Unraveling the Red Thread –
a pattern-based approach to ancestral healing (part 2)

by Apr 8, 2024

Clients sometimes come to a shamanic healing session with a vague sense that a piece of pain they are experiencing is ancestral. They may have a general awareness that a parent or grandparent struggles with a similar issue.

In the diagnostic journey, I ask my helping spirits to guide me to the original wound that resulted in the imbalance. Often my spirit team takes me back centuries to an event that happened to one or more of the client’s ancestors. With this comes the awareness that what the client is experiencing is part of a longstanding pattern. It didn’t only happen to their grandparent, their parent, and them – it has affected many generations.

Trauma repeats within the family lineage until it finds resolution. As shamanic healers, we have the ability to disrupt the pattern and bring closure to the ancestral trauma by working energetically on the original wound.


Some background

Genetic information passed to us from our parents determines our hair and eye color, the shape of our physical build, and whether we can roll our tongue, among other things.

We receive much more than just physical traits from our ancestors. We have a connection to the strength, wisdom, and resilience of our ancestors, including their gifts. Our maternal grandmother may have passed along her ability to love with an open heart and to nurture through baking. From a paternal grandfather, we may have inherited a wry sense of humor and the ability to do mechanical repairs.

We also receive our ancestor’s unhealed wounds and unfinished business. I refer to this as “the red thread.” This term is used in numerous cultures and spiritual traditions, sometimes referring to a genetic legacy. In my ancestral healing work, I use it to describe the inherited thread of heavy energy from a lineage.

This inherited legacy of pain, imbalance, and trauma explains why a family line may carry a tendency for addiction, disease, or abuse.

There are many examples of ancestral energy patterns. Some of the most common:

  • physical and mental illness
  • death by suicide
  • violence
  • a certain accident or recurring injury, such as a head wound or leg amputation
  • addiction of all sorts, including alcoholism
  • incest, molestation, and rape
  • relationship to money
  • heavy emotions such as fear, grief, anger, sadness, shame, hatred
  • codependency and enmeshment
  • all forms of abuse
  • miscarriage and stillbirth
  • abandonment and neglect
  • limiting beliefs
  • dysfunctional ways of communicating or interacting
  • being displaced from the ancestral homeland

The most effective way of identifying an ancestral wound is to track recurring patterns in the family – a road map which guides us back to the original wound.

In the time between the original wound and the client, the wound has likely repeated multiple times in an uncanny string of remarkably similar situations. The pattern may not be active in every generation. It sometimes skips a generation or two, but it keeps recurring until someone in the family does the work to shift the unfortunate legacy.

Sometimes these patterns hide in plain sight. They may be so obvious and so second nature to the family members, that no one puts it together that each individual situation is part of a larger pattern.

A case study

It’s not always really big events like plague, famine, or wartime that cause the imbalance. It’s sometimes rather ordinary things. One incident can cause a cascade of effects down the lineage.

Imagine a woman whose husband leaves her with three young children to care for. Her whole life becomes focused on working to feed her children, so the wound of being abandoned never heals. Her bitterness and anger become a pattern that continues even after her children have grown and left home.

Because the wound remained unhealed, the pattern of abandonment, anger, and bitterness enter the family genetic stream. Generations later, the story of how great-grandmother raised three children alone may be long forgotten, but the energy of it still passes to future generations.

Each family member may experience the energy differently, based on their gender and birth order.

In this example, oldest sons may grow up to abandon their families or to become ultra responsible, while youngest sons may become timid men who marry angry, bitter wives. The women in the family may relive the pattern of being abandoned, and they may feel bitter and angry toward men for reasons they don’t understand. Other descendants may avoid being in a relationship altogether, deciding to “go it alone” because they have a hard time trusting. There may be a tendency toward being a workaholic.

These patterns repeat down the lineage. Very soon – often within one or two generations – the conscious memory of what happened to the grandmother is forgotten about. The pain is too deep, and the family may make a decision to stop talking about it. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren carry the pain and trauma as a general sense of uneasiness and unhappiness but don’t know where it came from.

The heavy energy continues in the family lineage until one or more members of the family decide to shift it.  I often hear clients say, “I am NOT passing this on to my kids.” By breaking the cycle, they leave a healthier legacy for their children and grandchildren.

How to unravel a dysfunctional family pattern

1) Identify the ancestral pattern that is affecting you. The entry point for ancestral healing is the discomfort or dis-ease you are facing in your own life. Because it affects you directly, that gives you permission to work with it.

2) Journey to the Gathering Place of Ancestors. (For more information, visit part 1 of this article at https://shamanicpractice.org/article/the-gathering-place-of-ancestors/) Ask your family totem and ancestor ally to show you the original wound in the family – the situation that sparked the beginning of the pattern. Ask them for more information – the who, what, why, where, when, and how. Also ask for clarity around the effects of this pattern on the current generations including yourself.

3) Work together with your family totem and ancestor ally to release the trauma, horror, and pain of the original event from the family energy system. Ask them to be very thorough and send all remnants of the heavy energy to the sacred fire of transformation.

4) Then release the red thread of heavy energy from the ancestors all the way down the lineage to the present moment, including you.

5) Ask for clarity from your ancestral helping spirits about what positive energies your ancestors could have used to support them through the original experience. Examples might be peace, communication, or being present with their grief.

6) Request your family totem and ancestor ally to fill any open spaces on the family energy system and down through the lineage with these positive energies.

7) Invite all members of your family – past, present, and future – to meet in the Gathering Place and receive the full benefit and blessing of the healing. Witness the energetic shift happen as they take in the energy and celebrate.

The results

Knowing the pattern started generations ago helps us be more compassionate with our family members, as we realize they were also caught up in the heavy energy.

By doing this clearing in the energetic spirit realms, we bypass the limitations of space and time. If they choose to, all members of the family receive the healing – the ancestors, the current generations, and the generations yet to come.

As we heal, those around us also heal. Shamanic healing can be described as a pebble dropped into a pond. The healing session at the office or the experience during class is the pebble dropping into the pond. For months afterwards, concentric rings of healing ripple out to our family members.

As we consciously work to integrate the healing, our patterns and ways of relating to the world shift. This affects everyone around us and the energetic matrix for the whole family. Some of these changes may be subtle, others may be more obvious.

If family members are attuned to energy, they may notice shifts as a result of the session. Even those who are not accustomed to reading energy may subconsciously sense changes, although it may be difficult for them to articulate the difference. We will likely notice shifts in our family, even if the individual family members do not.

This work is real, and it matters.

About the author

Debra Morrill

Debra Morrill

Debra Morrill, BA, has a shamanic healing practice near Baraboo, WI, specializing in ancestral healing and compassionate depossession. She offers a one-year ancestral healing series, a 2.5-year shamanic training program, and a one-year practitioner training program for ancestral healing. She also teaches the “Energy Essentials for Empaths” series. Debra has been in practice since 2005. Please visit debramorrill.com for more information.
Debra Morrill, BA, has a shamanic healing practice near Baraboo, WI, specializing in ancestral healing and compassionate depossession. She offers a one-year ancestral healing series, a 2.5-year shamanic training program, and a one-year practitioner training program for ancestral healing. She also teaches the “Energy Essentials for Empaths” series. Debra has been in practice since 2005. Please visit debramorrill.com for more information.
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1 Comment

  1. Jean Schneider

    Great article Debra! I like thinking about ancestral healing as “concentric rings of healing ripple out to our family members”.

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