Ancestor Reverence

Ten Tips from Ancestral Guidance for Staying Grounded and Uplifted in Trying Times

Guest blog – by Mercedes Miles Mack

Working with my ancestors feels like being in the sun. It feels like being in alignment with the person I have always dreamed of being. Plugged into mystery, magic and play; the real allure of being alive.

Walking the earth under the loving expansive gaze of the ones that came before me is a gift. Through them I become a force of nature left powerful in the face of life’s consistent promise: change.

For years I had been curious about ancestor work, ancestral healing, and its connection to herbalism and plant medicine.

When I finally committed to building a relationship with my ancestors it directly impacted my ability to hear the songs and medicine of plants.

The one pointed to the other.

And when I forgave my ancestral lineage, particularly my Irish and British ancestors, the doors of communication between me, plants, and my people really blew open. It brought me to tears.

I had many considerations and reasons for not stepping into the work, however once I committed myself to building a relationship with my ancestors their love, generosity, discipline  and guidance were readily available.

It is through their guidance that I share the following invitations to explore during these uniquely uncertain times. A couple months ago they shared with me: “all of your work, everything we send to you, is someone else’s miracle waiting to happen- so share what we say.”


1. Trust Yourself:

Perhaps the greatest gift my ancestors have given me is the ability to trust myself, listen to my intuition and take action on it. And this has taken time and a lot of trial and error.

Trusting yourself is a direct way to decolonize your mind, body, and root.

Doubts about what a plant whispered to you or what you saw come up in your meditation are simply thought forms. They are a point of view, not a universal truth and through practice they can be set aside.

Trust yourself to make wise decisions and that what comes to you is valid and real.

When I first started spending more committed time in the classroom aka open fields and spaces of rural Vermont, my head and my body were full of doubt, tension, worry, fear, lack and mistrust of myself and others.

All of this noise in my head and body didn’t leave much room for receiving guidance, support, or communication from any plant or person-dead or alive!

This work of communing with plants and ancestors comes daily with endless opportunities to trust or not trust yourself and the inner wisdom and guidance you are hearing.

When you allow this inner initiation to take place you can apply this gift of self-trust to every area of your life.

Practice: Look in the mirror for 5 mins a day and say: I make wise decisions. Declare out loud: “I trust myself” and then notice how the days unfold after you state your declaration. Plants will respond, nature will respond, ancestors will respond back to you. Maybe take notes in your journal.

St Johnswort

2. Take St. Jxhns Wort/ Discover an Herbal Ally:

NOTE: we use Jxhn to include names from any, or no, gender

No matter who we are, we never really come to this planet alone. As a people we are navigating a culture of individuality that can often leave us feeling isolated and we can find plenty of evidence around us to confirm this feeling, especially right now.

Nature, plants, and ancestors can remind us to reach out for what we need.

Support, support, support is the name of the game and we always win whatever game we are playing!

Reach for what you know to reach for-that one plant, formula, tincture that keeps popping into your head or keeps coming up in conversation. You can even call out a plant by name and ask for help.

Recently, St. Jxhns Wort was that plant for me. Gloomy unmotivated day after gloomy unmotivated day had me swimming in a place of stagnation and sadness about my life.

Eventually, and through many conversations with loved ones, I remembered a flower essence of St. Jxhns Wort I made last summer that harnessed the solar medicine of high summer in Vermont.

After a few days of taking it I was in a whole new space and eventually I forgot about my need for it.

You know.

The body knows.

As an old friend recently reminded me: Your life knows.

Try simples or blends of Skullcap, Ashwagandha, Rose, or Nettles and maybe Milky Oats: those are the plants that my people send through to me.


3. Total Approval of What Is:

Over the years I have heard this from many teachers and coaches, phrased in many different ways: love what is, total approval of what is, suffering comes from resisting what is, let go of resisting the circumstances, what’s so is what’s so, etc. etc…

And I have found it to be proven true again and again!

When we resist the circumstances of what life is placing before us we are removed from our power, freedom, and full self-expression. When we struggle against what is, we struggle against the universe itself.

I have plenty of feelings and opinions about the current state of the world and this planet and to the Spirit of Life my opinions and feelings don’t really matter and that’s ok!

The Spirit of Life continues to move forward regardless of how I feel.

There are sweet moments when I stop judging life: when I look directly at what is, as it is and I say: I see you as you are Life, I love you as you are and my whole energy shifts. (Bonus: You can say the same things to yourself in the mirror!)

When we love what is--which yes, takes an effort, a lot of practice and beginning again and again--we are moved into a new space.

The people I descend from know about struggle, challenge, and trauma as do I. This tip isn’t about dismissing those things, it’s about providing a ladder back to the power of who I really am in the face of all that life brings.

We can surprise ourselves in this practice, one day getting to a place of being grateful for everything that comes our way no matter our opinion about it.

Practice: Once a day set the timer for 5 mins, call on the spirit of Angelica for clarity and upliftment and let life know how much you are loving what is. When the timer goes off you can go right back to resisting everything.

vermont sunrise

4. Move:

Movement is medicine.

My mom often says to me: “Movement saves lives.”

Sing a love song to yourself-move your lips. Stretch and breathe, dance naked in front of the mirror. Tug on your ear lobes, massage the back of your head and neck. Imagine and mimic the motion of the fluid surrounding the cells in your body as they expand and contract. Move your diaphragm, brush off your heart. My ancestors say: Do not struggle to start. Just start and be beautiful and soft and go with the flow.


5. Get out of your head/ phone a friend:

They ask: How many conversations do you have with yourself a day?

I laugh.

It can make a real difference to invite another person, outside of you, into the mix.

Complex cinematic fantasies about how the next few months will go, how this or that “bad” thing will happen, rehearsing conversations with people in your head (but really that’s just you talking to yourself) are all very enticing and sticky places to be.

When my ancestors see me in negative self-talk and mind chatter they ask me: “Why do you long to live in a world that is so far from the truth?”

The mind is magnificent and can work in many different directions.

This tip is all about allowing yourself the gift of experiencing life outside of your own head and your fear/trauma informed fantasies.

A mantra a teacher of mine shared is: “In here there is drama ( pointing to his head) , out there (points around the room ) nothing is wrong.”

I customized it for myself: “In here there is drama, out there it’s paradise.”

Mental commentary, negative self-talk, monkey mind, mind chatter--whatever you want to call it--typically doesn’t work well for creating a context of your life where you feel empowered and inspired.

For years my mental commentary has caused me to be cut off from the generosity and abundance of the natural world around me. Living in a fog, focused on survival compounded with a low-level dissatisfaction regarding how humans are being humans resulted in living in haze or behind a thick curtain.

Working with plants and my ancestors has led me to exiting my mind and getting present to what is actually around me: vibrant, extraordinary life.


6. Say thank you:

I’m one of those people who really thought I was being grateful because I said a lot of things about being grateful, but in reality I was being and acting entitled and arrogant and I have been like that throughout much of my life! This clear sight and the ability to tell on myself in this way, is one of my favorite gifts from this work.

Working with plants, I found myself alone in Vermont fields and wilderness completely humbled entering contours of gratitude that I never knew were possible. Touched and moved by the unconditional love and generosity of the planet, plants, and my ancestors these experiences of humility and gratitude have followed me into my relationships with people.

My ancestors show me how much they enjoy my authentic gratitude and thankfulness by amplifying their presence and opening up my energy field when I am in gratitude. Saying thank you or feeling a natural smile emerge on my face aligns me with the vibratory frequency of plants and Spirit.

Practice: When alone, out-loud explore different ways of saying “thank you”, “I have gratitude for”, or “I am thankful for…” and see how they land. Is there resistance? What comes up for you? Are there things, people or resources in your life that you are taking for granted that you can start to repair relationships with?

rosa rugosa

7. Write a new story:

My ancestors have a deep embodied knowledge about the power of words. Many of them risked their lives or lost their lives in their pursuit of learning the written word. And to all of them I am thankful for their commitment.

Looking back, the landscape of herbal folx medicine is enmeshed with rhymes to help us remember remedies, recipes, and stories to lead us through the expansion and contractions of life. Tap into that now, pick up the string where they left off. Your word is powerful.

Through movement, song, dance, story writing, painting, collaging and more, your inner knowing is always right below the surface waiting for you.

This work has not only shown me that I have no idea what I am really made of but that I am stronger than I think.

My people ask me: What do you think is waiting for you on the other side of fear, self-doubt, worry and anxiety? Who is the you that is unfathomable to you? Call that person forward. Call them in to meet you and together weave of a future you would love to live into.


8. Create an ancestor altar:

We are all alchemists and an altar is a place where we do sacred work.

If you don’t have one already, trust yourself (Tip #1!) to know what to put on your altar. And if you do have one, this is a good time to give it a good clean.

Perhaps you feel moved to place a couple photos, a glass of water, a piece of jewelry someone used to wear or some fresh flowers.

At this stage of ancestor reverence there are no rules to follow.

Use this space to get to know them, build a relationship with your uplifted ancestors who are interested in healing. Confide in them, bring yourself fully, just as you are.

Here they will get to know the shape of your ears and how you listen, the size of your mouth, the swell of your tongue and the way you form your words.

It is the way they get to know you and it is the way you get to know them. It is the way you will create what communication looks like between you. Your altar can be anywhere: inside, outside, and remembering that you yourself are the embodied altar (a concept Candace Taylor of Conscious Homestead teaches).

I found that consistency increased our bond, just like building something new with anyone.

Notice how you approach them, the energy you bring to them, expectations, desires, regrets. Chances are however you talk to them is how you talk to yourself internally.

It’s ok to laugh and play with them too. Pretty much everyone likes to have a good time!

milky oats

9. Feel It All:

There is grace in offering yourself the same love, patience, generosity and understanding that you offer to other people in your life.

Some of us need to be reminded to allow ourselves to feel our feelings. However you feel is valid! However you feel is what’s here and we can allow ourselves to simply be with that.

Often it’s the resistance to the feeling that takes up more time, space and effort than just feeling the darn feeling!

My ancestors have shown me, nature has shown me: Why not create a container for these feelings? Come tend to your soul.

Create an autumn, winter, spring and summer for your emotions during this time. Trust that this container has got you.

Personally, I don’t even realize that I often avoid feeling my feelings and I can be uncomfortable with those that are closest to me experiencing their big feelings.

And despite all of that I still believe it’s crucial to feel it all. Just be with it and go there.

My personal favorite is setting a timer for 15-20 mins and really letting myself let it all hang out emotionally.

By creating a container for myself (which sometimes last days or minutes) I set a gentle boundary communicating that there is a place of closure for my big feelings. And like Red Raspberry Leaf or Rose have taught me, I know that boundary is permeable and will forever be in flow.


10. Cleanse & Drink More Water:

Probably one of my favorite tips!

Before starting ancestral healing work, I didn’t take this tip too seriously.

The skin is the largest organ of our beautiful bodies and many of us are more spiritually & energetically funky than we realize!

Our physical bodies and energetic bodies are collecting imprints of past experiences, hurts, and other people’s past experiences and hurts all the time. This is not wrong or bad, it’s simply what is and we are gifted with the tools to wash these things away.

You might be surprised by what a twenty minute foot bath or intentional energy clearing bath does for your mood.

Activating the healing power of intention, water, and plants always results in something coming up to be released.

We know that cleansing baths are a place where plantcestors shine! Rosemary, garden sage, and lavender are great allies to start with.

Right now, is a great time for this.

The world is rich with remedies and tips from ancient traditions about how to heal and clear our body, mind, home, and soul. Think: sound clearing, ritual/spiritual baths, floor washes, smoke cleansing and more.

Explore asking what plants your ancestors used to cleanse themselves.

At any time you can pose the same question to the plant world.

Try something like: I’m thankful for the full pharmacy that the planet provides--as I create this cleansing bath, what plants would like to work with me? To my uplifted ancestors, to the healers in my lineage-what plants do I use to cleanse my heart? My energy? Make the questions your own, and leave some room for levity.

In addition to baths try mopping your floors with sage infused water, wiping down the entrance to your home, sound clearing (clapping or singing into the corners of your home), breathwork, room or body sprays that shift energy.

I love a monthly cleansing bath, aligned with the full moon is always nice. My people recommend doing it more often, but with all things ancestor work, at this stage, it’s important that whatever you decide to do or not do is enough.

And finally, drink more water! That’s it. It’s that simple.

They say: please, pay attention! Drink more water-so we can move through your blood with ease.

We love seeing you grow.

Mercedes Miles Mack is the great granddaughter of Viola Armstrong, a midwife from North Carolina and a woman of deep faith. Learn more about Mercedes’ work as a medicine womxn at and the classes & healing spaces she cultivates for womxn of color at Mercedes is a graduate of Radicle Herbal Allyship. To find out more about Radicle and its creator Naomi Doe Moody visit: or @radiclenaomi. Follow Mercedes’ journey of plants, magic, and ancestor reverence @shaktimonster.

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