Because #4 got waaaaay too long, I trimmed out all of the detail I had written about my time in Sweden and the ways in which I regard that whole experience as an element of ancestor veneration in my practice. But, I really liked it, and I really wanted to share it, so I figured I would just share it with y’all in a separate post.
This is literally just what I chopped out of the middle of #4, so it is abrupt both in beginning and in end. Forgive me for the choppiness, but I already spent a solid couple of hours working on #4 and don’t want to spend more time working on writing a new intro and outro to this, so here you go:
What I do know about my heritage is that either my great grandfather, or my great-great grandfather immigrated from Sweden. I’ve heard differing accounts, but based on what I know about the mass Scandinavian immigration to the United States, I’m placing my bet on great grandpa.
I don’t know much about my great grandfather. I know he called his children “dumskallar” and as such it was the only Swedish my grandmother knew. I know he drank a lot, especially after my grandmother was institutionalized after being kicked in the head by a horse. As a result of these things, my grandmother and her siblings ended up living on the street for a while. He doesn’t sound like someone I would have liked, and yet I would not be who I am today if my great grandfather were anyone else. He was a fisherman and I suspect, though I do not know, that his father was a fisherman. Because of this I guess that my family’s origin was somewhere along Sweden’s coast line.
My family is one of those that doesn’t talk a whole lot about their history. The older generations are very tight-lipped and there is a lot that is not only considered shameful by them and their peers, but that everyone involved would rather just forget anyway. For this reason I often refer to what I do know about my family history as “myth” rather than fact. But based on this very minimal information, I can infer that my Swedish heritage stretches back to the Viking days and before. Prior to the emigrations families primarily stayed in the country, at keeping their movements to Scandinavia if they moved much at all. (Nordtsrom, Bryon J. Scandinavia since the 1500s. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2000.)
I’m not going to claim that my being called to the Norse pantheon has anything to do with ancestor veneration. My heritage was always important to me but I learned far more about my Swedish heritage after being called to the Norse pantheon than I had ever learned before. Then I learned Swedish, the language of my only known and verifiable heritage. I did this in large part as a way of honoring my Norse gods, but I also did this as a way of honoring my Swedish ancestors.
Then I moved to Sweden. I lived and studied there for nine months. I stopped drinking alcohol because my lady Sigyn gently nudged me to do so (she did not demand it of me but said that she “would like it” if I did so). I took further courses in Swedish language, decided I wasn’t learning enough, and enrolled in Swedish literature classes taught in Swedish. I spent an inordinate amount of time in Uppsala’s domkyrka and the small cathedral in Gamla Uppsala taking into consideration the importance of acknowledging and embracing the decidedly Christian history of my heritage (for my ancestors did not escape the conversion).
I also went to every museum I could get to/had the time and money to go. I soaked up as much of the history of that land and its people as I could, because that was the land of my ancestors. The people of that land back in the day were my ancestors, and some of the people of that land were somehow, distantly, related to me. I very much wanted to look up my ancestry while I was in Sweden, to track my lineage and learn more in honor of my ancestors, but my great grandfather anglicized his last name upon his arrival to the States. No one alive knows what the name was originally. There are a few different possibilities of what it might be, and no way of telling exactly which one is right.
While in Sweden I took a modular course on the history, art, music, architecture, and literature of Sweden. I took two more classes on Swedish children’s literature (which included quite the dose of the historical evolution of children’s lit in Sweden) and Swedish drama. I spent hours wandering through the beautiful graveyards in Gamla Uppsala and engelska parken (I did this because I find it comforting to be near to the dead, especially so in Sweden, where the graveyards are often touched with the flickering lights of grave candles). I did all of these things for practical and personal reasons, yes, but they also served a very strong spiritual purpose, and when it comes down it, my primary reason for going to Sweden was spiritual: I did these things to honor both my gods and my ancestors.