Since then, I have gradually begun to join up the dots between ‘ancestor veneration’, worldwide, age-old cults of honouring the ancestors, and family history research as we know it today. We too, I now believe, are looking for ways to experience a connection with our ancestors.
Here’s a shortened version of how I wrote about it in Growing Your Family Tree.
Day two of our brief visit, and something has tickled my imagination in a guidebook: a mention of an ancient round stone representing ‘the navel of the world’. Te Pito Te Henua is one of the other names for Easter Island and that in itself means the navel and uterus of the world, so this stone would therefore be the navel of the navel. Robert agreed: we should try to find it.’
We hired the only the woman taxi driver on the island, mainly because she’d been recommended as helpful. But she turns out to be crucial to the plan.
‘Ah, so you want to go to the place that we visit for energy,’ she says. She takes us over to the north coast of the island, turning down an unpaved road to a small and completely empty beach. Among the rocks above the sea line, a round wall of stones and boulders has been created, about three feet high and eight feet in diameter. Within the circle it encloses, a huge, and beautifully smooth ovoid stone has been placed, like a giant egg. Four similar but smaller stones are set around it at regular intervals, forming a square. It has a Celtic feel about it - we could almost be on the West Coast of Ireland, or in the Hebrides – but here we are, over two thousand miles away from any mainland, and over eight thousand from home.
It is first and foremost a place for women, our driver tells us. She first of all invites me alone to accompany her into the circle, and seats me on one of the smaller stones, encouraging me to place my hands on the great stone egg in front of me. She sits opposite and does likewise.
‘Put your hands on it gently,’ she says. ‘Relax.’
Women of the island have been coming here for hundreds of years, she tells me. They come to pray for help, for a safe childbirth, and even for the delivery of their babies. The stone is the mother, their mother, and the island’s mother.
‘What do you feel?’
I feel as though the stone is not a stone at all, but an egg with the shell stripped away, and the delicate but all powerful pulse of life moving within its membrane. I sense the women who have laid their hands here, and the ancestral mothers whose spirit is contained within the stone itself. Currents of energy seem to be running up my arms.
I tell her some of this, and she is satisfied. She steps outside the circle and invites Robert to come and join me. Now I can suggest to him how to sit and place his hands, and, rather to his surprise, he also experiences waves of energy.
We leave the enclosure. It’s time to get back to the harbour and board our ship for another six day voyage, back to the coast of South America. Both of us are reflective after the experience, and feel privileged that one of the islanders trusted us enough to teach us about her sacred site. We first met the father of the island in the myriad forms of the Moai male ancestors, but now we have also met its mother, the one stone representing all the female ancestors.
This is a Mother’s Day that I won’t forget.
From Growing Your Family Tree Piatkus 2010