Family tree, holy tree

“To remember the greatness of one’s family traditions and the glory of one’s ancestors, parents, friends and environment, helps to elevate the consciousness and directly encourages one to rise above weakness.”                                          

     —His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, The Science of Being and Art of Living [1961]

My family genealogy includes European ancestors from all over the continent, as well as American Indian ancestors from a number of Native Nations, and also some Persians and Chinese!

Among my family’s Christian forebears are over a hundred ancestral grandparents who are canonized saints. Among my co-lateral forebears (ancestral aunts & uncles), there are something like a thousand more canonized Christian saints. The earliest of these canonized ancestors lived at the beginning of that religion in the first century CE (AD); that is, about 63-66 generations ago. The most recent are from the later part of the 17th century (1600s), eleven and twelve generations ago.

From my own spiritual perspective, some of these ancestors seem as though they were quite likely enlightened beings and true sidhas, as would be appreciated within the Vedic tradition and also within Buddhist, Taoist, Sufi, Kabbalist, & other traditions. Some others seem to have been revered as saints primarily or exclusively because of having died as martyrs–not necessary, if at all, by how they lived their lives prior to the time of death.

The vast majority, however, were revered within their own local/regional societies, cultures, communities, or nations, during their own lifetimes, as genuinely holy exemplars, as persons living a truly saintly quality of selfless integrity, an integrated, integral awareness, throughout the thick and thin of daily Earthly human existence. Posthumously, this community-wide reverence by their contemporaries was also officially noted within the institutional church structure through a formal process of canonization.

Others seem most likely, from my personal perspective, to have been officially canonized primarily or exclusively as part of some less than worthy political &/or ecclesiastical agenda. From the Vedic perspective, a person is enlightened, a living saint, in terms of the permanently stabilized holistic quality of their day-to-day unbroken experience of a truly unified consciousness-&-behaviour, regardless of their particular belief-system, or religious or political background or affiliation (if any). Again, in my assessment, it seems that some of my canonized ancestors truly were living saints, and others certainly appear to have been far less spiritually evolved. Others were not even nice!

In any case, I certainly also have among my many other ancestral grandparents & aunts & uncles a large number who were distinctly unenlightened, ungodly—notorious evil livers, wicked people. Murderers, war-mongers and-profiteers, war-criminals, torturers, slave-traders, slave-hunters & slave-holders, robber-barons, horse-rustlers, cheats, liars, land-speculators, even some procrastinators! Whereas, doubtlessly most persons sitting in my family tree were just ordinary folks—neither uncommonly ill-behaved & morally depraved, nor unusually advanced spiritually.

In either case, certainly no positive or negative “ethical or spiritual credit or demerit” accrues to me personally from the thousand-&-more saints perched in my tree! nor from the probably equal or greater number of murderers historically seated there beside them! My maternal & paternal DNA contains no doubt some of the best, some of the worst, and mostly lots of the middle-of-the-road potentials able to be passed along through that heritage. Personal karma is highly personal…though I will allow there is doubtless also some elements of family karma and cultural karma in every person’s heritage and “indebtedness”as well…

Each and every one of us has the inherent capacity to unfold our fullest human potential, to live the wholeness of enlightened freedom and holiness in terms of our own being and cultural context. We are all potential enlightened holy sages, saints-in-training. That is our most basic birthright as human beings– regardless of our innate genetic (and genealogical) heritage, and regardless of our socially-imposed &/or intentionally-acquired cultural, religious, and other heritage and identification.

I don’t assess the saints in my ancestral family tree as granting me any actual spiritual advantage!—but I do find that my acquired knowledge of the personal histories and examples of the best of them certainly helps inspire me to “just go for it!” If some of my own historical grannies and granddads, aunties and uncles, have attained Self-liberation and God-Realization, then surely I can dedicate myself to following their inspiring examples within the context of my own life circumstances and path of conscious evolution.

Among my ancestors are also many non-Christians: Jews and Pagans from Europe and the Middle East, Persian Zoroastrians, and Chinese Taoists. Both my mother and my father are also part American Indian from our various tribal direct forebears. Among each of these non-Christian braided strands within my collective family lines, there are also some historical special individuals noted for their personal holiness & spiritual wisdom—esteemed within their own communities as the cultural equivalent of living saints & enlightened sages, with or without a parallel process of official posthumous canonization.

All of these ancestral exemplars also greatly inspire me. What has been attained in the past can also be cultivated and achieved in the present and future! As for those ancestors of mine who were less edifying, I have sometimes been able to learn from them as well, by negative example;—how not to waste my life in self-defeating heartless self-interest or mindless indifference.

“Wise elders in society have seen people flourishing and being useful to themselves and others by right actions, and they have seen people who, having taken the path of wrong behaviour, exhibit cunning and cruelty, deception and dishonesty. They have seen such people reap the consequences of their own misdoings and their families suffer as a result. They speak with authority, and their advice can help to decide what is right or wrong in certain situations.

“The example of great men could also be a criterion for deciding which actions to take in life. History records the actions, the successes or failures of great men both good and evil at different times in different lands. The paths they took and the consequences they reaped from a particular way of life are another criterion by which to decide right and wrong ways of life.”    

        His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, The Science of Being and Art of Living [1961]

As within many other traditions, in classical Christianity each historical saint is assigned his or her own annual feast day or eucharistic holy festival, originally memorialized on the anniversary of their death—viewed as their ultimate “(re-)birth-day” into the liberated spiritual immortality of heavenly existence. There are said to be over a hundred thousand historical canonized Christian saints, so virtually every day of the calendar year is a shared feast day or festival dedicated to many saints. Several of my canonized Christian ancestors have their feast day in the month of December.

I will attempt to note each ancestral saint’s day celebrated in the month of December. There are a few Christian saints, both ancestors within my own family and others, whom I regard with special affection as patrons of sorts. But otherwise, I don’t often ordinarily do much during the year to honour my saintly Christian and non-Christian ancestors, beyond general daily prayers including wishes for blessings from and for all of my ancestors, living family members, spiritual teachers and lineage masters, friends, and all other beings. But as December is the season of some of the highest holy days in the Christian tradition—Advent / Christmastide,–it is also a time of year when I tend to remember & think more about those aspects and persons within my family heritage that have been historically influenced by and influential for Christianity.

I’m already a few days behind in posting any notes to this site about those of my family saints who are celebrated in December, but I will begin with the holy feasts kept from the first day of the month. This list will be far from complete; it is a work in progress! From time to time I continue to discover additional holy grandparents and other forebears levitating, so to speak, here and there in my genealogical family tree!

I realize that all of this is doubtless completely boring to everyone else! –perhaps superseded only by detailed accounts of a stranger’s health history or dream-memories! But besides being a purely personal exercise of my own pleasure in studying the history of religions and cultures, perhaps it will inspire some of my blog-viewers to learn about their own genealogy. In most cases, the saints in my tree are rather ancient, and therefore are shared as ancestors by millions of my contemporaries who happen to share some European genetic heritage. Welcome, cousins!

And though I hope it goes without saying, I shall make it clear right now that I regard the entire world as my family, and all beings (not just humans, living and historical), as my brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters! I can’t imagine believing that any particular heritage or group of people—whether genealogical/genetic, cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic, regional, national, or otherwise, is in any overall categorical or isolated significant way “superior” to any others! Particular family trees are simply interesting, that’s all—or not! depending on your personal perspective and predilections. Enjoy!

12/1
Saint Hereswitha (Haeresvid, Hereswyde) (c600-c670) generation 49 aunt
Anglo-Saxon (English) princess & queen; widowed by war, retired as nun to Chelles convent in Gaul (France) and later Paris. There were a large number of saints in the immediate & near generations of her close & extended family. Her sister, the famous Abbess St Hilda of Whitby functioned virtually as a Bishop-Abbot and helped form the direction of the Christian church in Anglo-Saxon England.

12/4
St Osmund of Salisbury (c1050-1099) generation 31 uncle
Norman-English bishop. Son of Count Henry of Seez & Isabella of Normandy, half-sister of William the Conqueror. Canonized 1456, by Pope Callixtus III (first Borgia pope).

12/8 & 12/9
St Budoc of Dol (-c585) generation 48 uncle
Abbot-Bishop of Dol, and later hermit. Son of King Chunaire II (c522-c582) and St Azenor (Senara), Princess of Brest and Queen of Brittany (-635). I am directly descended from St Azenor through her second marriage to King Alain VIII of Brittany.

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