5 Lessons on Ancestor Work from Pixar's Coco
I watched Coco around the time it was released last year, and I am still shook. I didn't really have a frame of reference as to what the movie was about, and I was floored at how powerful the message about Egun or ancestors that was presented. The second time I watched it, I cried harder than I did the first time.
Before I even get started, let me say,
Ahem. If you have not watched Pixar's Coco, go watch it now.
Yes, this post will have spoilers and yes, it’s good. It's heart-warming, it's beautifully done, it's important. And it's on Netflix. Go watch Coco. Now.
Now that that's out the way.
I won't spend much talking about everything I love about this movie - from the intricacies of the accurate guitar fingering or the nod to the story of Orpheus. Rather, I want to focus on some of the important lessons about ancestral work that were reinforced in the movie Coco.
1) Healing Ancestral Trauma
The movie starts with Miguel saying "Sometimes, I think I'm cursed because of something that happened before I was even born." Miguel is prohibited from being a musician because the family blames music for Coco's father's abandonment. This unhealed pain was passed down from Coco's mother, to Coco, to Coco's daughter, to Miguel's father, and then to Miguel - to the point that Miguel felt cursed.
In my last post, I talk about how the root chakra can hold memories, trauma, and pain from generations before you. Your grandmother's pain or fears or trauma can become your own, and what haunted her may haunt you if it wasn't healed properly in her lifetime. The trauma can become cyclical if not healed. Luckily, it's never too late to heal family trauma. Healing cyclical patterns through ancestral work is powerful and important root chakra work. Your ancestors can support you in this work, releasing that "curse" or trauma from your family's line. This helps the people who came before you and the people who come after you.
2) Offerings (And Being Mindful of What Ancestors You Invoke)
In the movie, "Dia de los Muertos" is the one day of the year that the ancestors come to visit. The living set up an ofrenda with lit candles, flowers, food, sweets, and pictures of their loved ones.
If you have the ability to give offerings to your passed loved ones whether at the cemetery or shrine is a way to support an continuous relationship and connection with your ancestors. If you are able to set up a shrine for them, remember that can help anchor them in the physical world. On the shrine, you can lay our similar things that Miguel's family did: light, water, food, and other things they may have enjoyed during life.
Miguel set up a secret ancestral shrine dedicated to his musical hero Ernesto de la Cruz. Almost as if a ritual, he lights a candle for him and watches his movies on constant repeat while practicing the guitar. Later, we find out the de la Cruz was...a jerk. Oh, and a murderer.
Many times, we will see people lift common ancestors we all share through popular culture. I personally believe it is important to pay respect to ancestors who have transitioned before us, and are no longer on this physical plane, whether they are related to you or not. Still, it is important to be mindful and discerning when lifting people who aren't related to you. All people ain’t #yappl, if you know what I mean.
3) The Power of Remembering
Because Hector's picture was not on his family's (or anyone's for that matter) ofrenda, he was prohibited from crossing over the bridge and being reunited with his family for Dia de los Muertos. Without the picture, he cannot create connect with his living family or enjoy the offerings made for him.
Pictures are a symbol of memory. Keeping the memory of your family living on keeps your family lifted.
Speak the name of your people. Learn their names. If possible, learn their faces and their story. Have your elders tell stories about their life and their elders. Pass those stories down to your family and stress to them the importance of remembering where they come from. At the very least, keep and maintain a family tree that your entire family has access to and express to them the importance of knowing who their people are. You are because they were. Keep their names lifted, and remember them, so they can live on.
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4) The Power of The Ancestors
Okay, Mamá Imelda, Miguel's late great-great-grandmother, and her alebrije Pepita were the dopest duo in the entire movie. Don't think I'm crazy, but the power of that duo was not exagerated at all in my opinion. The way Mama Imelda and the rest of Miguel's family had his back and overcome obstacles and defeat villains is no exaggeration. That is the power of the ancestors.
During the movie, Miguel is reminded "You have your family here to guide you." Preach! We share this plane with more than just physical beings. Even if you cannot see them (well, you may... you might've when you were a kid, too) some of our ancestors are here and walk with us. Your ancestors can provide your with guidance, messages, advice, and support if you let them. Use the power of your ancestors to overcome your obstacles can you manifest the most beautiful life for yourself.
5) The Power of Music
I've discussed sound healing in this post, and music is an integral part of my life in general. Obviously, music was an important theme in Coco. Every once and a while, sing songs to your ancestors. Sing old, gospel songs you know your great-aunt loved, and play classic Sam Cooke for your late grandfather.