is in, and science is largely agreeing with what the spiritual have known for a while. What your grandmother experiences lives in your DNA. What her grandmother experiences lives in hers. Ancestral trauma, and ancestral gifts are real.

Our ancestral lineages are responsible for many of our personality traits and habits. In the only picture of my paternal great grandmother that I’ve seen, she is rocking a big smile and pose that mirrors mine so uncannily I had to remind myself it isn’t me in the photo.

The good, the bad and the ugly we can trace through our parents and grandparents to somewhere in our lineage. And especially for children of the diaspora whose ancestors were victims of slavery and other colonial and imperial violence, that temper, or tendency to overgive, the lack of boundaries or too many boundaries - these are things an ancestor developed as a protective mechanism to survive.

Imagine sitting in front of your family members, and saying “I hate my nose” or “I wish my hair was different”. You would be insulting everyone around the table who passed these things down to you! The effects of western media are real, and people of all creeds and colours are bombarded with unrealistic images of perfect. Ancestral veneration reminds you where your looks came from and to be proud of them.

If you are unsure of your gifts, or overwhelmed by emotions, circumstances and events that you know are blocking them, your ancestors are your best first port of call for showing you the way. If you don’t know your ancestors, trust that they know you. If you have chosen or been forced to distance yourself from immediate family or your ancestral lineages personal or global harm, know that your ancestral lineage is much more expansive than you can imagine and you are in control of who or what you choose to let in. Adoptees, black sheep and lone wolves, there’s an ancestor for you, and over time and with support you can choose how to negotiate a relationship with the ones more challenging. That said, If your recent ancestors thought that other people’s ancestors didn’t qualify for basic human rights, I would speak to them about that before you do anything else.

Ancestral veneration healed many internal rifts for me, and quickly reconnected me with not just absent powers, gifts and talents within myself, but with an absent strand of the family. This journey took me to my paternal hometown, despite incredible odds against such an occurrence.

My first remembered instance of ancestral channeling came at a post event dinner in this ancestrally relevant town. One of the group, sat at the head of the table was speaking harshly over herself whilst describing very personal and quite harrowing circumstances she had been through.

My human reaction to feel empathy and kindness towards my new friend was sharply intermixed with anger. I was angry at her! Her words fuelled my fury, and like a good British girl at a dinner table when faced with a startling emotion - I shoved it down. Not to be defeated, it transformed, and waves of heat rolled through my body with increasing intensity, and as I held onto the table for dear life, a fierce nausea overtook my stomach and climbed up to my throat. By this point, I was breathing funny and obviously physically distressed. As the Lady speaker got up to go to the toilet, I followed her because that was at least a private space where I could figure out what was going on.

The bathroom was cooler and standing next to the sinks, I began to speak. The words were not mine, yet I felt the emotions so vividly it was only after I started coming back into my body that I realised I was holding on to a sink for dear life. Tess stood silent for a moment, and regular me started to rattle on about meaning it in the kindest way, but the message was very serious that one ancestor in particular was furious for speaking so harshly about the things about herself that had in fact, came from him. We talked, and hugged, and she cried, and began to speak in a way that gave me context for what had come through my mouth. Visibly lighter and much relieved, we both returned to the table.

I will forever be grateful that my position at the table was next to an esteemed elder who had witnessed most of what happened.

“You good?” she asked. I feel like Southerners say the least when they are most concerned, and if you are getting an essay they really care about something else.

I explained what had happened, specifying that I’d never felt anything so physically intense that wasn’t coming from me. The advice she gave me in that moment has stayed with me and helped countless others along the way.

In the end, she chuckled. “That’s what happens when you hold in a message that isn’t for you.”


In making enquiries about the religious predilections of the UK I found this breakdown very helpful from James D Holt, Associate Professor of Religious Education at the University of Chester.


Hi, I’m Mara, a writer and spiritual practitioner currently residing in St Leonard’s on Sea, UK! I like to write about spiritual things, from the perspective of African Traditional Religions and Afro/Diasporic practices as they intersect with other indigenous and ancient spiritualities.

As part of the Friends Who Write challenge I’m committing to showing up consistently, meeting the word count and worrying less about publishing my most polished work so please enjoy the sentiment, and pretend it’s well edited.