Wytch Hazel Cottage

Reclaiming Our Ancestral Folkways

Reclaim Your Ancestral Roots

I believe that our DNA holds the key to our ancestral legacy. I say this because there is compelling evidence that memory is biologically transmitted. What this means is that the wisdom of our ancestors is somehow transferred from their memories to their genes allowing knowledge to be passed down from generation to generation.

However, these past few decades, British school children are being taught about the ancestors of other cultures; about the Egyptians and the Greeks or even the Japanese; all the while being under the impression that our “British” ancestral legacy begins with the arrival of the Normans; as apparently, Britain was a vacuum up until 1066.

I remember quite clearly learning about pre-historic Britain when I was at school in the seventies. Days that were barely holding on to our beautiful Isles’ incredible deep past. A school trip to the Iron Age fort of Maiden Castle was such an awe inspiring experience for me that it has stayed with me to this very day; thirty nine years later. Looking back with what I now know, I was truly blessed to have walked in the footsteps of my ancestors.

Heartbreaking as it is, how are we supposed to reconnect to our ancestral memories within us when the sound of our ancestors’ voices speaking their truth is being drowned out?

With the lack of knowledge of who we are and where we come from, is it any wonder that at their first opportunity young people are off backpacking across the world experiencing other people’s customs and faiths without even realising what beautiful cultures we have right here in Europe? We have our very own diverse heritage, we have our very own diverse indigenous spirituality and we have an identity that is ours despite being told otherwise. It is unrealistic to try and attempt to connect on a soul level to the folkways of other cultures because we do not share the same root systems; we do not share the same languages, we do not share the same histories nor do we share the same folkways; for all of these things are shaped by our landscape and our genealogy. Europe has become such a melting pot of cultural influences that we have completely lost sight of what is actually ours by birthright.

We have an incredible gift coursing through our veins. Everything that our souls are yearning for is embedded in our DNA. Our sense of place in the world, our identity, our home. If we don’t grasp the fact that what we need to do is to start looking inwards instead of outwards then that nagging feeling of something missing will never go away.

Many people find themselves yearning for another time or another place. At first there doesn’t appear to be any logical reason for this, but if they started chipping away at the surface they would soon discover that it is their blood calling them home. More and more people are hearing the voices of their ancestors, but they are finding it difficult to answer the calls because they cannot pinpoint the direction the voices are coming from. If only they could look a little closer for they would find that the voices are coming from the overgrown stones in the corner of a field, the remains of a windy hill fort or a cloutie tree that signposts a sacred place of pilgrimage. Honouring our ancestral past allows our children to have a future, but if we do not show a deep reverence towards our lands, our ancestors and our folkways, then how can we expect our children to care for these things and realise how greatly they matter.

In the distant past, our forebears through reciting their genealogies, telling tales of epic heroes and practising tradition, instilled in them the sense of being part of something larger than themselves. With the expansion of the Roman Empire, however, followed by the spread of Christianity and the forced migrations of thousands of Europeans, it didn’t take long for our ancestral roots to wither and almost die. The Industrial Revolution was the last nail in the coffin and today we are left with scores of people who don’t even know the names of their own grandparents. Even family heirlooms are a thing of the past as photos, personal items and the memories they once held are consigned to flea markets and car boot sales.

Do you feel spiritually lost with no traditions that ground you? Have you immersed yourself in other cultures, honoured their gods and practised their customs, but have never felt truly fulfilled or connected? I felt this way myself many years ago when I was cherry picking from different cultures from around the world. But little by little like Hansel and Gretel, I began following the breadcrumbs back to my ancestral spirituality and I have never felt more grounded.

If you are wanting to mend the broken threads that tie your ancestors and their folkways to yourself, but don’t know how to go about it because it just seems too overwhelming a task, then you can follow the easy steps that I am going to share with you and I promise that they will help you find the way back to where you belong.

I had wanted to take an Ancestry DNA test for a very long time because I felt that it would open up a doorway to my past and my roots. When I finally did and the results came back it was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I could see how everything made so much sense especially when it came to what I was instinctively drawn to. Folk memory dies hard and with a little nudge our amnesia can be lifted.

For the first time since leaving Christianity behind I could at last immerse myself in a meaningful spiritual practice that was rooted in my genetic makeup. I decided to explore my largest DNA percentage first because logically more of my ancestors from these regions had contributed to who I was. Therefore, I believed that this would make it easier for me to reconnect with them and I totally immersed myself in this branch of my tree.

If you choose to use a DNA test to help you gain insight and direction for your spiritual as well as your everyday life, then I would strongly suggest that you only work with one branch at a time. It just isn’t possible to connect meaningfully to every single branch of your family tree at once and in any great depth.

Reconnecting to our lost heritage reawakens our kinship to the lands, rituals and traditions of our people. The threads are terribly worn, but with patience and time we can weave new life back into our ancestral tapestry. It will never be the same as before, but if our hearts and minds are in the right place we can again become one with those who came before us.

However, we do need to put the work in to rediscover our ancestral folkways: the songs, the music, the dances, the myths and legends, the nursery rhymes and the fairy tales, as well as regional cuisine, art, literature and festivals. If you are able to, then visit and explore the regions or countries where your ancestors come from. You could decorate your home with items from that region or with family heirlooms, as well as visit museums, galleries and libraries. You will learn so much about yourself in the process as this whole new world opens up to you.

I have found the pre-Christian worldview and spiritual practices of my ancestors to be the most compelling aspect of my research and with so many passionate revivalists starting up groups in real life, as well as online, it has never been easier to find out about your ancestral folkways and connect with your tribe. For example, if you have French ancestry then you could find other people who practice Gaulish Polytheism or Frankish Heathenry. Or you could go even further back in time and dive deeper into the bear cult for instance or into the shamanistic practices represented in the prehistoric art of France’s infamous caves.

A huge component of reclaiming your ancestral roots has to be language. Linguistic diversity has been on the decline for hundreds of years and of the seven thousand languages spoken around the world today, half of them are endangered. Language is the greatest defining aspect of any culture and Wales is an example of a declining cultural identity due to English being more widely spoken now. Cornish and Manx are two examples of dozens of European languages that are critically or severely in danger of disappearing forever.

Some languages, however, are being thrown a lifeline with many groups pushing revitalising efforts. Scotland now has three Gaelic schools all at full capacity and in Sweden the ancient forest language of Elfdalian is being fought for with the help of schools and other language projects too (only sixty children actually speak it). Learning an ancestral language can be a wonderful way to meet like minded people and a fun project to do as a family. Learning the language of your ancestors makes it so much more easier to understand their beliefs, values and worldview. This way nothing can be lost in translation.

In 2015, The Heritage Crafts Association published ‘The Red List Of Endangered Crafts’ which highlights the plight of traditional craftsmanship. Two hundred and twelve crafts are currently on this list from broom making to arrowsmithing and oak bark tanning to slating. Every year sees more crafts being added or becoming extinct altogether because craftsmen and women are taking their skills to the grave.

The reasons for this are many fold. Firstly, the education system puts a greater emphasis on ‘intellectual’ subjects rather than life skills such as learning a traditional craft. Secondly, an interest in learning a craft is falling due to young people spending much of their down time online or trying to keep up with their heavy study workloads. Thirdly, families no longer have several generations living together anymore so older generations are just not passing their knowledge on to their children and grandchildren. Even if parents have ‘hands on skills’ they are too busy or too tired to even think about teaching their children. Traditional crafts were at one time deeply embedded in our culture due to these generational connections.

And lastly, in a day and age when most people want convenience, uniformity and cheapness over quality, authenticity and uniqueness, traditional craftsmen and women are fighting against the globalist beast. Do you honestly want the exact same item that a million other people own? Every piece an artisan creates has a little part of themselves crafted into it; their love, their passion and their determination to keep traditional crafts alive. Each and everyone of them is promoting a set of values that corporations will never have. Traditional crafts are another thread that connect us to our heritage and by not only buying from these artisans, but also learning a traditional craft, we can be proud of ourselves for preserving our heritage for future generations to enjoy. If you actually have a skill, then it is your responsibility to pass it on. Let us be creators not consumers.

Before I finish, I just wanted to say that if you are able to then please reach out to your living relatives and rebuild family bonds. Spend as much time with them as you can and get to know them on a deeper level. As for older members of your family, find out what you can about your heritage and don’t just ask for photos or dates, but also about your ancestors’ life stories, their heartbreaks and successes. I regret not having been interested in my family history when I was younger and had the opportunity to ask questions to my great grand mother and grandparents. Time is the essence.

The path back to our roots is not a simple straight one. It twists and turns leading us from one place to another with no rhyme or reason. Our roots are part of a complex knotted system which requires patience to unravel, so take your time and enjoy the journey all the way back to your beginning. And if you have children, please involve them as much as you can. Bushcraft, bake, sew, sing them nursery rhymes, tell them about your life and the life of your parents or grand parents if you can, for it is our duty as ancestors in training to pass on this sacred knowledge.

I hope that what I have written has given you some food for thought and has inspired you today to find out more about your heritage and what you can do to preserve your birthright.

2 Comments

  1. Hazel

    4th July 2019 at 4:11 PM

    Thank you Penny! I am also thrilled to hear that you will be diving even deeper into your heritage. Exciting times ahead x

  2. Wonderful… I’m even more determined to delve further now.

    Thank you,

    Penny

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