On water, ancestors, and memory

Gabriela Smiling, date unclear (film)

It’s almost the end of Cancer season, and I’ve been thinking about water a lot lately. This is also partially because of a class I’m taking with Weaving Earth, which has been focused on water for many weeks. It’s been a beautiful exploration, even when putting me face to face with the ways water has been used and abused for many centuries.

Mostly, I’ve been contemplating the intelligence of water. The ways it shapeshifts, adapts, moves, and molds itself. The ways it embodies intentions that are infused into it, like how tears shed while feeling different emotions all have distinct molecular structures when viewed under a microscope. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that water takes on the energetic imprint of what is infused in it (through sound or other means), for better and for worse. The notion that a few drops of water infused with a particular intention, emotion, or goal can alter the makeup of an entire cup, bottle, or jug of water is the foundation of making flower essences. For a long time, I thought this was nonsense, yet the more I look into water’s intelligence and learn about the magical creativity of this element, the more true it all seems.

Waters I have sung to before drinking them taste sweeter. Waters I have thanked before diving into them feel fresher. Waters I have blessed before anointing myself or another transport the anointed to a mythic time, where the here and now melt into a more spacious reality. I believe magic carries memory and that in infusing water with intentionality, the water changes not only itself but those with which it comes into contact. In the words of Octavia Butler, “all that you change, changes you….”

My thoughts about water’s intelligence have coincided with some thinking I have been doing surrounding ancestral connection. As a white person with multiple European lineages (and some Ojibwe heritage) in my family tree, I have found that learning more about who my ancestors were before they were labeled as “white” by capitalist systems has been an important part of dismantling white supremacy within me. The melting pot mentality of the United States forced many of my ancestors to hide, forget, or be embarassed by their cultural practices. I view it as part of my life’s purpose to (imperfectly) begin a process of reconnecting with some of these old ways of knowing. Not to fetishize the past, but to embody ways of knowing that reflect a healthier relationship with self, others, and the earth.

All of this is to say, I think about how the waters of my body — blood, sweat, tears, and more — might be vehicles of memory and intelligence. How they might be repositories of intelligence that can guide me on a path towards healing from the ways white supremacy, capitalism, and more have disconnected me from ancestral knowledge. What if my body and its waters could be seen as holders of knowledge that span beyond my lifetime? What if the liquids I am made of are pre-programmed with the wisdom of my ancestors? Instead of thinking I need a DNA kit to prove who my ancestors are or relying on historical records to “connect” me to them, what if I could trust that connecting to my lineages was possible through my own body and its waters (along with the dreams and intuitions that arise from them)?

I’ve been amazed at how certain things sound and feel so familiar to me, even though I’ve never heard or seen them before. An example of this is Scottish folk songs, even though I have never even set foot in Scotland, nor was I raised with any education surrounding my Scottish heritage. Yet the more I learn about water, the more I wonder if centuries of ancestors singing those tunes (or similar ones) altered the make-up of the waters in their bodies (and the bodies of their descendants as a result). Perhaps my sense of familiarity with Scottish folk songs (and Scottish Gaelic in general) is a manifestation of the waters in my being resonating with something they were intentionally encouraged to recognize over centuries of ancestral waters reverberating with those same sounds.

While a DNA kit can be helpful for those to whom it is accessible or appealing, I don’t think I need one to prove to myself that I am of Scottish or Irish or French or Spanish or Ojibwe heritage. When I hear those languages, sing those songs, and walk across those lands, the waters in me tell me so. My ancestral molecules light up at the sounds and sights.

Water is a vessel for memory, and the body is a vessel made of water. My very being is a vessel of ancestral knowing. Even when recorded histories cannot tell me who exactly my ancestors were or confirm ancient truths I know to be real, I can still feel my people in my bones and know that my ancestors (and their wisdom) are within me. I can trust that my body and its waters know what they know. Water’s knowing is enough.