Frequently Asked Questions
What is Ancestral Medicine?
Ancestral Medicine is an organization founded by Daniel Foor. For more on our work in the world, see About the Organization and Core Values. Daniel’s book Ancestral Medicine: Rituals for Personal and Family Healing (2017) also carries this name.
Ancestral Medicine was the name of Daniel’s personal practice in ritual and healing arts from 2005 until 2016 when he began to train others in ancestral healing practices. Around this time, his practice began to transition to focus on training other ritualists, online learning, international teaching, and nurturing the emergent network of Ancestral Healing Practitioners. This has called for gradual and ongoing organizational restructuring to allow for organic growth and change.
Ancestral Medicine is also a business incorporated in the U.S. state of North Carolina (traditional Tsalagi lands). As of 2020, the business employs five full-time staff and over 30 part-time ritualists. Those who have trained with Daniel to guide this approach to ancestral healing work may at times refer to the ritual style or methodology as ‘Ancestral Medicine’ or the Ancestral Medicine practice of ancestral healing, although practitioners more commonly refer to the work as simply ancestral (lineage) healing.
What traditions or beliefs inform your offerings?
Ancestral Medicine’s approach to ritual arts is rooted in the framework of animism and respect for both our human and other-than-human kin. We hold this orientation in the pragmatic and inclusive sense of core values rather than in a religious or ideological spirit. We also seek to anchor this ritual work in a sustained commitment to cultural healing.
We maintain a specialization in relationships with the ancestors (a.k.a. the human dead, the collective spirit of our species). Our approach to ancestor reverence and ritual rests on foundational teachings found in many different cultures.
Daniel is the founder and senior teacher with Ancestral Medicine and as such his approach to practice strongly informs the teaching and direction of the organization. For more on Daniel’s training and influences see his bio.
Ritualists in our network naturally draw upon their distinct life experiences and training in other lineages of practice when serving as Ancestral Medicine teachers, course supporters, or practitioners of ancestral healing. We celebrate this richness and diversity of expression within the larger framework of our shared organizational values.
What are the offerings of the organization?
Ancestral Medicine offers online courses, an ancestral healing practitioner training (including the practitioner directory), and extensive free resources on animism and ancestor reverence. Pre-pandemic we offered in-person ancestral healing intensives led by Daniel and other teachers in the network; however all offerings are currently virtual.
Many resources can be accessed for free on the Media page which includes podcasts, blog posts, an archive of past talks, and interviews both with Daniel and guest teachers. There are additional interviews on the Ancestral Medicine Youtube page and the book is available in Chinese, Croatian, as an audio book, and by late 2020 in Dutch and Polish.
Online courses are a major focus of our work and run on a quarterly/seasonal cycle. All include live calls in different time zones, opportunity for small break-out groups, spaces for peer dialogue, transcriptions of video content, and extensive additional resources to support the learning. We are committed to teaching in clear, organized, and accessible ways that include a kind and supportive container for depth ritual engagement.
Our Ancestral Healing Practitioner Training is in its fourth cycle and the practitioner directory features those who have completed requirements for certification. This is the only professional training we currently offer, and we’re committed to resourcing mentees in ways that set them up for success when sharing their public offerings. Future iterations are not confirmed; however, we hope to offer the training again by late 2021.
What are the best ways to engage with this work?
Wherever you are truly drawn to engage is likely a fine place to start as the most effective entry point for learning and practice is the one that we’ll actually show up for. Our online courses are open to all. Individual sessions with a practitioner are always a good option, especially in the realm of ancestral healing. The only offering that has prerequisites is the practitioner training which is a much more involved level of commitment with respect to ritual arts. For a longer exploration on where to start, see Daniel’s blog post: Earth, Ancestors and Ritual: Where to Begin?
Can you speak to concerns about cultural appropriation?
Ancestral Medicine offerings take a largely core-values based approach to foundational, cross-cultural aspects of earth and ancestor reverence which means we tend not to teach specific songs, prayers, symbolism, prescribed offerings, cosmology, etc. Nearly all ritual elements included in our teachings can be adapted and, in the spirit of inclusivity and accessibility, students are encouraged to find their own way with personal style and with ancestral and cultural specifics. That said, we take concerns about cultural respect and appropriation seriously and commit to addressing questions that may arise in ways that center the concerns of people directly involved and impacted.
Cultural appropriation can refer to inter-related concerns around respect for established traditions and lineages of practice; the interplay of Indigeneity and colonialism; and accessibility and money as it relates to ritual. In fast-moving spaces such as social media, the nuances of these concerns are sometimes lost or a U.S.-centric framework is globalized to all places and peoples.
To speak first to the way that these concerns sometimes center around the dynamics between Indigenous peoples and settler colonialists, at Ancestral Medicine if we use the imprecise word Indigenous, we personally favor more specific usages in documents such as the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples rather than more generalized usages like “Indigenous wisdom” or “Indigenous spirituality” (unless perhaps when those refer to Indigenous peoples in the more specific sense). In using the words in these ways we are not presuming to tell others how they need to move in the world.
Daniel is not an Indigenous person and is not presuming to teach or represent any Indigenous system. Although he has spent dedicated time over the past twenty years in ceremonial space with some Indigenous teachers, especially with Native North American ways (primarily Lakota and Native American Church) and the late Buryat Mongol teacher Sarangerel Odigan, he is not a representative of those traditions and he does not seek to legitimize love of the Earth or human capacities for ritual by associating with Indigenous peoples.
Concerns about cultural appropriation are not limited to dynamics between Indigenous and other-than-Indigenous peoples; however, in North America well-meaning people sometimes falsely assume that all ritual/ceremony that is ancestor or earth-honoring must in some way be derived from the roughly 5% of the world’s population that is Indigenous or that all ritualists of settler colonialist ancestries in North America must be harmfully appropriating from Native North American or other-than-European cultures. This can lead to the conclusion that all ritual activity, including forms not sourced from Native North American peoples, must follow Native North American protocols. For example, there is a widely held prohibition among many but not all of the Indigenous nations of North America around not mixing money and the sacred, not charging money for ceremony. If Ancestral Medicine were teaching Native North American traditions or guiding those ceremonies, it would be appropriate to honor these protocols; however, like most customs or sacred laws, they do not apply beyond the lineages, communities, and individuals that honor them.
We do charge for online classes, individual sessions, in-person events, and professional training, any of which may include elements of ritual (see below for more on money and accessibility). We pay all ritualists who guide events for us and we dedicate money to promote these offerings so that people who may benefit can find us. And we are happy to work with any Native/First Nations/Indigenous folks who are interested in our offerings to ensure maximum accessibility. For more on cultural appropriation in a North American context specifically between Native/First Nations peoples and settlers, here is one resource.
Based on Daniel’s training and relationships with lineage and living elders, the specific approach to ritual he is most qualified to represent in a basic way is West African Ifá/Òrìṣà tradition; however, he is still very much a priest-in-training and Yorùbá people are not Indigenous based on the more narrow legal/political definition of that term. Daniel was involved on and off with Yorùbá traditions in the Diaspora via self-study and other-than-Yorùbá teachers and communities (1996-2013) before aligning with a directly Yorùbá orientation to practice through four pilgrimages to Nigeria (2013-2017) and hosting his Yorùbá teachers in the United States. Although he is a student of Yorùbá language and culture and an initiate of Ifá, Ọbàtálá, Ọ̀ṣun, Egúngún, and Òṣùgbó in the lineage of Olúwo Fálolú Adésànyà Awoyadé of Òdè Rẹ́mọ, no Ancestral Medicine offerings have any intent or presumption to teach to Yorùbá culture. Daniel may at times reference basic principles found in the tradition (or others) and may offer an opening prayer in Yorùbá before teaching as is customary for any awo Ifá, bàbá l’órìṣà or ọ̀jẹ̀-in-training; this is just the way he happens to pray based on his ritual training. Daniel maintains an active relationship with his teachers in Nigeria, directs substantial financial support to them for their service, welcomes their guidance on matters of Yorùbá ritual, and respects them as a source of personal sustenance and inspiration.
With respect to the more general dynamics, cultural respect calls for clear attribution of sources; accurate representation of one’s degree of training; ongoing connection with lineage when at all possible; clear lineage permissions to teach any given body of material; consideration of impact with respect to historical/ongoing power dynamics; and ongoing tangible reciprocity with living elders and communities. Daniel’s influences are also detailed in his bio, the book, and various other places. The team at Ancestral Medicine welcomes specific questions with respect to any given practice or teaching that is a part of our offerings in the world.
What are your ethics around money and financial accessibility?
Accessibility is one of our core values and we care deeply about our offerings being available to those who wish to join. We also strongly value the time, labor, and expertise of our staff, teachers, mentors, supporters, and any outside consultants. We seek to balance the imperative of financial inclusivity with fair compensation for the labor and needs of all involved in making our work possible.
With respect to online courses we have payment plans and extensive scholarship options. When spaces are limited, for example in the practitioner training, we may elect to limit scholarship spaces to certain groups (e.g., BIPOC, LGBTQ, people outside of North America) as a gesture of historical correction; however, the application for online courses states, “Scholarship inquiries from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) applicants, those from more economically disadvantaged countries or populations, LGBTQ folks, and those serving historically marginalized populations are especially welcome. And we’re aware that exploitative capitalism and economic hardship can impact people of all backgrounds, especially but not only during the current global pandemic. If you want to join us and costs are a barrier to access, please just apply.”
Ancestral Medicine also manages a low-income referral process for people seeking sessions with an ancestral healing practitioner. The practitioners are required as part of their training to offer at least ten low-income sessions, and some opt to continue to do so as part of their service in the world. The Code of Ethics that all practitioners agree to states, “Ancestral healing practitioners decide what to charge for their time, and seek to balance this with respect to issues of class, accessibility and economic privilege.” We are strongly invested in the ancestral healing practitioners and also maintain a professional development fund to support their success.
We care deeply about cost not being a barrier to participation and we welcome suggestions if you believe there are ways we could further embody this commitment.
Does Ancestral Medicine make charitable donations? If so, who do you support?
Yes, in addition to extending extensive scholarships for online courses, coordinating referrals for low-income ancestral healing sessions, and managing a professional development fund for ancestral healing practitioners, we also engage in charitable giving to other groups engaged in good work. These donations are in keeping with our core values of supporting economic justice (anti-supremacist), encouraging accessibility beyond our specific services, and maintaining an international focus.
Prior to 2020 Ancestral Medicine contributions were less systematic. For example, before the pandemic when in-person events were still possible we made modest contributions to Indigenous organizations in places where we held ancestral healing intensives. In late 2020 we shifted to annual end-of-year giving, and we intend to continue this in the years to come. For details on our 2020 recipients see: ancestralmedicine.org/giving.
How does Ancestral Medicine relate with social media?
We’re on Facebook and Instagram and post regularly there, and we also have an active YouTube page with lots of free talks. We sometimes host talks via FB Live, and we have an Ancestral Medicine Community Forum on Facebook. Our online courses include entirely optional Facebook group spaces. We have tried alternative platforms and none have served as well for the interactive element.
As caring human beings with nervous systems, our staff doesn’t necessarily love everything about social media, and we recognize the positive aspects and also rely on these networks as a way to share about our work. We even run paid promotions on both Facebook and Instagram, and our souls remain intact.
We moderate all the spaces we inhabit and have clear guidelines for any dedicated spaces like course groups or the community forum. This means our team reserves the right to delete any comments or posts and also to remove or block people. This is never our preference and if we delete comments we try to explain why, but that may not always happen. We strive for consistency of approach, but different staff have slightly different settings for what seems like trolling and/or divisive or inflammatory posts. Mindful discussion is great and know that we’ll err on the side of trying to keep the spaces welcoming and easeful for folks who bear the disproportionate burden of exhausting culture on the daily.
We feel that healthy boundaries and proactive moderation of our spaces make participation in social media a bit easier on everyone’s nervous systems. Please be friendly, professional, and even praising of our awesome team whenever you encounter them.
What are your stances with respect to cultural healing? Will this be a safe and inclusive space for me?
The cultural shifts required to embody animist ethics and a truly healing and liberatory approach to ancestral healing are substantial. We speak to this at greater depth in our Core Values and in the Ancestral Healing Practitioner Code of Ethics. Our intent is to embody these values on personal, interpersonal and organizational levels and, like everyone else on Earth, we are learning and making refinements and corrections as we go.
At the risk of sharing overly technical or performative buzz-words, some values we seek to embody with respect to cultural healing include: animist, anti-supremacist, anti-racist, decolonizing, anti-imperialist, feminist, LGBTQ-inclusive, class-aware, non-dogmatic, trauma-informed, body and sex positive, accessible with respect to neuro-diversity and different abilities, and generally kind, professional, and responsive.
Ancestral Medicine teachers, mentors, course supporters, and practitioners and trainees are expected to embody to the best of their ability the shared values of the organization. They also have access to mentorship, support from other practitioners, and continuing education on cultural healing. If anything about our work in the world is not living up to our intentions, we truly welcome your input. As stated in our Core Values, we’re committed to showing up for difficult conversations, considering impact, welcoming outside support when needed, and making repairs when at all possible.
What are the colorful pics on the site all about?
The images with radially symmetrical colorful offerings (here for example) are almost exclusively from multi-day ancestral healing events (either lineage healing intensives or retreats during practitioner trainings). The form is inspired by the Andean despacho ceremony which Daniel learned in 2008 from Meg Beeler who learned it from her Q’ero teachers in Peru (good article from Meg here). Daniel has since had the chance to sit in ceremony with some elders from that region during visits to the United States and to speak with dedicated students of those ways; however, he is not steeped in Andean traditions and does not presume to represent or speak for those lineages of practice.
The offerings used are natural/biodegradable and the images are typically taken before the kintus (leaves) are added as prayers. Eventually participants pray with the leaves to/with/for the ancestors, other offerings are added, the overall offering is bundled up and either burned, buried or (rarely) returned to a large body of water as a means of being delivered to the relevant powers. The larger principle of combining offerings and prayers is one found in many traditions of ancestor reverence and ritual.
The despacho as a ritual form can be utilized for many different intentions, and the elaboration in our network as an offering to the ancestors is not indicative of a traditional Andean style per se. If you wish to use one of the images on the site in some way, please ask us first. For folks drawn to Andean ways, please seek out respected teachers of those systems as that is not a kind of training that we offer.
Are Dr. Foor or other practitioners available to speak with my group?
Potentially. For inquiries, let us know what you have in mind by messaging firstname.lastname@example.org. Also feel welcome to contact any of the practitioners in the directory if they have an area of expertise that could be a fit for the needs of your group.
Is there any support that would be helpful to your organization?
We don’t have a system for volunteering as we hold it as important to value, meaning with compensation, the work of all Ancestral Medicine staff, teachers, mentors, course supporters, and other contractors. That said, a few ways to support our work in the world include: telling interested folks about the book, course, or your experience with the work; participating in the Ancestral Medicine Community Forum if you’re on Facebook; amplifying the good works of the practitioners; sharing about our work with podcasts and related networks; and letting us know if there are ways you feel we could more fully inhabit our values and commitments.