Conference Panel: “Hearing the Call of the Ancestors”

Hearing the Call of the Ancestors through Myth, Lineage, and the Spirit of Place

A panel by three women seeking their Ancestors who found each other along the way. Their paths met on the shores of the Salish Sea at a time when each was in graduate school. In sharing the experiences of their journeys with each other, they witnessed the transformational power of being willing to listen to the call of the Ancestors.

We find our Ancestors – and they find us – in many ways. It can be through an intentional ancestral journey, a “chance” opportunity to visit another city, detailed genealogical research, or focused scholarly study. By leaving clues to guide our path, the Ancestors seem to want us to discover them, if we are willing to pay attention – to hear their call. This panel features the presentations of three women who have made ancestral journeys to learn who they are by knowing where they come from. Their quests employ many ways of knowing as they retrieve the values transmitted in the folk stories, recover traditional knowledge held in the land itself, and reveal submerged histories through scholarly research.

Mary Beth Moser: “My story begins decades ago when I first walked on the land of my grandparents in what is now called northern Italy. Having been raised without explicit knowledge of my cultural heritage, I felt a sense of belonging, a genetic resonance that I had not felt before. This experience led to years of genealogical research and study trips. Through luck, or perhaps ancestral intervention, I met Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, who became my mentor in the Women’s Spirituality doctoral program. Using the methodology of feminist cultural history, a field for which Lucia was a pathfinder, opened my eyes to the fullness of my culture, including what had been suppressed, submerged or unwritten. In my research, I learned of an animate land with an oral history of indigenous goddesses, magical women, and folk women and men who lived sustainably and harmoniously with Nature. Always a spiritual seeker, I have found great meaning in the values conveyed in the folk stories, in the enduring customs of the folk culture and in the rituals of the folk religion. Serving as president of the local cultural club, Circolo Trentino di Seattle, enables me to have an ongoing engagement with those who share my ancestral heritage. Through my writing and presentations, I hope to inspire others to seek their own indigenous roots.”

Maryka Ives Paquette, of Franco-Norse ancestry, is a cultural and environmental specialist whose ancestral research laid the foundation for her professional work to support indigenous peoples’ voices in environmental management and policy. She holds an MA in Indigenous Mind from Wisdom University and an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University. She currently resides in Mannahatta, present day Manhattan.

“My presentation examines identity and the recovery of knowledge through multidisciplinary research I conducted for my Master’s thesis that draws on indigenous ways of knowing, genealogy, and cultural history, and culminates in a journey to Armorica, present day Normandy. My research is founded on the ancient premise that humans are equal and active participants in creation, a worldview maintained and passed down by indigenous peoples and traditional societies to this day. I trace the origins of a family line back to earth-based traditions honoring the yew, acknowledging the effects of colonization on cultural memory, to recover wisdom hidden in plain view across the Norman landscape. This research not only grounds my own sense of identity in the story of humanity, it also sheds light on aspects of traditional Gallic culture that can strengthen values and build connection among all peoples through a renewed relationship to place.”

Marion Gail Dumont: I was born in Thiereville-Sur-Meuse, Lorraine, France and named after Marion, Montana where my paternal Grandparents had a cattle ranch. Life has been shaped by the many places that I have inhabited. My French heritage has always been important to me and it is only recently that I have discovered further details of my ancestral lineage, including Irish, Scots-Irish, and African-American. In this discovery, I have come to recognize the life-changing significance of knowing our ancestors. As I approach the 60th year of my life, I yearn to find a way to bridge the land of the living with the land of the ancestors. My life has been graced by women: three daughters and a six-year old granddaughter. As a registered nurse, mother, and grandmother it is not surprising that the focus of my work over the past 34 years has been women’s health and development. I have additional training as a childbirth educator, lactation consultant, and doula. Today, I offer non-religious and personalized attention to the spiritual needs of women as they step across a life threshold. As a spiritual midwife, I work with women to create a space to celebrate or mourn life-changing events and transitions. Hearing the call of our ancestors through lineage, myth, and place can gain us access to knowledge and create connections that help us in the crossing of life thresholds. My presentation shares my experience of the discovery of my Irish ancestry that came about through my doctoral research and a visit to a particular place in East Tennessee.



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