Discover Your Ancestral Detectives, Gate Keepers and Storytellers

From the book, Ancestral Impressions: Exploring Your Ancestry throught Creativity, Imagery, and Intuition by Audrey F. Chowdhury 

I love to watch and read mystery stories. I like to look for clues in the most ordinary circumstances and conversations. Playing the armchair detective is engaging and fun. I find that when I approach the ancestral realm as a detective, following clues, looking for details that may lead to the answer to a mystery can make the work into an interesting pastime. My Inner Detective is quite useful in this regard. Do you have one? If so, be sure to create an image of her or him to take with you. The detective can be very helpful when it comes to asking questions of the ancestors and asking them to tell you the whys and how’s that may lead to solutions to deeper puzzles within your family.

We often bump into gate keepers along the way to accessing the realm of ancestors. It is important, first of all, to have a Gate Keeper of your own who can work with your protector to keep your boundaries clear and solid as you do this work. I have also encountered a Gate Keeper who is in charge of the door to the ancestral realm. She appeared in a SoulCollage® card several years before I understood who she was. Her job is to decide if my intentions are honorable as I approach the door to the world of my ancestors. I need to assure her that my intentions are only for good. I am not entering to settle an old grudge, or to project hate and shame, but only to find love, understanding, wisdom and clarity so that I may pass these along to the next generations. The ancestors that I wish to encounter with such an intention will be the ones who have equally honorable and helpful intentions.

Take a moment to ask yourself what your intention is in doing this work. Write it down. You can even create a prayer or a mantra to use as you communicate with the ancestors so that you can remind them and yourself what you are looking for.


“Ancestral Detective”, collage card by Audrey Chowdhury

“Ancestral Gatekeeper”, collage card by Audrey Chowdhury

One of the strongest ancestral voices that I have heard is that of an Aunt Edna. I had no conscious awareness or memory of this great aunt. She tells me that she is the family story teller, and so of course, she wants to come through. Perhaps your family had a storyteller? You can ask your ancestors if there is a storyteller among them if you do not know of one. They can be quite helpful because they are storehouses for details that others may not have even noticed! These storytellers often lived in the shadows, recording the stories in their minds and hearts if not on paper. How grateful they are to have someone ask them to tell their tales! Try imagining a storyteller in your family. Maybe there are more than one. Which generation might they belong to? Which lineage are they connected to? Try making up a story to tell to this person, or to tell about this person. Imagine what they might look like.

Helpers for the Journey to the Ancestors

Call on your helpers, guides and allies to accompany you on your journey to the ancestral realm. 

from the book, Ancestral Impressions, Exploring Your Ancestry through Creativity, Imagery and Intuition by Audrey F. Chowdhury

Do you have a guide, advocate, or angel on your shoulder? I am guessing you probably do. She or he may come to you in dreams, or in the form of a character from a movie or book that you remember clearly. “Glenda”, the good witch from The Wizard of Oz comes to mind for me. You may find an image in a magazine or book that reminds you of a trusted friend. If so, cut it out and paste this image in your journal, or create a collage of her or him. It is important to have an image in your mind of a guide and advocate, someone who has your back, because you never know what you will encounter. Family can be a very frightening place to go, so be prepared and take your allies along.

I also have a childhood memory of a woman named “Mrs. Roberts”. I don’t know how my parents knew her, but I remember her coming to visit us expressly to see me. She seemed to be interested in only me, not in my younger sister or brother, because she had known me as a baby. She gave me my favorite picture book (Blueberries for Sal), carried a shiny purse, and wore a hat and pearls. I felt, even as a very young child, that she really saw who I was and wanted me to know this. She saw the light that shone within me, and because I knew she saw it, I could believe that this light was real.

When I read about the concept of the “enlightened witness” in the work of author, Alice Miller,  (Drama of the Gifted Child) many years later, Mrs Roberts immediately came to mind. Every child, writes Alice Miller, needs an enlightened witness. This is someone who clearly sees that one is a living light with something special to bring to the world. It is most important that every child feels seen as an authentic being with worth and value by at least one other person.

I recognized this quality, of the enlightened witness, when I first watched Mr. Rogers on the Public Television channel. My son was just a toddler at the time, and I remember crying when I saw Mr. Rogers look at the TV and say: “You are the only one like you and people can like you just the way you are”. Do you have any memories of a person who was your enlightened witness for you? Create an image of this person by creating a collage card or simply cutting out an image of someone who reminds you of this enlightened witness.  Place it in your journal. Have them with you as you do this ancestral work.

Personal Reflection
I had an imaginary friend as a child. Her name was “Carleton”. She was tall and thin, had short black hair, and always told me that I was great. She loved me, she was with me even when the bad stuff happened to me, and she refuted any derogatory remarks that were directed at me by others. I talked to her, and she talked to me when I was alone. My alone times occurred when I had to take a nap in the afternoon. That is what I remember, anyway. Carleton was my ever present best friend, who would play whatever pretend game that I decided on and who assured me that I was a wonderful person, no matter what. I think she saved my life during some very difficult times.

My memories of Carleton faded when I went to school. I don’t remember even thinking of her after first grade. It wasn’t until I started seeing a therapist, when I was in my twenties that Carleton’s name popped into my head one night while driving. I cried when I realized that this guide and advocate, has been with me all of my life and I have ignored her. I think of her now as an angel on my shoulder. She has whispered in my ear during moments of deep despair, giving me hope and the desire to stay alive. What a wonderful resource and supporter she is! I want her with me at all times now, but especially when I am accessing the realm of the ancestors. I know that I could encounter things or voices that do not feel friendly or loving, and so it is always could to bring my trusted companion.