Communing with the Spirits

Honoring the Ancestors and Clearing Ancestral Trauma in Michigan

The Huron River from Delhi Bridge by Deb Nystrom

The Huron River from Delhi Bridge. Photo by Deb Nystrom on flickr.

By the time I met Diana down by the river, I was feeling a bit frazzled. Since arriving in Michigan on the day of the Cancer New Moon, I’d mostly wanted to sleep.

Mars and Mercury were both “out of bounds” in Cancer¹ that week. I was feeling exceptionally inarticulate. Diana had been dealing with some intense family stuff. While we had managed to put together a rudimentary outline for the ancestors workshop and ritual in Ann Arbor that evening, we both felt like we needed some extra help from the spirits.

We had agreed to meet at a park by the Huron River to ground ourselves and set our intentions for the workshop. I followed the Google Maps directions Diana had texted me to Island Park and parked at the first picnic shelter, as instructed. I crossed a footbridge to the island and found Diana waiting with drum in hand.

Take Me to the River

Within minutes we were standing in calf-deep water together on a bed of colored rocks polished smooth by thousands of years of Michigan water and I felt all of the nervousness and uncertainty melting away.

It had been a hot, still day. But as soon as Diana hit the drum and began to sing a simple song to honor the ancestors and the Native American tribes who had roamed this land before the white man came, the wind kicked up and came blowing down the river. It blew steadily in our faces, ruffling the surface of the river, the entire time we sang – and then died down to nothing again once we had finished.

With Dr. Diana Quinn after the Ann Arbor ancestors ritual.

With Dr. Diana Quinn after the Ann Arbor ancestors ritual.

It’s hard to describe this ancestors work in words. The Ann Arbor workshop centered on a ritual in which participants symbolically burned up an old family or ancestral trauma in the fire and then called in helpful ancestor spirits in a water ritual. After the ceremony, Diana asked me how I thought it went.

“I think it was great,” I said. “But the energy coming through while you were drumming and I was chanting was so deep I had to keep grounding myself so I wouldn’t float away into some other realm.”

I don’t think this is what either of us expected to be doing at this point in time, but there’s an unmistakeable feeling during the workshops that the ancestors want personal and planetary healing as much as the living – and that now is the time when this healing needs to happen.

Back on 9 Mile Road

And the synchronicity/signs-from-Nature factor is hard to ignore…
Dr. Diana Quinn, Epigenetics & Ancestors Workshop at Boston Tea Room.

It was a hot and sunny Saturday morning when we started our longer Epigenetics & Ancestral Healing workshop at the Boston Tea Room in Ferndale. I was pretty psyched to be doing the workshop right on Nine Mile Road in downtown Ferndale. I lived in Ferndale in my friends’ Ben and Lisa’s garage for a few months back in 2003 and I was a regular at xhedos cafe’s open mic nights for a couple of years. The brainchild of astrologer and musician Caleb Grayson, xhedos — at least during that time period — was like a portal through which Aquarian Age energies (the good and the just plain weird) poured into Detroit. I got my first full natal chart reading from Caleb at the cafe and it was the site of my record release party for the Ten Year Bender album, shortly before I left Detroit and ended up in New Orleans.

I wasn’t that familiar with the Boston Tea Room, but the staff was friendly and helpful and we had a roomful of interesting people from diverse backgrounds. We started the workshop with Diana’s research into the field of epigenetics. This relatively new field is scientifically validating the effectiveness of formerly ‘woo’ techniques such as mindfulness meditation and vibrational healing at actually ‘turning off’ the expression of inherited genes that put us at risk for disease, depression and other bad things.

(I Wanna Know) Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

We then discussed simple practices you can incorporate into your daily routine to increase your health, happiness, and energy by deactivating negative gene expressions formed from personal and ancestral trauma. After the break, I led participants on a 20-minute shamanic journey to connect with a helpful ancestor for person and planetary healing.

Just as I finished counting participants back up to the waking level of consciousness, the skies opened up and the room was filled with the sound of rain pounding down upon the roof of the Boston Tea Room. Everyone looked around as if to say, “Whoa! I guess something really did just happen.” I felt it was the ancestors telling us to believe: their support is real even if we can’t quite understand with the left brain how it all works.

While the ‘results’ of this work are hard to immediately quantify, the transformational shifts we’ve seen happening in the time since we began doing this together in our online Epigenetics & Ancestors class have been remarkable.

When we walked out of the Tea Room at 3:30 p.m., by the way? You guessed it. It was a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon. The sidewalks were dry along Nine Mile. I said goodbye to Diana and went back into the Red Hook for another delicious latte. Then I walked across the street to the Natural Food Patch to stock up on organic goodies before my drive back to Detroit.


1 – “Out of bounds” is a technical term meaning a planet has exceeded the Sun’s maximum declination from the ecliptic. When a planet crosses this imaginary line- which is not very often for the traditional planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) – it is considered to be out of control or to have crossed the border of the kingdom of the Sun. (The Sun in astrology symbolizes the Divine, the Center, the King.) Out of bounds planets can confer unusual abilities while they are out of bounds but can also be very problematic, as they are temporarily out of control. I covered out of bounds Mars in Cancer in my recent podcasts about Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell’s apparent suicide and discussed Mercury out of bounds in the context of animal communication in this podcast.

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