The Blessing of the Elders by Rachel Thomas

As I rediscover my connection with the earth, my eco-consciousness inspires me to transform. As I go back to nature, I re-awaken my ancient cellular memories of living in harmony with the earth. I feel called to dance barefoot, play drums, make offerings, bathe in moonlight, harvest with my own hands. As I move forward on a path which is both new and old, it is my beloved elders who have shown me how to find my way.

What is an Elder?

The word elder comes from an Old English word which also meant ancestor or chief. A lot can change in a thousand years and many of us no longer honor older people or seek out them out for advice.

In my experience, elders are people who have illuminated my path, inspired me to see my own potential. To open my eyes, all my senses, even those I did not know I had. Elders show bravery and model for us how to be strong.

My first wise woman teachings came from my family. My mother, and her mother, taught me to be myself, to love being outdoors and the importance of having a garden. Feeling the joy of flowers, cooking with fresh herbs, planting a tree to honor the dead. These are a few ancient traditions of my ancestors that have survived even in a modernized and urban setting.

Carmen Ivankovich, Psychology Professor and Spiritual Guide, opening doors of ancient wisdom on a women’s retreat in Spain.

Who are my Ancestors?

My biological ancestors are all the people whose DNA became mine. Many millennia ago, they lived in harmony with mother earth, depending on her and honoring her with ancient rituals. Grandmothers would lead ceremonies related to the cycles of nature, life, death and regeneration. They passed down to their daughters the primal sciences of gynecology, astrology and religion. Judy Grahn illuminates this process in her life-changing book, Blood, Bread and Roses. She also explains the rise of a patriarchal, nature-dominating system and the suppression of the divine feminine.

When we connect with our ancient DNA memories, we can invoke the wisdom of our earth-loving ancestors, like a channeling from within. According to one of my beloved elders, Yeye Luisah Teish, in her book Jambalaya, we can even connect to ancestors who are not biologically related to us. When honoring and invoking my own ancestors, I can include women like Marija Gimbutas, Elena Avila, and Carol P. Christ, whose work continues to guide and inspire my own.

Yeye Luisah Teish, Queen Mother and Spiritual Guide, teaches us how to compassionately connect with ancestors, elders, and each other.

Finding Elders

It is a great blessing to meet an elder in person. Listening to their words or having them look into your eyes and tell you what you need to hear. Sometimes we can shift our consciousness by just witnessing their peaceful strength. I have learned that wisdom carriers do not have to be perfect or highly credentialed. It is up to us to discern what we take in and what we leave aside.

The first time I was exposed to the idea of having elders was at an herbalist gathering. I was very inspired by the warm and fearlessly passionate teachers there, like Rosemary Gladstar and Rosita Arvigo. I learned that herbalists had a different approach to eldership and community. Inspired to learn more about earth-based traditions, I decided to move to the rainforest in Costa Rica.

My quest led me to a women’s ceremony in the deserts of Teotihuacan. There, with love for all, the abuelas taught us how to dance in a circle, and even to make other shapes. They taught us to bathe in the moonlight, to sing, to fast, to sweat, to embrace sacred masculinity, to embody the divine feminine, to give thanks to the earth and to pray. We learned that life is a cycle, that we too would be elders one day and do our best to serve our community with our gifts.

This spiritual path. indigenous to the Americas, was a blessing which led me to recognize the elements of ritual in my own culture. My epiphany came when I visited my grandfather’s village in northern Greece during the animated Easter celebrations. The women of my family gathered outside to make flower crowns and dance in a circle, just like when I was in Mexico preparing for a Danza de la Luna.

Abuela Iztpapalotl Ana Carmona makes flower crowns that last through the 4-night moon dance ceremony which she leads each February in Costa Rica.
An ancient, gold, flower crown found near my grandfather’s village in Northern Greece.

It was not until years later that I learned from another beloved elder, Laura Shannon, that Greek women, like many others, often hold earth-honoring customs in their dances, clothing and foods. She led us in ceremony at the ancient goddess sites, where we activated our divine connection through song, dance, circle, sacred plants, offerings and prayer. No matter where we are from, our ancestors have shared some basic elements of ceremony. Giving thanks to mother earth, as the goddess or in any of her forms, is a universal language of love that can be used in our common struggle to preserve the planet.

Laura Shannon leads women back to the goddess, the mother earth and the ancient ritual of circle dancing. Photo by B. Frey

We can each find our path to heal our connection with mother earth, at a time when environmental harmony could not be more important. Our manifestation of the future must include love and respect, not only for nature herself, but for the elders and all those who help us keep our connections to the earth alive.


Rachel Thomas enjoys sharing her quest for knowledge and spiritual growth through teaching, writing, ceremonies, transformational retreats and private consultations. After graduating from Brown University, Rachel moved to Costa Rica and has been collecting and conserving medicinal plants and their stories for 20 years at Hidden Garden, her ethnobotanical sanctuary. She is currently studying Greek, earth-based, spiritual traditions, especially as they relate to the history of women and the goddess. Find out more at her website, Ancient Wellness Tools.

Categories: Aging, Ancestors, communication, Divine Feminine, Earth-based spirituality, Ecofeminism, female friendship, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Ethics, Foremothers, General, Goddess Movement, Love, Mother Earth, Nature, Relationships, Sacred Space, Shamanism, Sisterhood, Women Mystics

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7 replies

  1. This is so beautiful, Rachel. Welcome to the FAR community! I love that you say about elders,
    “Sometimes we can shift our consciousness by just witnessing their peaceful strength. I have learned that wisdom carriers do not have to be perfect or highly credentialed. It is up to us to discern what we take in and what we leave aside.” I think this is a very precious insight. If we (mistakenly) believe our elders and teachers must be perfect, we might also believe – also mistakenly – that we ourselves can never attain that state of eldership. Our elders who model being human and being wise can inspire us, too, to be our human selves and our wise selves at one and the same time.

    I have so many beautiful memories of the rituals we celebrated all together in Greece, and how harmoniously elements of Greek, Central American, and other wisdom traditions flowed together. I love how you emphasise the universality of ritual and eldership as “a universal language of love that can be used in our common struggle to preserve the planet.” Yes!

    Love and blessing to you, dear Rachel.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Yes, I welcome and I hope we’ll hear from you again about your work. I love the idea of an ethnobotanical sanctuary and hope you’ll write about it and tell us what it is and what grows there. You name some incredible women and books. I hope you’ll share more of your stories and studies with us in months to come. We do indeed need to know about our elders and foremothers. Bright blessings!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Yes, turning to our elders be they relatives, other people or trees is a necessary part of becoming one… and the circle continues round because elders know that learning occurs even after death and that it’s possible to bridge that numinous veil if we have the right attitude – but there’s more – Grace is also part of the process, and, of course, ritual or ceremony is the way through…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. What a wonderful post and welcome to FAR! And it is so appropriate that you wrote this now when winter is starting in the northern hemisphere given all those powerful crone goddesses associated with winter like the Cailleach and Baba Yaga! I love that you connect respect for elders with Earth and respect for the Earth. Baba Yaga and the Cailleach are both also Earth goddesses, so that connection has been understood for a long time, but it is too often forgotten in our 21st century. I really look forward to all you will write about in the future!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Such a beautiful post with so much to think about I love the concept of “choosing” our elders or maybe having them “choose” us. I come from an extremely dysfunctional family and so when I went searching for my teachers and elders I first went outside my human DNA family. I have a long list of wonderful elders who have shepherded me. And now I find myself circling back to honor my bio-elders. Perhaps they can heal, even through the veils and then I can continue on my own healing.

    Thanks for such a meaningful post, I hope you will write some more for FAR.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thank you so much for the beautiful and supportive comments! They are especially important for me as I enter and explore the world of online writing and teaching. I appreciate having elders encouraging me and sharing their insights here. Looking forward to new beginnings in 2022, re-discovering, empowering, transforming and sharing. Thank you for welcoming me to this amazing FAR community!


  7. Such a wonderful piece to read, Rachel. The reminder that the breath of Wisdom of our Elders, as we ourselves lean into and receive that knowing for our children and grandchildren, is inspiring. Inspiring.


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