Patreon Topic 22: Ancestor Work and Weregild

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From Stephanie comes this topic:

“In the latest episode (#52) you mentioned weregild. Could you elaborate on what this is and how it might come into play with ancestor work? What a weregild might be? Is it like a big crime(what my google search showed) or can it just be emotional baggage they never dealt with?”

Weregild means “man price”. In ancient Germanic societies this was used to describe the damages paid to a person or their family for harm or death. Weregild applied to all people, and so long as they were of sufficient rank in society they could collect on it. The exception to this case were thralls, slaves, who had no weregild price but whose death or injury were often compensated to their owners.

When I apply the term to Ancestor work I am talking about the weight of debt our Ancestors have accrued to each other and to others through the wrongs they have done. This is not just emotional baggage, though it can include emotional baggage having to be worked through if an Ancestor is refusing to handle an issue because of it. I also need to be clear in that when talking about weregild regarding Ancestor work that I am putting the responsibility to paying it on the Ancestors’ shoulders as They have generated it in the first place and carried the burden of it to us. This is different from ‘the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son’ in the way often taught in modern Christian churches.

Weregild owed by our Ancestors is our problem because the weight of that burden causes turmoil in our Ancestral lines. For example, if our Ancestors stole land, murdered a person, abused people, or caused injuries that were neither corrected or forgiven, They carry that debt with Them. That debt is owed to those who were wronged. Sometimes the wrong is so far back in history we cannot hope to contact a physical descendent of those wronged to pay the weregild, and so, we must seek to have our Ancestors right the wrong in another way. This might be extensive spiritual work on our part, eg sitting two sets of Ancestors down and working out past wrongs with them. We might be called on to heal old divisions between our family lines so that the descendents are reconciled with one another. We might be called on to help raise funds to buy land back that was stolen from a people or a person.

We may have situations where we simply cannot compensate the harm done. This may be because the damage done is so egregious or the harmed party is unwilling to allow a settlement. For cases where the wrong was done to people who are all dead, there certainly are things that can be done. As mentioned previous, we can do our best to compensate those who have survived the wrongs our Ancestors visited upon them. We can ask our Gods of the Dead to liase and work out what we and especially our Ancestors can do so weregild is paid.

The point of weregild is not guilt. Rather, it is to correct the wrongs done so that the harm done does not continue any longer in its effects and the harm done is compensated.

Something to keep in mind with this work is that your Ancestors paying their weregild does not absolve you of the work you need to do in this life, either personally or on Their behalf. Americans still live in a system that institutionally targets BIPOC for state-sanctioned murder, maiming, violence, and ongoing harm besides. Likewise, we still live in a system that institutionally does harm to QUILTBAG+ folks. As if this were not bad enough, the harm often intersects the worst with BIPOC QUILTBAG+ folks. Desired or not, whites, especially straight cis whites, overwhelmingly benefit from this situation. This is not something we can pay to go away. These are interconnected injustices that need to be addressed, fought against.

When we put our Ancestors into healthier positions through the spirit work we can do, They in turn can support us and our families better. When weight of spiritual debt is lifted through the payment of weregild and similar work, it is easier for our Ancestors to render Their aid, to do Their work, and to reweave lost threads between our various families, whether by blood, adoption, lineage, and so on. Our reciprocity to our Ancestors is to help Them to be better, and likewise, this is Their reciprocity to us.

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