Ancestor Worship

May 11, 2011 by

Ancestor Worship

“Waking Up,” giving many thanks to Alice Walker for the powerful voice she used to coax the early-before-day-morning radio audience to learn the names of our ancestors. Many decades ago, in continuous whispers, hushes and a rush she urged we learn the name Yemaya.

Painting: Woman Fades Into Landscape by Gale MadyunYemaya is the orisa who symbolizes all the oceans and the seven seas. She is reverenced as a symbol of motherhood and source of all living things. In many myths and legends she gave birth to the sun, moon, and stars. In her magnificence, Yemaya is able to fall to earth as rain and command a crown of rainbows as the sun shines. Orisa symbols offer a bridge of intimacy for reason beneath the impenetrable beauty of nature. It’s to understand the energy of natural forces. Much like Einstein’s belief in” Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.” Walker says knowledge of her is our lifeline back to ancestor memory. Inside the turbulence of the waters she commands universal rhythms and elixirs with capacities to heal the spirits of ancestors lost in the diaspora. Engulfed in the beautiful sound of her name I arose in the dark of morning to write it phonetically.

Zora Neale Hurston died at age sixty-nine on my thirteenth birthday. I didn’t know of her esteemed stature as a Harlem Renaissance artist at the time but, now, at sixty-something it’s her essay How It Feels to Be Colored Me, which resonates as she writes about the dramatic sea change of rhythms and frequencies thrust upon us at thirteen. It is a calculated pain of social engineering, racial denigration, that was thrust and still stings to this day.

For Ms. Hurston it was the move outside the support and concern of a small town, while mine was the mere attendance in an integrated summer camp. Both instances minimized the color of our skin as irrelevant to the course of history. These purposeful distortions, lies, and omissions impede the soul journey for the privileged as much as they do the pauper. The breeding, wet-nursing, and nurturing of ignorance and fear is as swift a path to greed and avarice as it is sloth and apathy.

As a nation we must be as passionately committed to the unconditional practice of environmental, social, and economic justice for all, lest we remain a spiritually impoverished nation unable to exert power in the greater universe. Without the navigation of soothing balms of universal harmonies and elevated frequencies of truths, we shall be forever thrust as manic rushes of souls growing with greater similarities to the harsh arctic sea waters which empty into vessels of spiritual abyss.

I give thanks to Alice Walker for the support and love of our archetypes. In the powerful works of Zora Neale Hurston is a needed path for self-esteem. In the reverence of Yemaya lies a journey to enhance our religious and spiritual essence.

“Woman Fades Into Landscape” is a 9×12 print of a woman in joyful surrender to the elements.Painting: Woman Fades Into Landscape by Gale Madyun It can be purchased for $150.00.


  1. Donetta, It’s a collective feminine energy moving us forward on waves and rhythms so magically collected. Yemaya, the mother of the oceans remains graceous enough to beacon us to truths to align fear. Yet, like a society of elementary school children in dedicated life and death sandboxes and jungle gym dramas, we’ve no humanitarian ability to connect with the art of science to learn universal principals.

  2. Donetta Hodge

    Gale, when I read this I think of all the political rhetoric that we are subjected to and the lack of concern for one another. The lack of respect that is uttered by those without a clue to the gift of life they have received, for at any moment they can become less fortunate than even I.
    Love you.
    Cousin Dee

  3. Hope , my daughter in law presented at a psychological conference in Ruwanda and you will be happy to hear that the children today Are happy and continue with many of their cultural traditions. They live in the present with great hopes for their future. Kerry is a runner and the children followed her on her daily run! This idea was knew to them! Btw, Kerry was there at the same time as Mrs McCain was there although I did not ask if their paths crossed!

  4. Gale Madyun via Facebook

    I applaud the work of Thomas Norman DeWolf and his family.

  5. Gale Madyun via Facebook

    Dear Brooke, We’re living in exciting times as our social, moral, and economic history undergoes scruntiny. Indeed, Thomas DeWolf’s account was soul stirring. When I picked up his book I told him to give me two weeks before a report back. In fact, it took me months longer as a result of connecting with the courage it took to write many of the excruitinating pain it took for Thomas and his cousins to open their eyes to the painful realities of the flesh trade both yesterday and today. Awakening takes a lot of courage and lapses into the illusions of what power really is. I just listened to a Rev. MLK, Jr. recording where he says that power without love is irresponsible and that love without power is meaningless. I believe our nation, perhaps our world still clings to forms of powers based on 18th centuries exploitations – I don’t want to be doomed in such backwardness – but unless we ‘Awake’ we shall be.

  6. Dearest Gale, the power of what you’ve written is profoundly true. How rightly spoken it is to point out the importance of self-understanding and self-review for all, as it creates and broadens growth. For as in each historically recognized diaspora, and the hundreds, if not thousands, of unrecognized ones, throughout history the writing of the history is most often recounted by the civilization’s masters and not its denigrated and oppressed populace. Therefore, regarding your well-stated calls for mirroring and comprehension of what brings one to their own place in time following, for instance, the specifics of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the United States, I believe you and I would both recommend this masterwork: Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History by Thomas Norman DeWolf. For it is indeed a reference that invites evocative critical self-reflection.

  7. Gale Madyun via Facebook

    Brooke, I love the salad analogy! Hope, you are exactly right! We must reach back to our source – the voice of Alice Walker in such urgent, quick repeititions to learn about Yemaya was a blessed call for me – we must learn who we were before the disruption of the diaspora – and it works both ways who perpetuated this? It’s as great a need for the flesh trader to know who he was as it is the enslaved. We must know the energy that caused this…

  8. If we dont know the whole truth about the mistakes made by our ancestors an throughout history how can we possibly evolve ? I know that is why when a leader proceedes to wipe out a whole group of people like Ruwanda they will always kill the elders off completely to hide the peoples history from them so it is their strength in knowlege of who they are that empowers them as a people. Therefore once taken these children will be easy to enslave. It is also Faith that comes from knowing that we are a part of a people who have lived an will continue to live for many generations to come. The struggles they have come through give us hope, an their wisdom a suitcase we carry with us an share with our children.

  9. after rereading this again i realized more deeply what she is trying to say an it is imperative to our survival as the human race that we search for the truth and answers which lye in the stories an folklore which were once told by our ancestors. If we dont know where we are comin from then we must be confused about the rea;ity of where we stand in the world today, an have no clue as to where we are going an who we are. Kruchial Blessed

  10. Brooke, I love the artichokes in that big salad bowl of ours. Each part of it has something special to offer (as the artichoke does in each leaf) and when you think there could not be any more to the artichoke or person,you find the Pièce de résistance of both the artichoke and the person (the heart)!

  11. I love the image that we are not a melting pot, but rather we are a well-tossed salad, where each of us, as ingredients has our own unique flavor that combines to create a magnificent feast for our culture’s collective and creative palate!!! : )

  12. Since two of us working in the same area may give rise to suspicion!

  13. I ask only so that I don’t infringe on your territory

  14. Gale, your actions are really covert! I don’t know much about you. Where do you live?

  15. Sister,
    You honor me with your insightful words. Thank you.

  16. Gale Madyun via Facebook

    Rita – Ahhh, yes, let it begin with me!

  17. Gale, you touch on the even larger aspects of what is wrong with the world. I was, originally, commenting on some of the people that we meet each day (As Mr. Rogers used to sing).

  18. Susan,
    Wise Women planted seeds in us long ago thank goodness! Thank you for your kind words.

  19. Gale Madyun via Facebook

    Rita, me too! I’d hoped we’d gotten further down the road but here we are mired in nonstop wars, financial corruption, racial bigotry, modern day slavery…

  20. What a beautiful name you have Hope!

  21. Gale, I had hoped that more of us had already done that.

  22. i agree to a point but culture an heritage are in this world forever changing, transforming, metamorphisizing. So its all about perspective an objectivty. Nothin can destroy us unless we give it permission to do so. Bless

  23. Gale Madyun via Facebook

    @Rita, what we know for sure is an approachto life with closed fists leaves no opportunity for anything. We’ve got to embrace what we have to get beyond the illusions of fearand lack.

  24. Yesterday, while waiting at the DMV, a woman and I chatted. She talked negatively of how diverse our schools are becoming. I told her what a great thing that was since we have an opportunity to learn of different people and cultures. I pointed out the mutual advantages that these relationships bring to the table. She could not begin to understand that while we are different in some respects, we are basically alike! I find it unbelievable that there are people out there who do not appreciate anything less than a homogeneous society. I should have mentioned that one day, her predecessors will be in the minority!

  25. Gale, you name two wise women I have learned much from and read first as a teen age girl. Your picture is beautiful. Thank you for sharing all this.


    Big mama will find her way to us eventually. Your expression of your experience with her touched me so gracefully.

    Yemoja ma yo, Yemoja ma yo
    Yemoja ma yo, Yemoja ma yo
    Ni die die.

    Nedra T.

  27. Ability to share the Oneness is the great gift of cultural communication. Thank you for your thoughtfilled words, much appreciation. Namaste!

  28. Donna Morask

    What a beautiful and visual piece this is! When I closed my eyes I could both see and feel Orisa. Many cultures honor their ancestors and keep their wisdom, from generation to generation. Thank you for sharing yours. Namaste my friend

  29. Dear Minh-Hanh, Thank you for all the love and support you so loving share with me. Our collective cultural similarities never cease to amaze me. My grandmother had a special location between the gardena beds and flower tree on the side of the house. There was a concrete bench for prayers… I had an affinity with Vietnam, I so hope to return one day.

  30. Thank you Gale for these beautiful and edifying thoughts. The Vietnamese keep ancestor reverence tradition as well. We honor each one on his/her death anniversary. Before 1975 my family had its “temple house” in Gocong, Vietnam where the ancestors are worshipped/revered 9 generations back. My husband’s family ancestry house is in Hoi-An, being used by the government as a historic site. I keep an ancestors’ altar in my house to keep the tradition alive for the younger generations.