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Generational & Ancestral Curses - Part 1: Origins, Definitions, and Culture

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In this first installment about Ancestral Curses, we are going to look into some definitions of what an ancestral or generational curse is and what it is not. We are also going to define who your ancestors are, and what a curse is. We are going to touch on the topic of origins of ancestral curses in the Bible, and briefly touch on cultural appropriation. We will delve deeper into some of these subtopics in future installments.

When we think of generational or ancestral curses, we tend to picture some wicked witch hundreds of years ago who cursed a whole family and their descendants from then until the end of time. Like a storybook scenario involving a spindle and a spinning wheel.

However, there’s more to it than that. Sometimes when we have misfortune in our lives, or tend to see a pattern of bad luck that has run much longer than just a few months or a few years, we tend to think that someone has cursed us. Sometimes that is true, but sometimes it is just our own poor choices manifesting themselves in our lives.

If we see a pattern of bad luck or misfortune that has been in our family for as long as we are aware of, that may or may not be a generational or ancestral curse. And we need to sort that out and be able to tell the difference. And to be honest with ourselves. So, that is what we want to figure out first. A few examples:

  • “None of the women in my family ever had happy marriages.” – My mother’s mother, and my mother were all paranoid, henpecking nags. They didn’t try to please their husbands most of the time and didn’t respect them. That is a pattern of behavior learned, and once realized, it can be changed. It doesn’t mean that I have to be that way too, simply because it was a learned behavior.
  • “My grandpa and my dad always worked very hard, but we lived from paycheck to paycheck, never saving any money or being able to afford some of the things we wanted.” My grandmother didn’t work; she was a housewife, homemaker, and mother to 6 kids. My grandpa was a carpenter by trade, and they always had a roof over their heads, food on the table, and clothes and shoes to wear.

My dad worked hard all his life, even taking a job at a gas station after retiring from 20 years in the Navy. It was hard for him to find a job. Sometimes there were 6-8 of us living in our one bedroom house. (My older brothers and their wives, or my sister and her husband. I was the youngest child, so I was only around 2-4 years old at this time.)What do I remember?Happy times. We had a garden, chickens, ducks, the smells of good food coming from the kitchen while my Mom listened to her 8-track tapes, happy Christmases, pets, and going out to eat at Pizza Hut, or go to the movies when we could afford it. I don’t remember feeling we were in hardship.

As time rolled along, my dad got better jobs, we had more money, a bigger house, and extra things we wanted. My mom didn’t work, it was all on my dad. When I was in high school, he retired from his job when we moved to Louisiana, and he got quite a nice retirement check. What happened to it? Mom blew it. And I didn’t understand at the time, but my brother and I participated in that. We thought it was just fun going to the shopping malls. Where were we in a matter of months? Counting change from under the couch cushions to buy macaroni and a can of chili for dinner.

Then we moved a year or two later, when the company my dad worked for filed bankruptcy. And we started all over again.

When I graduated high school, I was intent on getting a job. However, my older brother (older than me by 10 years or so) had never worked a day in his life and was lazy, and my mom said that I was not allowed to get a job before he did. However, he had no inclination, so that left me stuck at home, as I did not have a car.

Time marched on, I got a job (although my brother still didn’t have or want one), and a car, and I worked my way up and was always intent on bettering myself and achieving more. Whereas my brother was more like my mom, I was more like my dad in that regard.

Yet do I think that my family was cursed financially? No, of course not. My mom learned a pattern of behavior from her mother, and I decided to stop learning that pattern and change things because I recognized the difference between that and my dad’s and grandfather’s honest, hard-working ethic.

Neither my grandparents, nor my parents, nor I have ever been on welfare or any type of government assistance. Do I look down on those who have truly been in need and accepted such available assistance? No. Only those who take advantage of the system. That’s a topic for another time, though.

Flash forward to the present – are my husband and I rich? No way! Do we have financial difficulties every now and then? Yes!Everyone does. Do I blame it on an ancestral or generational curse? Of course not! In most cases, your financial situation is either a learned pattern of choices or behavior or due to your own efforts or lack thereof.

Now, there are times when our financial difficulties are not our own fault. For example, the company you work for lays off half their people including you. Or you get sued for something that is not your fault.(Been there!)Or the market crashes and you lose your 401K.You get the idea, it’s things that you have no control over.

There’s a difference, though, between the things you can’t control, and the things that are directly or indirectly your own fault. For example, you get fired. Did you do something to deserve it? Did you get sued for something you did wrong, like hitting someone’s car intentionally? Did you fail to open a 401K or start a savings plan of any kind for the future?

Having said all of that, if there still seems to be a pattern of financial difficulty that is not warranted or explained, then you may have a generational or ancestral curse. I would recommend getting a consultation with me and possibly a reading.

  • Another example. My grandmother, my mother, and my aunt and uncle had Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Does that mean I will get it? Who knows? But I’m not going to plan for the worst. When we plan for misfortune or illness, that’s often what we get. The mind is a powerful thing and can rule our bodies and shape our realities. What you speak and think, you speak and think it into being and bring it to life. My mother and my aunt had breast cancer. Does that mean I will get it? Who knows? Some diseases are hereditary, some are not. My family’s health history doesn’t necessarily dictate my own. In some cases disease is passed down, but not always.

Here are a few more examples, not taken from my own personal situations, but some common ones.

  • “I beat my wife because of a generational curse. ”NO. Stop there. No, you beat your wife because you choose to be an insecure asshole. It doesn’t matter if your dad beat your mom, or your grandpa beat your grandma.(Well, of course it does matter, but I mean it is not why you do it.) You choose your own actions. You might have learned that pattern of behavior was acceptable by growing up that way, but it is not, and you know it. So, don’t use the phrase “generational curse” as a scapegoat.
  • “I’m an alcoholic because of a generational curse. ”No and yes. Alcoholism is a disease. BUT, it is also a pattern of behavior learned, in most cases.(I say most cases, because neither of my parents drink, but I did for about 20 years. I am 1 year sober this month, November 2019.) There can be many reasons for alcoholism, such as hiding from problems, dealing with difficult situations, or just to have fun. But you can be an alcoholic and become sober. It does not mean that just because your dad or your grandpa died of liver failure related to alcoholism, that you will too. I can admit to being an alcoholic, but as long as I realize I have a problem, and that I can choose not to drink and master my own body and shape my own destiny, then I can’t blame anybody or anything else. Even though a person may be an alcoholic (meaning prone to that type of behavior and addiction), it doesn’t mean aren’t in recovery and sober. (That’s kind of what Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs teach us.)

So, now that I have tried to explain, in the best way I can, the general idea of what generational curses are NOT… so, what are they?

We also have to consider these questions and their answers:  What is a curse?  Where do curses come from? And what is the difference between ancestral and generational. 

  • What is a curse?- There are may ways we can become cursed. Either someone curses us deliberately and directly (with a spell or Rootwork), or with simple ill intent and ill-will aimed directly at us. An example would be the Evil Eye. Sometimes, a person may not even be aware they are cursing you, sending negative energy your way. But it’s still real. Also, sometimes we can curse ourselves, without even realizing it. I mentioned earlier, that our thoughts and words have power to create and manifest into being. This is very true. I am always telling people not to think negative or speak negative, because you will inadvertently cause that thing to happen.(Examples:  “I’m such a loser, I fail at everything I try.”  “I’ll never be able to do this.”  “I’m probably going to get sick or hurt.” “I’m going to be broke forever.”)
  • Where do curses come from? – In addition to the sources I’ve listed above, your enemy or yourself, there is also God. Now, to believe in curses, we also have to believe in a Higher Power. Hoodoo and the Bible go hand-in-hand. I won’t get into that long history right now, but God, the Saints, and the Bible are very much a part of Hoodoo. You don’t have to be a Christian to practice Hoodoo, or believe in God or the Bible, but then you’re only getting part of the significance, understanding, and concept of Hoodoo. 

Now, having said that, we know that in the Old Testament, God cursed and punished the children for the sins of their fathers to the third and fourth generations. So, generational curses are mentioned in several places in the Bible.(Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9)I mentioned earlier that learned patterns of behavior can be the cause of misfortune or curses, so that is what we’re talking about here, a learned pattern of bad choices. The Bible warns of this in Exodus 20:5, saying that the children will choose to repeat the sins of their fathers.

Going back to Exodus 20:5, where God says he will punish the 3rd and 4th generation for the sins of their fathers, in the very next verse, Exodus 20:6, God says that he would also show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. What this whole passage was about was talking specifically about Israel’s idolatry.

Also, if we talk about the Old Testament, we also have to talk about the New Testament. Jesus came and paid for our sins and removed any curse of God upon us from that point in time forward. I’m not getting preachy here, I’m just stating, it seems more than highly unlikely, and even impossible that you have a generational or ancestral curse placed on you by God Himself.

  • Having said that, can a Spirit or an Entity attach itself to a family? Yes. Can a generational curse be put on a whole family and its descendants by someone who knows what they’re doing? Yes.
  • What is the difference between generational and ancestral? This is debatable. Some say they’re the same thing. Others, not.What is a generation? You know, like Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, etc. Some qualify generational as spanning about 30 years, because that’s about how old the average person is when they become a parent. Others opine that generational would be limited to your mother/father and grandmother/grandfather, whether they are living or not, or only to the ones who are still living. Its really a matter of debate, and a matter of opinion. Bottom line is, generational goes back only so far in your family tree. Ancestral can go back indefinitely, hundreds of years, etc. A matter of more recent history versus far history.

Reference for clarification on what a generation is:

American Generations Timeline

GI Generation

Born 1901-1924 (Age 85+)

They were teenagers during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. Sometimes called the greatest generation (following a book by journalist Tom Brokaw) or the swing generation because of their jazz music.

Silent Generation

Born 1925-1942 (Age 67-84)

They were too young to see action in World War II and too old to participate in the fun of the Summer of Love. This label describes their conformist tendencies and belief that following the rules was a sure ticket to success.

Baby Boomers

Born 1943-1964 (Age 48-66)

The boomers were born during an economic and baby boom following World War II. These hippie kids protested against the Vietnam War and participated in the civil rights movement, all with rock 'n' roll music blaring in the background.

Generation X

Born 1965-1979 (Age 32-47)

They were originally called the baby busters because fertility rates fell after the boomers. As teenagers, they experienced the AIDs epidemic and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Sometimes called the MTV Generation, the "X" in their name refers to this generation's desire not to be defined.

Millennials

Born 1980-2000 (Age 14-34)

They experienced the rise of the Internet, Sept. 11 and the wars that followed. Sometimes called Generation Y. Because of their dependence on technology, they are said to be entitled and narcissistic.

Generation Z

Born 2001-2013 (Age 1-13)

These kids were the first born with the Internet and are suspected to be the most individualistic and technology-dependent generation. Sometimes referred to as the iGeneration.

What are some of the types of manifestation of generational curses? Some examples are depression and other mental disorders such as anger, repeatedly getting into trouble with the law, business doing poorly, hauntings, attracting toxic people or situations, addiction, financial problems, relationship problems, breaking or losing things often, fertility issues, etc.Not all of these things are necessarily generational/ancestral, but these are some common types of things we see with generational curses.

Our ancestors sinned and are no more,

and we bear their punishment.

Lamentations 5:7(Remember, this is Old Testament)

Are generational curses a punishment from God? No.And if you believe so, then it nulls and voids one of the most important parts of the Bible and faith in general, which is that Jesus took our punishment unto himself.So, if we believe we are being punished by God, then we are saying the Bible and even God is wrong, and making ourselves god and saying that our opinion is correct rather than God’s word.

See, all of the Bible is very important, but one of the most distinguishing factors between the Old Testament and the New Testament is Jesus taking our punishment for us, thereby giving us access to God’s grace and forgiveness. The Old Testament is still a valid and important part of the Bible, so don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it is moot, only that the Old Covenant is not in place after Jesus brought us grace and forgiveness. So, basically, God does not cause us generational curses since then. End of story.

Now… Having said that, though Jesus removed all of our sin and any wrath from God because of our forefathers, He did not remove all curses from us. There are still things in the spiritual realm that can cause generational curses. So, if you feel that you are suffering from what someone somewhere in your family line has done, then it is possible that a relative at some time has brought ill intent / negativity into their (and your) blood line, either by a purposeful choice, or out of ignorance. So, what you are experiencing may not be your fault.

Let’s say that there indeed is a generational or ancestral curse attached to you. You do not have to be its prisoner. Knowledge is power. Ignorance is crippling.

Culture

In many cultures around the world, such as in Africa, the tradition of Ancestor worship is a big part of everyday spiritual life. I lived in China for a couple of years, and I’ve seen the same belief practiced there as well.In fact, the elderly are respected, honored and cherished there, and taken care of when they reach an age they can no longer do so themselves.If you could see the difference in the way we treat the elderly in America, you would be ashamed, like I am.

In Hoodoo, there is a lot of importance placed on maintaining a close spiritual relationship with your ancestors and honoring them, along with any other spirits you work with.What does this mean?Who are the “ancestors” you’re supposed to be developing a working relationship with?

Do they look like any of the people in this photos?

What if your own ancestors look more like any of the people in these photos?

When we are talking about honoring YOUR OWN ancestors, and building an ancestral altar and honoring those who have come before you, we are talking about the folks in your OWN Family Tree.

However, when we are talking about practicing Hoodoo, we do have to acknowledge that Hoodoo was practiced in the southern U.S. by slaves who came from Africa.So, we do have to have some respect and acknowledgement for the Spirits they brought to Hoodoo, if we are going to practice Hoodoo. And we have to acknowledge the efforts and hardships of those folks. We can’t practice Hoodoo if we are going to ignore those facts.

Having said that, Hoodoo is not only practiced by those of African heritage and descent. Folks of all colors and backgrounds can practice Hoodoo. No one has to give you permission, or tell you that you can’t, or that it is cultural appropriation if you are not black.(or African American). 

*I am going to take a moment here to clarify - honoring your ancestors is not strictly a Hoodoo practice. People from all nationalities, cultures, beliefs, and traditions honor their ancestors.

Definitions of Cultural Appropriation:

  • Cultural appropriation: The idiotic conflation of culture with racism. Essentially the absurd belief that the cultural exchange that has served to enrich humanity throughout all of human history is wrong because racists exist.(Source: Urban Dictionary)
  • Cultural appropriation is the act of adopting elements of an outside, often minority culture, including knowledge, practices, and symbols, without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.(Source: Dictionary.com, Everything after Z)

My thought is: Do people say you are participating in cultural appropriation if you are white and cook Chinese food? Or if you are Italian but sell Greek pastries, or go to your co-worker’s son’s Bar Mitzvah? I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

So, basically, there is an element of racism (against non-black people who choose to practice Hoodoo) within the Hoodoo “community” today. However, my opinion is that it is only cultural appropriation if the person who practices Hoodoo does not take the time to learn about, understand, and appreciate the origins of Hoodoo. You know, I mean the kind who decide to join a few social media groups, do some Google searches, and learn information that is probably 80% wrong or inaccurate, or watered-down, and think they’re going to suddenly become the next big thing. If your path (following your soul and your spirit and your heart) did not lead you here, maybe you need to keep looking for where you belong.

For example, some professional Hoodoo practitioners like to take it upon themselves to call themselves (and have others call them) Mama (fill in the blank), or Papa (fill in the blank), as a title when they lack the age, life experiences and wisdom to fill such a title. And more and more are popping up every day.But that is a song for another time.

My point being, America is a wonderful melting pot of various cultures, traditions, and we are all immigrants unless we are of Native American descent. None of our ancestors are from here, they were all brought here for hopes of a better life, at some time in history. Each region of America has its own forms of folk magic, traditions, lore, etc. Hoodoo and African traditions became part of the culture in the southern U.S., but it is also made up of many different beliefs, practices, and traditions .Such as Native American, a little European, a little Appalachian folk tradition, Santeria, Vodou, Yoruba, Espiritismo, Catholicism, and a pinch of this and a pinch of that. They all rubbed off on each other. Hoodoo is not Voodoo (or Vodou), which is a religion from Haiti. But the type of Hoodoo practiced in New Orleans may be called New Orleans Voodoo.

So, the bottom line is, yes we do need to acknowledge the ancestors who did bring their beliefs and practices of Hoodoo, and helped it evolve and grow here, and those who passed down the teachings throughout the generations. And we acknowledge, honor, and respect those Spirits, along with the other Spirits and Deities we work with and petition in Hoodoo. But when we’re talking about building your own ancestral altar, that is entirely different. My ancestors don’t look anything like most of the folks in those photos above. I don’t know who those folks even are, so I’m certainly not going to put their photos on my ancestral altar.

Put YOUR OWN FAMILY’S photos, momentos, and such things on your ancestral altar.

For example, if I had my Granny’s, and Great-Granny Florence’s, and Great-Granny Pearl’s photos on my ancestral altar, and then I decided to put some African doodad there to make it look more “Hoodoo-ish”, I just don’t imagine any of my Granny’s understand what the heck I was trying to accomplish or what they were supposed to do to help me. You’ve gotta make it about THEM. Don’t add things that seem out of place.It would be like going into Granny’s house and redecorating it with some kind of strange furniture from Ikea that they would never have understood or wanted in their house. I don’t know about your ancestors, but if mine don’t like the way I do something, they’re usually pretty good about letting me know in no uncertain terms.

And I also think that the Spirits I work with, (being my Helper Spirit, Guardians, Guides, along with Loas, Orishas, and other Spirits) didn’t like what I was doing, or the fact that I practice Hoodoo, I’m pretty sure they would let me know in no uncertain terms, as well. So, it’s not up to any person to say that you or anybody else should not practice Hoodoo. If you serve the Spirits, and they work with you, that should be good enough. That is a deep subject, but that will be a topic for another time, as it is a long one.

This has been the first installment of my series on Generational or Ancestral Curses. In the future we will cover Ancestral Veneration, Ancestral Elevation, and Removal of Ancestral Curses.


 

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