I’ve felt a strong pull toward working with the Ancestors recently, I think brought on by finding some genealogical research that my family has done. My mom and my (paternal) uncle have done a lot of research into our family histories recently, and it’s been really interesting to see where people have been. My husband’s mother and aunt are both extremely interested in family history as well, so I have pretty well documented family trees that go back several hundred years (in most cases) to the various places of our ancestry.
My heritage is pretty well mixed, but the largest parts of it are Scottish and Italian, with some English, Irish, and Dutch, and possibly French or Belgian (I have an adopted grandparent, so it gets confusing). My husband is German (Frisian) and Danish, with some French (Huguenot) as well. (He looks like a Viking. I look like an Italian peasant. It works out!) At this point both of our families are pretty jumbled up, even though my Italian family didn’t come to the United States until around World War I, and his German family has been in Texas since just before Texas joined the US (in 1846).
Which, of course, makes it a little harder to say “I’m working in this strain of Paganism because I have family heritage there”. Though I certainly have English and Dutch relatives, some of whom have been in the US since New York was called New Amsterdam, I have no idea if they were Germanic (Angles/Saxons) or Celts or Gauls in descent, though there’s some rumor that my ancestral family ended up in England via William the Conqueror’s army. (Alternately William the Bastard, depending on your preferred side in that conflict.)
What I do know, however, is that I am descended from hard working people in both my birth and married families. My (mostly Scottish) grandmother grew up on a farm in the Great Depression, and my husband’s family is still farming in South Texas. While his family no longer speaks German, his father grew up speaking it a little bit at home, and they are very well connected to their history in the hill country of Texas.
So while I am sure I have ancestral ties to my pagan forebears, I have no idea what their religion might have been! It’s likely that they are a pretty mixed bunch at this point.
Still, some (admittedly basic) internet research says that most of north west Europe had a devotion to the “Mothers” (Matres and Matrones), and that’s something I’d like to continue, especially since this seems to have been a very widespread practice (and, if the shrines of gratitude are any suggestion, a successful one).
I’d also like to continue to honor my American “Matrones” – the women whose hard work brought their families here to this country and kept them alive. My grandmother and great grandmothers were strong, determined, independent women who I am proud to be related to – and I have begun to feel the same way towards the mothers of my husband’s family too. Life was hard in the hill country, and they made it work.
I’m especially drawn to find strength from my ancestors (whether Matrones or Disir) when I’m struggling with my mental health, since I need all the extra strength I can get to continue to advocate on my own behalf and work towards balance and wellness. It’s a combination of needing strength and protection, which fall into the sphere of the family pretty nicely.
My first steps toward growing that practice has been lighting a jar candle on my hearth (stove) every time I’m in the kitchen. I light it and say a prayer for guidance from the Ancestral Mothers and for their protection over my home and family. (This makes my kitchen smell nice too, which is a fun side-effect).
I’ve also specifically been mentioning them when I light incense (almost daily), and when I do my morning devotions with my tea at work. I’d like to build a small shrine to them somewhere in my house or yard (and also make an effort to get all my family genealogy gathered into one place in the house).