It is impossible to get very far delving into traditional British Old Craft without coming across a reference to the Ancestors – those enigmatic beings that lie at the very heart of the Tradition. Interaction with these spirit-ancestors as an invisible and powerful presence is a constant feature of Old Craft and they are identified as the Guardians, the Mighty Dead, the Watchers or the Old Ones, whose magical essence is distilled into the universal subconscious at different levels. Regardless of creed, race or tradition, they represent culture, traditions, heritage, lineage and antecedents and trace the long march of history that our predecessors began.
The honoring of the dead and venerating their memory is a common root of all belief, with many cultures believing that the dead live on in another dimension, continuing to affect the lives of subsequent generations. This concept of spirit-ancestors is an extremely ancient one, especially when it involves dealing with deceased members of a particular people or clan, and is still widely observed in Japanese Shinto, Chinese Confucianism and among the Australian aboriginal and native American peoples. In the West, we know from the prehistoric remains of the numerous earth-works that the indigenous people of the British Isles and the Celts honored their ancestors; and the earliest written observations are those of the Roman Paternalia (February) and the Lemuria (May), which later spread throughout the Empire.
The Egyptians began it all with the ‘First Time’ – called zep tepi – the universal Golden Age ‘during which the waters of the abyss receded, the primordial darkness was banished, and humanity, emerging into the light’, was brought the gifts of civilisation by the Urshu, the Watchers or Light-bearers, acting as intermediaries between gods and men. The so-called ‘Building Texts’ from the temple at Edfu, record that the Seven Sages, the Builder Gods, the Lords of Light, the Senior Ones, brought light, i.e. knowledge, to the people – all descriptions of the same shadowy brotherhood.
Like many other ancient religious concepts, these have often been used (and abused) in popular culture, particularly in Madame Blavatsky’s Western esotericism, which emphasised the idea of an ancient and superior wisdom that can been found in pre-Christian societies but which was absent from the doctrines of established Christianity. When those of a particular Tradition pass beyond the veil, their spiritual essence merges with the divine spirit of the Whole, which in turn gives these ancient Ancestral beliefs the continuing power to endure – even past their own time and place in history.
It therefore remains the duty of an Old Craft witch to ensure that the soul of any newly deceased can successfully join the Ancestors and keep adding to the strength of our belief, which, in many instances may already have endured for hundreds of years. If when living, we cannot acknowledge and respect the Ancestors of traditional British Old Craft (or any other Path or Tradition) to which we claim to belong, then we will contribute nothing to the Whole when we die. MD