A few years back my brother gave my dad a 23 &Me testing kit, which excited Dad immensely. Nothing about the results was a surprise: our family is almost entirely from English and Scandinavian countries, with a few streaks from the rest of Western Europe. The fact is no one would ever mistake us for anything else.
Even though the test results didn’t contain any earth-shattering revelations, seeing my long-held, semi-informed understanding of my heritage did my heart proud. Since grade school, when I was assigned a report on my family history, I’d held onto to a secret little seed of pride for what my grandmother told me: my ancestors (on her side) hailed from the far away and mysterious country of Wales. I had no idea then where Wales was or anything about it, but that made it all the more interesting and special to me.
Later on, when I was older, my father would tell me we were Swedish, on his side. That wasn’t quite as exciting, since I knew a little bit more about Sweden and had plenty of stereotypes in pop culture to give me an idea of what it meant to be Swedish. Inaccurate and exaggerated stereotypes, certainly, but there was a picture in my adolescent brain, at least.
Time, my education, and technology marched on, and I learned more and more about my family tree, the countries of my origins, and (most importantly) the folklore, mythology, and great heroes of their past.
Hey, I’m a storyteller. Did you think I’d focus on anything else?
One thing I cherished most about my unfolding history were my pre-Christian roots. Druids on one side, Vikings on the other. Cultures and mythologies that had fascinated me for decades—and I was directly connected to them.
With the advent of services like 23&Me and Ancestry.com, heritage seems to come up more in conversation these days. I suppose I could get into deeper specifics and talk about how parts of my family came from Britain while my grandmother’s grandmother hailed from Wales, and meanwhile my father’s family came from Sweden and a few came from Germany... but I prefer my personal shorthand.
I’m half Druid, half Viking. And I’m proud as hell about it.
So what’s the point of this blog post? If you read my books, you won’t be surprised to find out I have a fascination with pagan spirituality, Norse mythology, and English (especially Irish and Welsh) folklore. I find a deeply personal and emotionally fulfilling sense of belonging when I visit these themes and stories. It thrills me to know how much I am connected to these stories through my ancestors—and how much these stories connect me to my ancestors.
Every time I start a new book or series that takes its roots from Norse and Celtic folklore, I learn more about my history and the rich cultures behind it. My heritage informs these books, and the books help me become more informed about my heritage. Even when I’m not specifically writing about English- or Scandinavian-based cultures—as when I wrote Shifter’s Dawn, rooted in Slavic and indigenous Russian cultures—I have a strong sense of how empowering pride in one’s heritage, and love for one’s culture, can really be.
I’m still learning, of course. And, of course, I know there are dark parts to the histories as well. I struggle sometimes with the ugliness of white supremacy in America today, and its appropriation especially of Nordic symbols and Viking aesthetic. For the record, I soundly denounce all white supremacy and condemn their use of my cultural symbols in their ugly, shameful rhetoric. And while I take deep pride in my heritage, I’m always thrilled to learn about the rich folklore of other countries and cultures as well. I love to see how similar our stories are, and at the same time, how uniquely different.
Druid and Viking are my family heritage. You could say Mexican Hispanic culture is an adopted heritage, thought that’s a story for another post. You could also say African and African American history are a growing passion, as I learn more and more about an America I was not taught about in school.
I guess the point is, I find it beautiful to be connected to the past—and to learn more about it—through our heritage, and celebration of that heritage, and the heritage of others. I don’t mean to come off as prideful or superior... just excited about who I am, and who I came from. Hopeful for others to find the same joy in discovering and embracing their own heritage, whether it be defined by literal genetics, or adopted through love and appreciation. I celebrate my heritage through my storytelling. How do you celebrate yours?