by Cathy Skipper

I want to give an outline of what bought me to this work and why it has become central to my life. I have my ancestors to thank for being here today, for finding my personal myth and being able to share it with the world. I was born into a family where our roots were obvious, but we were not allowed to ask about them, talk about them or admit them.

What is repressed or suppressed will always find a way to get expressed. I knew my mum and her siblings were all born in India and I could see from the rainbow of different skin colors in our family that India had had more than a cultural influence…however the subject was completely taboo.

This dissonance was difficult to live with. Physical attributes, accent, food choices, reminiscing, fragments of family history all resonated with the story of a people that I did not even know existed.

It came as no shock later that I found out my people were often referred to as ‘the secret race.’ When the British colonized India, they took Indian girls as wives and lovers. Eventually, the East India Company paid British men to christianize, marry and have children with native girls. The demand for a workforce to build the railway systems, the roads, the telecommunications was huge, and they needed ‘middle men’ who would understood both the native way of life and the British mentality. A bridge between these two very different peoples.

By the time the Suez Canal was navigable in 1869, British women were able to come to India more easily. They did not approve of their men taking native women as their wives. The British were also becoming wary that the mixed-race people may take over as the Anglo-Indian community grew. Mixed race marriages and half-caste children were no longer acceptable. The Anglo-Indian community was big enough to close in on itself, most marriages were carried out within the community.

At school in a middle class, white English town, I tried very hard to fit in but deep down never felt I did. Our family were different. But due to the taboo, I felt that I had just landed on earth and came from nowhere, I had no roots, no ancestors, absolutely no sense of belonging.

When I reached adolescence, my life transformed from being a high-grade student and enjoying school and related activities to drugs, sexual abuse and no self-esteem. Looking back, I realize that I lived the life of someone disconnected from their culture. Collective identity acts like an immune system, my immune system had not been able to develop. Like a baby who did not receive the colostrum from her mother’s milk but was instantly fed by Nestles powdered milk, my immune system was hijacked three generations prior to my arrival on earth. The immune system and the embodied feminine are very much related, which is why the mother line is the line of our embodied clan.  I will go into detail about this in the next video.

My great-great grandfather, a poor kid growing up on the ports in the South of England decided to change his life and took a ship to India. Working in the newly-created tea gardens of Assam, he married a fourteen-year-old native girl from one of the hill tribes who was attending a local missionary school. He died eleven years later, and their three children were sent to a missionary orphanage in Calcutta. No trace of my great-great grandmother after that. 

Once in Calcutta, the best outcome of a child from the orphanage was to marry. My great grandmother married an Anglo-Indian from Bengal and had four daughters, one of which was my grandmother. My mother was born into the Anglo-Indian community of Calcutta.

My soul and my DNA took me on a thirty-year journey through the traumas of my lineage in order to find out where I came from and secure my lost sense of belonging.

I had an eye for detecting people’s ancestral wounds. Working as an herbalist in France, what interested me most was not which herb for which physical symptom, but where in the lineage did the underlying emotion or trauma begin? What were the patterns being played out in the family systems?

My question to myself and every time I saw a therapist was why did my life take this sudden turn? Why did I live so marginally? Why did I feel I never deserved anything? Why was I so opposed to the system? Why did I choose abusive relationships? Why did I have to fight to keep my children? Nothing in my childhood was enough to have created this life… everything was an echo of the traumas of my mother line that had been hidden and disguised. The secret race was calling out from within me.

There are moments in our lives where nothing will ever be the same again. Between 2014 and 2015, my mum died, I moved to the States, married Florian, was diagnosed with cancer and lost all my material belongings. This triggered deep inner work coupled with more serious research on my shrouded family tree and the Anglo-Indian community in India.

With the help of some sacred plants, notably labdanum to begin with, I delved deeply into my shadow. Deep in my cells, I carried the information I needed to unlock the secrets that were playing out in my life and that needed to be integrated. Slowly, the ancestral memories began to rise from within me. I got better at catching them as they came through from the unconscious realms encouraged by labdanum, the master of shadow work. As I did, the outer world opened up and the research would magically turn up to validate what was revealing itself from within. It was as if the ancestors were guiding me both inwardly and outwardly – I was blown away by the precision of this work.

Over a couple of years, I had pieced my ancestral story together and revealed the patterns that had come through from generation to generation. The wounded feminine, the stolen blood, the limiting beliefs – it all made sense.

But this was not enough. We can know everything intellectually, we can piece together the whole story, but nothing actually changes, because it still needs to be transformed. Where is the power, the gift, the medicine in our stories and how do we become one with it?

The ancestors that we can put a name to are often the ones that have suffered and are still suffering from the same patterns that can be identified in the living generations. They are the ones that need healing and repatriation. What lies beyond these named ancestors are our clans. Where they are in the lineage depends on the individual line and ancestral story. The greatest gift of my line was that they were not far, and they were calling strongly.  Healing the recent wounded ancestors and the passed-down patterns involves repatriation by and into the clan.

Once I heard them and with the use of aromatics connected with them, my ancestral clan then led me onto the rest of the story.  Their energy was so strong and deeply loving and wise that I felt at last that I had come home, I belonged. This sense of belonging was the energy of life, the vital life force that had been mended, it is palpable and supports me every day. My ancestral clan showed me where to look so that all parts of the Self could understand, feel and be part of this story. On a personal level, my survival, my healing and my sense of self comes from reconnecting with my ancestral clan. Who I am, my personal myth, takes its root in my ancestral story.Our personal myth is our medicine – that which we share as our essence in the world.

The place of not belonging, of having to deny my roots, being told to shut up if we mentioned India, was the wounded place. This wounded place was really an echo from the women in my line that could not exist fully as themselves, from their roots. It was a collective wound.

Now I have the gift and the medicine of the wound, which is knowing where my mother line came from and feeling them with me every day doing this work. My ancestors give me the sense of belonging and I am their eyes and their body this side of the veil. It’s a conjunction – a beautiful coming together in an individual and unique life story.

But the magic does not end here. As I researched the Nagas, which are the North East Indian tribes from where my mother line takes its roots, I knew deep down what I was looking for, however I needed to see it written. I found it and here it is:

“Most of the Nagas believe that their ancestors came from a place somewhere far North, in present-day China. They first migrated to the village of Makhrai-Rabu (also known by the name ÑMakhelì) from where they dispersed to the various directions that they are living now. Makhrai-Rabu is located in the land of the Mao tribe in present-day Manipur state, India. Several historic symbols associated with the dispersal of the Nagas are still existing there: a big stone called Tamratu, which means ìstone of dispersalî; an ancient wild pear tree called Chutebu, planted at the time of dispersal by the Naga elders. It is said that the Naga ancestors took an oath to unite again one day.”

I believe that they are uniting in a way that is unconventional to intellectual thinking, but makes a lot of sense to magical thinking. In any case, it is this ancestral wisdom and the fact that my people thought like this and made ceremony for their descendants that I believe has kept them alive within me. Now I know the deep force that enabled me to survive in this lifetime came from my ancestors guiding and leading me to this place of complete belonging. A place that my four sons can feel and take forward into their lives and give through spirit to their children.  

This was a brief account of my story. I believe we all have important ancestral stories to mend, especially those of us that have lineages that have suffered from colonization or any other form of separation from clan.

It is the clans within us that hold the ancient knowledge and wisdom of living in unison with the earth. They are calling us to reconnect and listen. Let ourselves be guided by our ancestral voices. This is the place that the feminine is rising from. It is deep, it is the earth.

I will be writing more about connecting with clan, mitochondrial DNA, beholding your ancestors as they repatriate the wounded and much more so if these subjects interest you please sign up for our email newsletter, join our youtube channel and follow the aromagnosis facebook page.