The Lost Language of My Ancestors
Like a mother, our country of origin nourished us. We are deeply connected to her soil, firmly rooted in her. As Francesca Mason-Boring beautifully says, “my bones are made of your minerals”. We carry in us the density of the land we come from.
Our relationship to our homeland is like our relationship to our mother. We learned to eat, to speak, to sing and to love through her. We are made of her lullabies, sound beats, spices, aromas, rivers and hills. She is our birth mother.
Throughout our first years of life, a little or a lot, our native land gave us everything she had: food, education, health. The land where we were born and raised is the one that gave us the most, so she is the one we owe the most. Ideally we give back to her later through our contribution to the community, offering our skills and savoir-faire in return of what she gave us.
However, sometimes we interrupt our relationship to our motherland to find a new home. And like with any mother, our motherland feels the pain of losing one of her children. By migrating and leaving behind our own country we start a process of adoption: we leave our biological mother behind in order to live with our new adoptive mother, our country of adoption.
Systemic laws tell us that there is a need for balance in taking and giving so that we may thrive. Yet, when we migrate, we are in debt to our country of birth because we cannot give back to her.
Acknowledging her generosity and feeling gratitude for what she gave us can compensate for what we have received. Honoring her, taking with love the coins she entrusted to us, fully receiving them and handing them over in our new environment will support our life and the life of our descendants. By sharing her stories, cooking her food and singing her songs we can become a worthy ambassador of our country of origin.
We often see in constellation work that ignoring where we come from, forgetting our roots or giving up our mother language interrupts the full transmission of our ancestors’ legacy. Something gets lost when we cut off the ties with our motherland. Something gets lost to us and to the generations to come.
This loss may show up in our everyday life and in the life of our children and grandchildren in various ways...
“I have so much to give, yet something is holding me back.” In the generation who migrates, people may feel that they cannot achieve their full potential in their country of residence and they can’t find their place. There is often some unfinished business with what they left behind, the need to grieve, to integrate their feelings of anger, sadness or guilt, to come to peace with their origins.
“I feel distant from my parents”. Sometimes parents who migrated to Australia, gave up their mother language and started speaking broken English to their children “to help them integrate into the new society”. People tell me about the sadness of not being able to fully communicate with their parents, feeling somehow disconnected. This becomes more tragic in cases where parents become older and revert to their mother tongue, while their English starts to fade. Our mother language is not only a bunch of words… it is the accent, the metaphors, the symbolism, a melody, our connection to our childhood memories and so much more. It is an integral part of who we are. Giving up the way we learned to express who we are and the way we perceive the world means giving up part of our Self.
“My child doesn't want to go to school. She wants to go back to Colombia.” When couples leave their country because of collective trauma, sometimes they reject their own culture and language and decide to cut off their ties with their family of origin and their homeland. Their children tend to find it difficult to adapt in the new country and want to go back to the land of their grandparents. In those cases it helps to distinguish the land from the state, the regime. The land (my biological mother) gave me my life. The state (my mother as a carer) wasn’t able to care for me. I don’t need to cut my bond with mother land because of a repressive or violent political context.
“I don’t know why, but I have always been fascinated by Ireland. Something wants to take me there.” When some generations ago our ancestors migrated to Australia, sometimes we feel drawn to go back and live in their country. We are connected to all the longing and the pain of those ancestors. The system wants to compensate for what they could not give back to their country, and we feel the pull to contribute to that country, closing the loop for our family system.
Constellation with countries move us deeply because they carry a mother energy. When we move from our country to another, there is a loss and a gain. And like in the case of adoptions, we can experience this movement as a rupture from our roots, or as an enrichment of having two mothers. Countries, like mothers, will support our movements, as long as they are both acknowledged. Countries of birth are happy to let us go if we carry them in our heart. And they are always happy to have us back. The same with countries of adoption, they are in service of the country of origin, happy to welcome us if we contribute to their common good. They will also let us go if the time comes to go back to our country.
The more we honor the lands of our ancestors and are grateful for the exchange that happened between them, the more we will have access to our own resources and will enrich the land that welcomes us.
Constellations give us a unique chance to see what was not seen before, what was in the outskirt. Our countries, our lands, give us a lot and want to be seen. Migration doesn't mean that I have to choose between two lands. I can ground myself in both.
Sculpture by Bruno Catalano