I’ve seen a meme floating around recently that made me pause and think. It said, “Why are Americans so obsessed with their ancestry? You’re from America. You’re American. End of story.”
If it were that simple, would we have the general unrest and discrimination and inequality we have in America right now? Food for thought.
The United States is an interesting country (and certainly not a perfect one, by any means.) I should know – I’ve lived here my whole 25 years of life and have only had the opportunity to travel outside of it just once, to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico when I was 12. I have many international trips mentally planned for when the world is open to us Americans once again. For now, I can roam about this country.
For those of you who haven’t been to the United States, it’s enormous. I have only been in 16 out of 50 of our states. The East Coast is incredibly different from the West Coast. You can experience deserts, mountains, plains, barren ice fields, temperate rainforests, beaches, rolling farmlands, and a plethora of many other natural wonders, all within the same country. So it even feels weird to say you’re ‘American’ unless you’ve experienced all of America – most people in our country identify with the regions they’re from – the East Coast, the West Coast, the Midwest, the South, the Pacific Northwest, the Plains…etc. And just like the ever-changing climates and scenery, there are many, many different people living here who came from other places in the world, which understandably underlines our current reckoning with the notion that no, the average white man does not have a right to make life difficult, consciously or unconsciously, for others who are not just like himself.
The United States is here today because it was taken by force from the indigenous people who lived here before others took to the oceans to explore. This was never ‘our’ country. It was never ‘my’ country. I think this is the root of my discomfort with being known as just an American. Of course, other things have piled on top – our position on the world stage is at the lowest point its ever been, we have political cartoon characters holding positions in our government, and we have quite the track record of shooting ourselves in the foot in nearly all situations that have been put onto our plate as of late. I don’t think I’m the only one here feeling like they’d like to distance themselves a bit from their ‘American’-ness.
I have a very deep spiritual relationship with the earth, with the world – clearly, otherwise I wouldn’t be running this blog. And every time I have sat here, in the place where I have chosen to live for now, I have never felt 100% that it was truly ‘home.’ This land is not my land. It was taken. I see it, I feel it, I understand it. I take extra care to give back to this place, in offerings and gratitude, and thankfully this land has accepted me and the penance I bring forward, for myself and my ancestors. I feel as though I have developed a relationship, or a pact, with the native spirits of this land and they are accepting of my residence here, however, I know deep down that for as long as I live here, I will be a guest in a perpetual state of borrowing.
Eternally thankful for my grandmother’s work on our family genealogy, I have found that I am over 65% Scandinavian. Most of my ancestors come from Sweden, but I have quite a few relatives still peppered over Norway and Finland. The other 35% is basically Eastern European and English, which makes sense. Every time I look at photos of these places, I feel a longing. A pulling. A calling from home. I crave to be in the dark, green forests, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and listening to the waves roll into the cool, salty fjords. The more I read and learn about the culture, the more I realize how naturally it comes to me. Americans are boisterous, friendly to a fault, and way too eager to make small talk, the absolute opposite of Scandinavia, and the opposite of myself, who is perfectly happy keeping to myself and exchanging a simple hello, if at all. This is just one example, but there are plenty of things in their society that I resonate and align with, especially the Laws of Jante.
The folk music from Scandinavia also keeps pulling me in, and back, so to speak. Music has always been incredibly important to me, as most people know. I feel very strongly that I work with the medicine of music better than any plant or crystal or oil. My musical preferences are varied, though there’s always a common denominator: it needs to be on the heavier side, with a steady beat. And what music is Norway, Sweden, and Finland known for? Black and heavy metal, one of my favorite genres since I was young. It has a very specific kind of dark, primal, earthy, tribal energy – something that calls to all of the artists who find themselves in these genres. Einar Selvik of Wardruna, one of my favorite Norse folk artists, was in a heavy, black metal band before he started Wardruna. He felt the call of the ancients, the desire to attempt to preserve Norse folk music, and let me tell you, he’s certainly succeeded. He and Wardruna have received many awards and accolades for their work in preserving the songs and instruments and traditions of the old world. I use Warduna, Danheim, and Heilung’s music exclusively for my energy work sessions, because the music contains the medicine that I know I have within me thanks to my DNA. It works as a superconductor, bringing the knowledge of the ancients into the present.
I won’t gloss over this either – my ancestors, the Vikings, took things from people. When they moved and expanded, they took down others. All of our ancestral cultures have committed such crimes, but that doesn’t excuse them. I work every day to heal my lines from the traumas they were given and the traumas they inflicted in turn. That is the only thing I can do now from where I am.
Almost everything about me aligns and resonates to a part of the world in which I do not currently live, but have strong energetic and genetic ties to – just because I don’t live there, does that really mean I can’t identify with it? Nah. I don’t subscribe to that belief.
At the end of this, I do want to say that I acknowledge that I carry a lot of privilege with my natural United States citizenship. I’m allowed to sit here and talk shit about my country and my leaders because it’s allowed. I’m also a woman who is allowed to speak (though we’re still working on actually being heard.) I realize that because I live where I do right now, I am more protected and have access to many more resources than a large percentage of the world. Those are the gifts, as well as the beautiful places I can travel to without leaving this country. For me though, deep down, it has been a rewarding and transformative experience to come into the understanding of where I’m really from, what I need to heal, and how to move forward.
If you haven’t done any research into who you are or where you’re from – try it. See what you find. When you learn who you are, the answers will come.