I just came back from a family reunion in Quebec. I learned some fascinating things about my recent ancestors, but before I get to that (stay there or you’ll miss the part about the murders!), here’s a bit about me and ancestor veneration in general.
Many Heathens will tell you that the pantheon doesn’t really get involved in human affairs much, so if you have an issue that doesn’t affect people on a global (or cosmic) scale, you would be better off going to your ancestors for help. I have some strong opinions regarding this divine “hands-off” approach to relationships (suffice it to say that if the ancestors can call on deities to help them with brewing beer and rescuing children from trolls, chances are they do take an interest in what “regular” people are doing) but that’s another post entirely (and besides, if you know me on Facebook, you’ve heard this from me a million times).
Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve never felt especially connected my ancestors. I found the myths first–stolen necklaces, battles with giants, trickery, at least one separation, and at the end of the world there’s this big fight where the two sides destroy each other and humans have to start all over again. Even today, the sagas bore the Hel out of me. I refuse to go through the sagas with a fine tooth comb to quote mine for instances where some guy pours mead on a rock because I can’t think of a good way to start a ritual. I’d rather DO ritual and worry about it being 100% ancestor-approved later, but again, that’s another topic….
The other issue I had is that I don’t just have one family, I have two, an adoptive and a biological family. Ever since I learned that I was Romanian, every St. Patrick’s Day I would stand in the middle of the house and yell “I’m NOT Irish, I’m Romanian!” at the top of my lungs, because if I heard another rendition of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” I was going to murder someone with a rusty fork. However, if I really thought about it, I didn’t really have any connection to my Romanian roots either, because I didn’t really have any interest in contacting my biological family at that point.
Anyways, I’m supposed to be talking about the family reunion I went to. I walked down to the house and barn where my mom grew up. The woods that we passed used to be the place where they went haying (!). The house and barn are nearly swallowed by plants (particularly raspberries, delicious raspberries). Mom remembers how the snow came up so high in the winter that she and my aunts could climb on the roof. I can’t imagine what she was seeing. seeing her childhood home in the process of being devoured by the local fauna. Also, I almost couldn’t make it up the hill again and ended up nearly stumbling into the path of a car, so yay for not being a pancake!
Once I was able to sit down and drink close to a full bottle of cold water, my cousin did a presentation on our recent-ish ancestors. I don’t remember all of it (I’m still waiting for him to send me some stuff), but here’s some of what I do remember:
Most of my ancestors came from County Kilkenny in the province of Leinster, Ireland: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilkenny
Some first names that keep cropping up among my ancestors were Thomas and James for males and Catherine and Bridget for females. My great-grandparents finally showed some originality by naming my grandfather Lincoln.
My ancestors were farmers. Back in those days (mid 1800s), a large farm was “one pig and two horned animals”.
While doing research on my ancestors, my cousin uncovered four murders that were connected to their community. A couple were directly tied to the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in the area. One was an assassination. My cousin’s favourite case involves a man who gave the blue ribbon to the wrong sheep in a contest, a brawl ensued, and my ancestor, Thomas Tuite (pronounced something like “Choot”) is on record as one of the people who tried to pull the brawlers off the poor guy. He died anyways, but I’m still proud of my ancestor for doing the right thing. In case you’re wondering, no, none of my ancestors from that time period murdered anyone (although, my cousin thinks he knows who assassinated that one guy).
Basically, I came out of that lecture having learned these things:
1) Irish people fight a lot
2) Catholics vs. Protestants is serious business
3) If you ever find yourself in a sheep judging contest, just…abstain from judging, seriously
4) If you shoot someone, you just might find yourself being shipped to Tasmania (this actually happened)
So ends my brief report on what I learned about my adoptive family during the weekend.