Growing up “Heathen” (As I experienced it)

Commonly known as "Gar" to Heathenry, this symbol is found is both Pennsylvania Deitsche as well as Latvian folk arts.

Commonly known as “Gar” to Heathenry, this symbol is found is both Pennsylvania Deitsche as well as Latvian folk arts.

Hello cats and kittens, today I’m going to discuss the very confusing, convoluted, and strange life it was for me growing up in a clandestinely polytheistic European family from two ENTIRELY different traditional backgrounds; Lettish(Latvian) as well as Austrian/Pennsylvania Dutch (which I will spell and misspell in every possible way- and gave up on spell-checking every instance!) and attempt as well to create a compare/contrast between these two belief systems.

First off, please discard any ideas that my childhood was “ideal” in any manner- my mother was severely mentally ill with profoundly violent schizophrenia, which was entirely unmedicated needlessly complicating my religious upbringing further since I associated many of her beliefs and practices she observed as “Nothing I Want Any Part Of” even if they were legitimate, Latvian customs. This resulted self-limiting myself by distancing myself from Latvian culture- since I associated all things that involved my mother with severe abuse.  Furthermore, despite her polytheistic upbringing she spent her time rather aimlessly “wandering” between New-Age and vague Christianity as it suited her psychosis at the time….that was further compounded by the unwillingness of her community to “teach” her.  Unlike reconstructionism, traditional European polytheism seems to have some very exclusionary principles- as in “Why waste the time to teach someone who will either not “get it” or will simply fuck it up somehow?”

Be that as it may,  I was fortunate that I was raised in a multi-generational household and in very close proximity to my extended family outside the home as well- including paternal grandparents and great grandparents since my Pennsylvania Dutch/Teutonic side tended to have children early in life (and frequently) until my grandparent’s generation. I was surrounded by second and third cousins from my grandfather’s seemingly infinity large family of Austrian/Deitsche descent.  My Latvian side is simply my grandmother and uncle- and some very distantly related 3rd and 4th degree cousins I do not know.

Both my Uncle and Brother are agnostics with little interest in these things, I do not know my uncle’s story, but my brother missed out on time with now-deceased relatives which shaped my spirituality.

To continue- another thing worth noting is that the word “Heathen” is still seen as rather insulting in the family/social circles of both the Lettish as well as the Deitsche- which is a huge part of the resistance of many “traditional” families that I personally know and have befriended over the years.  Partially, because cultures are agrarian in nature, mostly pacifists, and not Norsk. The Latvians/Lettish prefer to be called “Druids” in English- and the “Hidden Dutch” prefer to be left entirely alone, still…. to the detriment of creating a more complete picture of unbroken European polytheistic tradition.

There is good reason for this; basically, the strongest commonality both sides of my family share is a deep-seated fear and strong distrust of “outsiders” directly resulting from centuries of hiding and persecution.  To save themselves as well as their respective cultures, the German Lutheran church provided sanctuary in exchange for the promise that all children would be baptized/confirmed, and monetary donations would be made regularly whether attendance occurred or not.  It’s just how things were done.  In college, I learned that the Moravian church did likewise in other locations.   My old pastor, bless his heart, tolerated us, spoke fluent German, and “suffered” three generations of my German family poking metaphorical holes in his Bible and generally being as reluctantly “Lutheran” as a person can get.  Starting from my father sitting me down with a Bible and showing me all the “cool” questions to ask; “Where are the ‘Great Sea Monsters’ mentioned in Genesis, they couldn’t have drowned in the flood, right!?” and my personal favorite was picking the absolute most inappropriate verses to read in church during confirmation classes.  After my father and his best friend scraped their way through confirmation like mischievous Vaetirr, my choices of the “Sunday Reading” from the Bible were very strictly monitored and I had to submit several more than the other children after my dad’s best friend ALLEGEDLY  read with great enthusiasm, Ezekiel 23:20:

“… There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses….” etc.

Yeah, we didn’t get away with much past Pastor Reimet, he was chagrined by us, but he also had a sort of quirky sort of affection for our line. We kept him on his toes- and he just LOVED telling everyone how whenever my grandfather and father were in a service at the same time “Lightning struck the church.” (Totally not true, that only happened ONCE…maybe twice.)  “Heathen” was meant as an insult…as in “Stop running in the choir loft, you little Heathens!”

When I complained about church, it was my Dad who said to me. “Look, without the Lutherans, none of us would be alive right now.    When you’re finished with classes believe whatever you want. We’re polytheists anyway, seriously what is the harm of learning about one more god?”

Anyway, I have escaped myself- so, away from the church (at which I was dropped off- my parents had no interest in staying except during my mothers sporadic “Christian” phases where she could use Jesus as yet ANOTHER justification I was “evil”.)

Okay. Well, this post is going to suck to write- Looking at the tangled maze of teachings, secrecy, contradictions, and absolutely strange customs that I STILL don’t see in modern reconstructionism, there does not seem to be a linear way to “explain”, but I will do my best.

First major difference between how I was raised and reconstructionism:  although the concept of Valhalla is known, the logistics of being in a place that is basically daily bloodshed is likely not appealing to peace loving, self-secluded, agrarian cultures when there is an understanding the afterlife is chosen by your belief system, mostly.  However, that being said, “I’ll see you in Valhalla!” said in front of either culture will likely be met with a wince considering Valhalla is for warriors who die in battle, and even then, only under the special conditions of being “Chosen” just prior to the moment of death.  If we go by technical research on concept of Valhalla, there would be less people from modern times chosen for Valhalla than Christian Heaven than in the more violent past from more war-inclined traditions.

Personal opinion? If you are Heathen, make your peace with Frau Holle/Hel(a)/Mara now rather than having to explain why you failed to do so in life.

Grandma from Latvia is still with us- and to her, Jesus was just “another” God, and since he was the one most people around her worshiped HER tradition entailed that if you pray for someone you pray to THEIR God(s), not your own- since “Our Gods might not know them”.  Since my wedding, she has been completely “Out” about her paganism and has become very active in the Latvian spiritual community.  Latvians, like Hindus have literally thousands of Gods- one for each species of flora and fauna.  Even picking flowers, it is polite to thank the plant….and Latvia is more Vanic than Aesir, with Mara (A sort of Holle/Frigg figure) and Janis seeming to have “top spot” (Freyr, his name changed to “Janis” several hundred years ago to keep their primary summer festival “Jani” or “Janistag” by claiming St. John and Freyr are the “same” to nosy Christians.)  The stories from her childhood are truly priceless- of the entire village running from German Lutheran missionaries into the woods when they came to baptize in one of the two local rivers- only to wait until they left to jump into OTHER river to “wash it off”.   When I asked her about Loki, she concluded that he was the same as the Hearth-God Loke  (also found in Finland), who blesses you with Luck if you keep your chimney clean, and fills the flu with dead squirrels if not.

There is something to that- my uncle pulled out six or seven of them one Yule….completely mummified.  However, the Latvian word “Loki” means “onions”. Please do not confuse them if you happen to run into one of the VERY few left of this extraordinarily tiny ethnic group of Lettish Vanir-worshipping druids.  Latvians are a very proud people.

The Latvians tradition I was raised in was pan-polytheistic, there is a “Big God” called “Dievs”- however, he doesn’t interact with humans much in the same way that humans are the host of millions of microscopic organisms that we have no awareness of. That is where the Latvian Pantheon comes in, called “Dievas”- in my family, they are our Ancestors who “stayed around” or plant/animal Gods who help us. The one’s she was most fond of are Janis (Freyr), Mara (Holle), Perkons (Donar/Thor), and Laima, a luck goddess with no close correlation I have found in Europe but I suppose could be rather like a “Northern Lakshmi”- with elements of child-protection as well. A great deal of emphasis is placed on “lucky” animals- particularly ladybugs, squirrels, toads and a magical snake with a crowned head.  Killing any of these “special” animals would basically be very “unlucky”. (Er…disastrous, perhaps?) Different regions of Latvia had slightly different naming conventions as well as customs.  My family was from the South West region, near the Lithuanian border.

Each ethnic group has it’s own traditional dress as well as customs.  I know the costume for my region for women is a full length red velvet skirt, white shirt, white stockings, black shoes, and a stiffly beaded crown with a belt woven by hand of sacred symbols that are similar to SOME of the Futhark.  Unmarried women wore their hair in braids, married women covered their hair when they went outside…a tradition Grandma still practiced when I was a child but seems to have discarded over time.  My particular ancestry was known for having bright green eyes- which was considered both lucky and rare- my Latvian grandmother, my father, and I are the only people in our family still living I’ve seen with green eyes.  Everyone else is either steel-blue, hazel, or brown on either side of my family.

Another tradition I still keep to this day is when I am told of a death of someone who touches either myself or a close friend, I do my best to uphold my responsibility to light a candle to “Light their way” to whatever afterlife they need to find- which, to Latvians has been describes as “Where it is always summer, but never too hot- beer flows like rivers, and you meet Janis.”  However, death customs are complicated.  Most of my childhood (on both sides) seems to have been spent in cemeteries caring for graves, planting flowers, and singing dirges in November as well as Summer in a language I could read out-loud but could not understand except for select words I recognized. (My brother I am reading this too, said “Like Strawberries! Zeminis”)  Hauntings by deceased family are never seen as “bad”, it appears to me.  Family members “wait” and watch after death and sometimes choose not to move on without their most beloved family members.

My grandfather I only know in real life as a headstone in a Latvian section of a cemetery on the Mainline suburb of Philadelphia, what I do know was he was a stern, intelligent man- multilingual, and had an affinity for Tyr.  He spent a great deal of time in Germany, so I am uncertain if that affinity came from a Lettish “Tyr” I do not know or if he “Met Him in Germany”.  Like me, however, he apparently spent a great deal of time studying and exploring other religious traditions.
He was fluent in the elder Futhark as well as the Latvian symbols.  To answer the unspoken question: Yes, I do personally believe my ancestors watch over me and interact when they feel they need to.

Vilanis/Vilanus (Likely spelled horribly incorrectly, but equivalent to Wotan- but “minor” rather than the lead), Latvian pagans say “God walks among men”- implying the Teutonic legend of Woten wandering with his two dogs/wolves (Latvian “dogs” tend towards the more “wolfish” breeds of husky-types and shepherds)  as a beggar looking for kindness among His people.  To feed and shelter him is to be given great luck, to turn him away has usually dire consequence.  In some areas/countries, he is actually depicted as a permanent werewolf, half wolf/human hybrid, or simply a shapeshifter.

The thing with the Lettish deities is she honestly felt they were “left at home” when she left Latvia, believing there were other Gods indigenous to the US that “she does not know”.  Thanks to the hard work of the Latvian Druids there is now a growing voice to the Lettish pagans courtesy of the work of Mr. M. Bisenieks, the husband of her best friend, Maya.  It’s been three years, I STILL haven’t been able to connect with the man…but if you are reading this, please understand I am doing my best, sir.

The difficulty with the the Lettish traditions is several fold.  First of all, our numbers were DECIMATED in WWII by Stalins regime which sent the majority of my ancestry to Siberia, of which, only one family returned. My grandmother was an only child and her father was a diplomat allowing for her immediate family to escape- the next day, the rest of those in her village were captured.  She still relives the day she left, they made an agreement with Germany to give them the farm and livestock in exchange for asylum, with the promise after the war all would be returned to them.  Despite her inability to really “click” with her horse and ride him without getting bitten- she still remembers him with his new German brand-mark coming to the fence as they walked by the last time and that she only had the time to pack one pair of shoes.  She was 8 years old, and spent the entirety of the rest of her childhood and teenage years in what sounds like a rather well-appointed refugee camp that was entirely Latvian.

The Holocaust was not only in Germany- more people died in Russia under Stalin, and thousands of Japanese died in US internment camps as well.   The silence on this issue is deafening; and public school with the innate biases in our textbooks created no end of trouble for me- outspoken and taught from BOTH sides that American news and history lies….even in the 1980’s-90’s before the current socio-political problems of misinformation.   We had newspapers from Latvia, a Ham radio, and German news sources when we could get them.  Further, since Latvia was part of the (now former) USSR, our phone lines were tapped and my grandma and her friends were constantly harassed and hassled much like those of Middle Eastern descent today in our country. History repeats.

Furthermore, in my youth there was a HUGE emphasis placed on blood quantum, at least in the area in which I lived.  My father, despite being German, was treated very poorly by the Latvian community, as was my mother for “marrying outside”… my brother and I are “Half-bloods”.   Latvian children were given the option of attending Latvian camp and school on weekends- which I avoided (due to the reasons stated earlier), my brother did not.  The indigenous religions were not taught, but rather a focus on diplomacy and an emphasis on learning the language so we could “Go back” and “take back” the country from the Russian settlers who have since settled- three generations deep- into the farms of the Latvian diaspora.  My family was unsuccessful in winning back Grandma’s farm after years of work between us and her cousin still “at Home”, sadly… yet on the other hand, how does displacing a Russian family who lives there now (and has lived there for 40+ years) help anything when we have roofs over our heads here?

Considering the dwindling numbers of our ethnic group, I have heard that things have become “warmer” towards people such as I- however, I personally have the feeling (true or simply perception) that my very public association with American Heathen reconstructionism may have created an unintentional rift- despite the fact that I have been asking for help through Grandma to have dinner with the Druids and be taught “properly” so I can better and more accurately relate the stories and integral pieces that unbroken Baltic spirituality brings to the global Heathen community.  My Latvian religious background is a mishmash of my Grandma’s village traditions as well what little education I would accept as a child from Dzidra, a women who TERRIFIED Latvian youths simply by her strangeness, but yet, she also- Tante Dzidra was both our Witch and our Auntie.  She was a nurse by profession, loving and dedicated in her own way  to making sure we were “taught”- but a woman who keeps an ear-piercing gun and vaccination needles in her car is still a mixed blessing to a small child.  Did I mention she was absolutely terrifying?

On her account as well as Maya’s, I was taught forms of Latvian divination, straight-deck card readings as well as the New Years tradition of pouring molten metal into cold water to hold the resulting shape against candle flame to intuit the future for the next year by the shadows cast upon a piece of paper on the table.   I used the cards to make a name for myself as “The Youngest Psychic” reading at faires in Pennsylvania in my teenage years escaping my mother by having the faire organizers saying I was “helping out”.  Either way, I came home with money and really cool minerals and crystals.  I collected rocks (and still do) simply because it was the only thing I could possibly collect my mother couldn’t break or harm me with if they were small enough.  Steal, absolutely…break? not so much.

So, basically, as a child I came to the conclusion that all Latvians were either assholes or completely insane.  I have since revised this, of course- considering that a great deal of the experiences were tainted by the sheer violent nature of my mother.  However, on the bright side EVERY Latvian (and the people we marry) get a SECOND birthday called a Name’s day- the wikipedia article is woefully inaccurate on this in that they claim it derives from Catholic influence- however, even in said article I found in their own definitions the origin detailed by wikipedia contradicts the established tradition of the non-Christian Saami peoples who also have small settlements in North West Latvia, in particular and the “Latvian” section removes all reference to religion whatsoever.  I honestly have no idea why we have Names’ days…but hey!  Second birthday, AWESOME!

On the other side of the family:  my father- who fluctuates between staunch polytheism and “Broad ‘Pascal’s Wager'” semi-agnostic.  Be that as it may, HE was the one who bought all the children’s books on German folklore and “mythology” for my bookshelf- told stories of Loki, Thor, and Odin (Loki, Donar, and Woten, correctly)…  mostly of Loki/Thor, and rather enjoyed telling people he worshiped Loki while people couldn’t tell if he was serious or insane…

But Dad, well, he always liked to keep people guessing regarding that issue.

He also bought books on other European mythos such as “Bullfinch’s Greek Mythology” and my mother had a strange obsession with folktales and fairytales retold in Harlequin fashion.  I got no end of beatings for “stealing” my mother’s books- but honestly, even at age 12 I realized “stealing” a book that is literally 3 feet from my own bedroom is a ludicrous concept.
My father is a great person, but he loves nothing more than to “test” and confuse acquaintances.  Along with Lokeanism, we also had the now great Discordian texts of  “Condensed Chaos”, and “Flatland”.  Science was revered to him and seen as non-adversarial to his personal spirituality- and his talents lie with making machinery and broken technologies “work” with a MacGyver-esque flair.  His sledge hammer is called “Mjollnir”, and he had activities he called “Taunting Thor” meaning climbing large, metal objects in the most stormy conditions simply out of annoyance if we lost a shingle or even if it was simply that our satellite dish was “off” preventing him from watching the Sci-fi channel.  If I had to define him by a modern label- it would be “Braucher-raised techno-mage.”  As to my childhood, by tradition, since my mother was impregnated by him, he felt obligated to marry her to “do the right thing”.  He lived with her for 20+ years in complete misery, but he worked a great deal of overtime to support her and my brother and I- leaving him in the dark regarding my mother’s increasing unpredictability and violence, now without the protective shelter of my extended family since we moved over an hour from any other relatives when I was 12 years old.

Not my entire family is Heathen-  my father’s dad is dead silent regarding religion.  His grandmother he described as “A terrifying Austrian witch who wore nothing but black and purple and had hair down to her ankles.”  I never could get more out of him than that, and in religious conversation, he is silent.

My Nana (Dad’s mom) believes in “Folkcraft”, and despite repeated attempts to convince her to please write down all the old traditions of our family of Hildebrandts, she has adamantly refused.  In my early years she was my absolute favorite relative and really enjoyed her telling me the history of my “unbroken” Braucher line.  Unlike most Braucherei/Hexerei I have met, traditions were passed from women to their daughters.  When my Nana had two sons only, the line was “technically” broken.  However, I do have a female second cousin our section of the family is estranged from who enjoyed many, many more years with my Great-Grandma, Nana Gloria.  Her family were Hildebrandts who were Hexers with the only affiliation with the “Bible” I have been able to discern concretely is entirely reduced to the “Seven books of Moses”- a text used in Brauchei/Hexerei rituals.      My Nana is cagey- and repeatedly, I have seriously pissed her off by being “Public”- which is likely part of the current rift between us.  To her, our traditions are “family only” and that our personal family tradition with the “English” (Non- Deitsche) was to mislead them with misinformation.  As a child, it was apparently a fun game for her elder’s used to play to see what sort of crazy bullshit they could make the “English” researchers believe we practice in our folk medicine.

In reality, most of it was common sense, herbal, and used a great deal of metaphor.  Taking down pictures of family members and storing them reversed as well as sweeping the house after doing so was a sign of absolute displeasure just short of shunning if not outright rejection. My Nana’s mother, Nana Gloria was an expert at making cars break down of people who pissed her off.  She would say, “Just tell the tires to go flat if they cut you off.” I was probably 6.  I guess she figured she wouldn’t live long enough to see me drive…and sadly, she did not.

Again, with the Germans, even MORE time was spent in cemeteries.  In line with common Urglaawe belief, we believed on THAT side of the family that each new child born into the family held the spirit of one deceased… hence, all of us were named after dead family members in our middle names.  My brother was properly named.  I was named after a sociopathic great-grandmother on my Latvian mother’s side who likely strongly contributed to her mental illnesses.  I legally changed the entirety of my name as soon as I could in my 20’s.

That side of the family shares the same belief as the Latvians that our dearly departed “stay” if they choose to guard as well as guide the family.  Dreams of dead relatives are VERY important to us, and despite my Dad’s occasionally fluid beliefs, he still is the first person I go to when I dream of the dead from his side of the family.  Great-Grandma Helena only comes in dreams to complain about 3rd cousins I hardly met, Pop-pop George usually plays pranks on people being assholes to Dad and I in “hauntings”, and Pop, Great-grandma Helena’s husband makes entire houses fill with tobacco smoke despite being a family that is anti-tobacco after Pop-Walter died of lung disease when my father was a child.  Pop Walter was also Deitsche- thrifty, and believed STRONGLY in giving away that which he had no longer use for (as well as the objects owned by others in his household, much to their chagrin).   I didn’t realize until I wrote this that I am the only other person in my family who also jettisons material goods at random to friends and charity spontaneously if I know others can put the items to better use/need more than I.

Corporal punishment of children on my Latvian side was tolerated in our family tradition, however, the German side (German is just SO much easier to spell) placed special love and value on children and punishments were usually chores rather than the futile “Go to your room” or beatings.  My Latvian grandma would only hit if I hit someone else- however, she was beaten severely as was my mother by her mother with birch switches. My mother didn’t have such patience- usually beating me was with whatever object was closest at hand.   Nana Helena would just shake her head at misbehavior- the only “intolerable” thing among us children (me and my seemingly endless amount of 2nd and 3rd cousins) was long hair on men and beards.  She HATED that.   Oddly enough, she was also the only person who was devoutly Catholic in my family which SHE kept secret from all of us until after her death when we found a well-used rosary hidden in a box of greeting cards and my father asked the Priest at the Cathedral across the street to find out she was “sneaking out” to mass.  Considering the polytheistic nature of the countless saints and angels, I do not find any contradiction between a devout Catholic and Polytheism except in semantics.  I held onto her rosary until I moved back Reading, Pennsylvania- near to where she is buried where my father and I buried it under her headstone and planted roses to fill the hole.  The grave of Pop Howard and Nana Helena are absolutely covered with flowers and decorations from my extended family to this day despite her passing in 1995.  It meant a lot to me to add to the “collection”. (unless Nana, Dad’s mom, removed my roses out of spite by now. 😦 )

Punishments from Grandma were more German than those I received from my mother.   My home life was violent, so my fathers side was too busy attempting to save/protect me from my mother’s wrath for punishment, my Latvian grandma worked as did my father except for two wonderful years he was self-employed repairing electronics as my mother worked.  I believe I recall only being yelled at ONCE as a child by my father’s parents for using the couch as a tightrope.

At this current point in time, I am trying my very hardest to reconnect the pieces- I have reached out to my estranged extended family on my fathers side only to find rejection that is not personal, but rather derived from the actions of my grandparents that have harmed them (perceived or real harm- I cannot say, I was not there.)   The same problem exists on the Latvian side.  For my safety, I am estranged from my mother and she holds the “upper-hand” in being able to speak fluent Latvian making going to the Philadelphia Latvian club literally dangerous to me.  Again, if any Latvians are reading this:  You know my mother, I know you understand my predicament.  Please reach out to me- Grandma is 83 and every day is a gift, and I fear if I lose her I will lose this tenuous connection that connects “The Earth Religion” of my ancestors to help correct and shape modern Heathenry and dispel the mythology that we NEED to be “Reconstructed” while thousands of families in the US and Europe live in unbroken tradition that fall under the blanket of “Heathenry”.  Some may not like the word, but words are the only thing that people understand in how to categorize their beliefs.

I honestly find American Heathenry confusing in that regard- how I was raised, I am not Scandinavian, we didn’t have Sumbel, and we only had Toasts on the Latvian side when guests came to visit and very large dinners on both sides.  (The food was better with the Pennsylvania Dutch by far…)  We did not pray- we believed on BOTH sides “gifts” were meant to be greeted with a “Thank you”- and to try to solve one’s own problems.  We believe in self-reliance.  Latvian Grandma still TRIES to shovel before the neighbors stop her… her Latvian customs have spread to her typical suburban Philadelphia neighborhood where everyone on her side of the street is “family” and they all look out for one another- meaning usually the closest man with a snow blower comes to save her the trouble- or at worst, my Uncle gets called by my “Aunt” Jan, Grandma’s next door neighbor, until he arrives from a neighboring suburb with his shovel….sometimes multiple times if the weather conditions are particularly poor.  I live over 2 hours away, but when I lived closer for a year, I came over weekly to help him in caring for her house by mowing, weedwacking, shovelling, etc…

Growing up, it felt like I had dozens of Aunts and Uncles- most of them were actually unrelated to me…but some I still keep in touch with if I have the ability…. and I am happy to see that “modern” Heathenry has adopted a modified form of this custom in Frith and Fellowship.

In BOTH traditions, religion where you “go to church” is more social than anything- true religion is found in daily life and in our productivity- whether it be working, repairing, or study.  “Studying” is valued by the Latvian side- but my Deitsche grandparents are vehemently angry that I am on disability and no matter how much of my time is spent in study or helping others by running online support groups, clergy work, or sheer volume of anonymous writings I contribute online regarding Heathenry answering what questions I can and feeling like an overwhelmed air-traffic controller at times “matching” Heathens with those who can give them the information and communities that will help them best.

In conclusion, this is where I come from- feel free to ask any questions you like in the comment section below.

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2 Responses to “Growing up “Heathen” (As I experienced it)”

  1. You must have been emotionally wrung out after writing such a long, intense post.

    I’m always fascinated and a bit envious when I read about families with long, unbroken race-tribe lines. But only since I became interested in history and then Heathenry. My family line consists mostly of English and Scot-Irish immigrants. There are also some Italians and Seminole and Cherokee.

    I know I don’t have to tell you this, but always cherish your family line and family traditions. Being a California native, I have little connection to traditions. Southern farmers on both sides and yet they all ended up out west.

    Then my mother became one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and this alienated us from both sides of the family because JW’s don’t celebrate the pagan holidays. My mom offended and upset the family when she took up this religion because she didn’t celebrate and as children we weren’t allowed to go to family holiday celebrations. So not only is my blood thin, I have absolutely NO family traditions on either side of the family.

    Then when I was older, I got disfellowshipped from the JWs, which further alienated me from family since my mother and sister were no longer allowed to speak to me and I didn’t know my family on my dad’s side much. I didn’t know him until I was 15 and he was a needle junkie and pedophile who’d abused my brother and I until my mom left him when I was two and a half. Only learned about this the past few years. His three friends were participants as well and they ran with bikers in the high desert and were involved with their weird biker devil worship however that worked.

    I understand about abusive moms too. She often beat us with whatever was handy-the back side of a hairbrush was popular, so were wooden spoons. My stepfather was a carpenter who made (or should I say lovingly crafted? :/ ) a paddle for beating our asses. He also liked to engage in bad touching when I was 12.

    A decade or so ago I came in touch with a group of Christian mystics who’s philosophy about life, death, the different realms are similar to what I’ve read in German mysticism. They call themselves the Rosicrucian Fellowship. Rosicrucianism, I think, is influenced by Germanic Paganism although it claims to be Christian mystic. One fellowship member explained my family schisms and my path as being one who is ’emancipated’ from both race and family. He explained my inner conflict as being ‘the warring nations in my blood’ and a war of the various race spirits/gods over my body-soul-being. He told me my task is individuation. To silence the warring nations within and be a truly self-determining individual with little influence or impelling racial-cultural influence.

    Sadly, I don’t feel equal to this task. After decades of seeking some peace through Christianity and mysticism, I have fled toward the gods of some of my ancestors. And at the age of 50, my task is to learn what that means and what I’m supposed to do. I feel Loki has helped me greatly so far; he has pointed my way to Odin for intense work I need to do. Thusly how I came to find myself an Odinswoman. I have yet to actually dedicate myself to the gods formally. I resolved to a study period of a year and a day before making a decision to dedicate myself.

    I don’t hear the voices of my ancestors, my blood is too diluted. My dreams are diluted too. I have dreams of family members often when I’m distressed. More often than not I live in the East and I travel West seeking my mother. Or else I live in the West and seek out my ex husband. Always pinging east to west, west to east. But sometimes I get curious and take a third road. This road leads to wild places like forests or rural areas. People are more dangerous and ‘rednecks’. I once almost got trampled by a runaway herd of longhorn cattle. Sometimes I end up in ‘The City’, a grand place where the buildings are like malls but are blocks and blocks long and full of fountains and rooms of learning, homes, and everyone can fly.

    Anyhow, I know this is a jumbled mish mash of on and off topic nonsense, but it’s just where I ended up going when my fingers touched the keys.

    I really enjoyed reading about your fascinating family. I wish your grandma would share her craft with you, but I wouldn’t hold my breath either. If the line ended with her two sons…I don’t know if tha has anything to do with it at all.

    • She shared it with me when I was younger- but what I wanted was to fact-check the Pa Dutch one like I can with Latvian Grandma. So, I can “remember” what I learned, but my memory (like everyone’s is imperfect). As to my story, you showed a great more bravery expressing your story than I did mine. I think you are definitely on the right track and doing things with mindfulness and a willingness to remain open to having your world view reshaped to better live your future in greater happiness than the sorrows of your past. Sharing helps a great deal.

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