Jungian Genealogy & the Ancestors
Finding Deeper Meaning in Genealogy
Ancestors, Legends, & Myths
by Iona Miller, 2014
The ancestors are, of course, the archetypes — they are the psychological ancestors. In a really dangerous situation they may be quite real. –Jung
In psychology, an archetype is the innate knowledge, images, or ways of thinking that are inherited from ancestors. An event that might be an archetype is birth. The gods are our spiritual ancestors, as our lines of descent show. The knowledge, but also the sins and wounds of our ancestors live within us.
We forget that the soul has its own ancestors. We relive the soul of the ancestors as primordial psyche, inherited from common ancestors in the distant human past. We can receive guidance in the dreamtime from archetypal ancestors. We do not only carry the genes of our ancestors; we also carry their memories. Jung said, Underneath the modern surface of the mind lurks the original primitive mentality of our ancestors, complete with vivid stories and symbols that have a natural appeal to us and seem to appear unbidden in our dreams and fantasies.
To conduct our own personal research and to find out for ourselves, maybe all we need to do is listen to our inner DNA. Listen to the voices, feelings, sights and experiences of our ancestors. The land of the dead is the country of our ancestors and the images who walk in on us are our ancestors. They can be associated with the elements of nature. They exert their claim on us, and power over us — a sense of our internal fate — as psychic representations of our geographical, historical and cultural contexts. The achievement of consciousness by our distant ancestors is reflected in the hero’s journey.
Legacy of the Ancestors
Ancestors brings together genealogy, common mythological roots and psychology.
Our ancestors often use metaphors in order to make the issue clear. The “living serpents” of our descent lines can be used to invoke the ancestors. Genealogy is a form of veneration. The study of our ancestors is the study of the Tree of Life. An altar, for example, can honor your biological ancestors, the universal archetypal ancestors, or both.
The purpose of the totem meal, grail, or eucharist is to reunite the participants with the life of their ancestors. Their lives, joys and fears are within us. In this way, they are with us always. For most of us it is true that we have lost touch with religious traditions of our ancestors; that we no longer connect with their sacred myths and metaphors. Genealogy is more direct, more personal.
Healing shifts occur through the conscious Feminine, Sophia, Wisdom, the divine feminine embodied in the world. The exploits and mode of being of the great ancestors resonate, to a lesser degree, with our experience of dreaming. The concealed and mysterious are as important as the revealed and understood. The ancestors are jealous; they want to be remembered. Remembering them is not just an empty custom, but imbued with meaning. The deeper meaning of much traditional healing centers on ancestor reverence.
When performing an ancestor meditation, people experience different things. You may find yourself meeting a specific person that you are aware of in your family history. Some people, however, meet their ancestors as archetypes. In other words, it may not be a specific individual you meet, but rather a symbol. Either way, understand that meeting these individuals is a gift. Pay attention to what they say and do — it may be that they’re trying to give you a message.
When properly respected, they are benevolent guardians. In honoring them, we honor the principles and values they represent. The tomb is a symbol of the unconscious as well as an alchemical vessel in which transformation occurs. Jung related it to the womb, suggesting the tomb is a place of the past that connects us with our deceased ancestors, a place from which the psyche is born, a connector to our psychic background. The tomb also represents the completion of circle as a place where we will ultimately rejoin the ancestors once more.
An exploration of the ways in which the ancestors, from the archetypal to the personal, influence us in the present and implicate us in lives of subsequent generations.
Mending the Ancestral Web
The known and unknown stories of our ancestors are present in our personal symptoms, disposition, split loyalties, aspirations, and the questions which inform our lives. Our ancestral and cultural legacies continue living in our bodies, through our relationships, in both matter and the timelessness of psyche. These legacies root us in the past and implicate us in the lives of the generations that will follow.
The ancestors, from the archetypal to the personal, influence us in the present and implicate us in the lives of the generations that will follow. If our ancestors managed to overcome a multitude of problems, such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines, we who are genetically similar can successfully are reminded we can overcome a multitude of problems.
Thinking about ancestors, archetypes, mental forms and so on is simply another form of what we like to call magic.
“Everything psychic is pregnant with the future.” ~Carl Jung
For, in the last resort, we are conditioned not only by the past, but by the future, which is sketched out in us long beforehand and gradually evolves out of us. ~Jung, Analytical Psychology and Education, Page 110.
My soul — are you there? I have returned, I am here again. I have shaken the dust of all the lands from my feet, and I have come to you, I am with you. After long years of long wandering, I have come to you again. Should I tell you everything I have seen, experienced, and drunk in? Or do you not want to hear about all the noise of life and the world? But one thing you must know: the one thing I have learned is that one must live this life. This life is the way, the long sought-after way to the unfathomable, which we call divine.
~Carl Jung; Red Book