Thursday, November 7, 2019
This year, in one of my women's circles we decided to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day, which is still widely known in the Americas as Columbus day. Our hostess was inspired to have us think of our ancestors twenty generations back, in honor of our own indigenous roots. So we did.
Standing in meditation, in a quiet corner by myself, instead of twenty generations, I suddenly imagined more like two hundred, all lined up behind me. And not unlike in a dream, they all somehow managed to fit in a space less than ten feet long. There at the end of the line stood a big tall man, one of my great, great, great, great, great... grandfathers.
I'm Danish on my mother's side. I'm also English, Scottish and Irish on my father's side. But mostly, I'm Danish. My body type is very much aligned with the matrilineal side. We are the big tall blondes. Graced with smooth, fine, clear skin that tans easily, and bright blue eyes, my grandfather, my two uncles, my mother, one of my brothers and myself have moved through the world as the gentle giants that we are, the men being mostly six feet or taller.
And I'm glad to say, "gentle" because I feel that during WW11, the Danes truly earned that term. I've heard that when Hitler invaded Denmark, the King and Queen publicly expressed the sovereign rights of their people, but said that they wanted not one drop of Danish blood to be spilled.
The Danes did not fight, they showed their protest in my many ways, but they did not engage in war. As Hitler instructed the Danish Jews to wear yellow arm bands, the entire populace, following the lead of their monarchs, all donned those arm bands in solidarity. And every one of the Danish Jews were secretly and safely escorted out of the country.
During the daytime, when the clocks would strike the hour, for just one minute, every Dane would freeze at their posts. If crossing the streets, they'd halt. If working in the laundry, they'd pause. If standing at an assembly line for Hitler's war machine, they'd stop, and let the parts go moving on by. It didn't last long enough for the soldiers to kill anyone for it, but it did interfere, and it regularly registered the message that the Danish people were being held to these tasks against their will.
Then at night, while the young German soldiers were patrolling at their posts, the Danish people would go down and offer them a cup of nice warm soup and invite them into their homes, asking only that they leave their gun belts at the door. There, sitting at the tables, visiting with the Danish people, many of the soldiers had a change of heart. They grew to love the Danish people and a significant number of them defected.
We don't know what happened to those soldiers, but what we do know is that Hitler had to keep replenishing his army in Denmark. He had to keep sending in new troops of his finest Nazi youth, every couple of weeks to maintain the occupation.
So, there I was, in my women's circle, knowing this, and suddenly seeing this huge strapping man of a Dane, one of my very distant ancestors, standing there, not only looking at me, but looking into me, as I was looking into him.
Now, this man was a Viking. He was from way, way back there, from another time entirely, from the land that we now know as Denmark. Perhaps you are already aware that back then, the Vikings were among some of the most violent people our earth has known. These were the father stabbers and mother rapers. They would travel far and wide to plunder and demolish. Their raids were unthinkably bloody with entire villages being brutally wiped out, all lives destroyed in a single afternoon of extreme carnage and utter disregard.
And here he was, right before me, looking into my face as I was looking into his. It was like looking right into a mirror, only he was a man, but the same facial features, the same eyes, the same tousle to the hair. It was like seeing my identical twin across the millennia, the same phenotype, exactly.
And as I saw him, knowing what I do about Vikings and my genetic past, he saw me and my not-at-all distant past as the little American blondie girlie. He could see that I was happily raised in the middle class, born to well-meaning and fairly successful parents who loved each other and their children. He could see that I had spent my childhood, learning how to engage good-heartedly with others, largely spending my time exploring the beauties of nature and becoming someone 'who wouldn't hurt a fly.'
He saw all this and took it in. And together we both saw the many gradual steps of change that lay between us, in all of the generations of lives that had come and gone during these many hundreds of years. We saw and acknowledged the gradual shift in values, from honoring personal property rights to respecting the preciousness and sanctity of life. And I realized in that moment that I have spent my whole life trying to be as kind as I can, from the pets, animals, friends and family members of my youth to the people and places my life touches today, I do strive to be kind and fair and honoring.
With that I heard his name, my Viking ancestor, 'Olaf.' And he sent me a message, through the layers of generations that lay between us. And that message wasn't 'gratitude,' as I might have thought, it was 'evolve.'
The natural state of progression, the growth of consciousness, individually and universally is to evolve in increasingly greater understanding of the preciousness of life and of love, and of everything. My prayer is that I may continue to do so for all of the days of my life.
© Josephine Laing 2019