This is where my heart has been since Samhain, when I received a clear call from my ancestors to listen.
I have been combing through decades of century’s old Italian script, in a quest to find the thread of birth, union, and death, to find the names of those who came before me, to fill in the blanks of the stories that I have held dear since childhood.
I have been walking the streets of villages that my DNA has dwelled in for centuries though the cosmic powers of Google Maps, learning the names of the streets dedicated to roses and saints, to Goddesses and Hazelnuts, to the bodies of water, to the towering mountains.
I have been learning their language, studying verb tenses and singing their songs, allowing their words to pour over my tongue like an elixir, leaning on my love of Spanish like a temple pillar.
I’ve been finding patterns in the naming - my ancestors honored Saint’s Days, the names of the village churches, remembered those who came before them, adored the great Mother.
I feel privileged to know more names, to find neighbors, to celebrate, to mourn the losses of the loved ones of my loved one’s loved ones. I know not everyone is able to access this information.
I remember being about 8 or so, sitting on my swing set, and asking my parents to name their ancestors for me, as far back as they could go. Making a map of aunts and uncles, great grand-parents and maiden names, cousins and speculations on where each part of the family was from.
I remember going to the Historical Society as a teenager, looking through dusty old books, finding addresses where my people had dwelled before they lived where I knew them to be.
And over the past 5 years or so, I’ve had the power of internet databases by my side. I’ve been piecing the mystery together. Finding naturalisation records, birthdates and village names.
But there were pieces missing within my family tree. Until last month - I have found out so many names last month, my whole being is illuminated with joy. I recite these names like a prayer.
On Mother's Day, I visited a sacred place in Portland dedicated to Mary. As I’ve been connecting with my ancestors, I asked them what they would want me to do to honor the women who came before me on this day and that’s where they directed me to go. While I was there, I purchased Saint's Medals for each of my great-grandmothers names to honor them on this day.
On that same day, when I got home, I found the birth certificates of 4 of my Great-Grandparents - even one who I had no hope of finding more information about. What's amazing about that is that I had the wrong birth year for her and happened to click on the records in a random spot in the year prior and there she was…
What's wild is that I had been looking for this information for about 5 years, & in a really focused way for about 9 months. But after buying these saint's medals, the information just sort of appeared in the same places I had been looking for it for a while.
So I’ve been time traveling, going back to the 1800’s, translating documents, witnessing the cycles, and digitally walking through the neighbourhoods of those who came before me, looking at the land from their perspective. I’ve been thinking about what has been passed down to me - my nose, my thighs, my jawline, my shoulders. How it’s all been passed down, little hints and glimmers of those who I don’t have photos for, but of those who’s names I now know.
Feeling them so much right now. It hasn’t all been comfortable. It hasn’t all been clear. But as I’ve been unpacking what is mine and what isn’t within my own personal practice, this is what is true for me, in this moment.
I have never been to Italy, but when I studied abroad in Southern Spain, I felt so oddly at home and at peace there, in the Mediterranean, with the curved red tile roofs and the smell of warm olive oil drifting through the streets.