In response to a recent controversy on Twitter:
White people do have “Ancestors,” and what’s more: the concept of “Ancestral Worship” amongst White People was alive and well as recently as the late twentieth century!
If you analyse “Ancestor Worship” as the practice of petitioning one’s ancestral spirits for a boon, guidance, protection, comfort, etc, then it can be seen in the funerary rites of the Christian Church which has been going on for the past two thousand years, as well as the traditions of honouring the deceased. It is the sentiment of wanting to commune with one’s ancestors that lies behind going to visit their graves every so often to freshen them up. Moreover, the Church encouraged this. By burying the departed in the old Church yard, not only was the deceased given the honour of being buried in hallowed ground, it encouraged their relatives to pay their respects every time they came to Church, which normally would be once a week.
One could even argue that the idea that “Dead people can help living people” gave rise to the veneration of Saints: because Saints were people known to be in heaven, it was assumed that if a Saint presented a petition to God on behalf of a living person, God would more likely take notice.
Why then might one be led to think the contrary – that white people have no tradition of having ancestors? To my mind, there are three contributing factors:
- The Protestant Reformation. This basically killed off the idea of the cult of Saints at least within the Protestant churches. Note that the Catholic Church has continued to canonise Saints up to the present day, but no Protestant has since the sixteenth century, almost five hundred years ago.
- Disestablishmentarianism. The lack of an “established” church – or the erosion of the importance of its position – has led to a general secularization of society, and created a spiritual vacuum. Hence the great events of life – birth, marriage, death, etc – are no longer marked by any sense of the “sacramental” (outward signs of inward Grace). Most relevantly for present purposes, we get the phenomenon of Departed people being buried in civic graveyards, not on hallowed ground, often on the edge of town to which it is difficult to get – as opposed to a spiritual place where you are likely to visit at least once a week.
- The general ignorance of Millennials with regards to recent History.