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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Celtic Roots



I have for a very long time been drawn to all things Celtic--art, poetry, music, folk tradition and faerie lore, symbols, clothing, history, Medieval and Renaissance festivals. And more recently, St. Brigid, St. Patrick, and the prayers and blessings of the Carmina Gadelica. Not believing in reincarnation, I have speculated that being drawn to certain cultures and time periods as I do is a result not of one's own past life experiences, but the former lives of one's ancestors. Feelings, looks, personality, spirituality, what one loves and disdains, what one is drawn to, even memory in a mystical sense, are all passed on through the blood from generation to generation.

I have written before of my Catholic great-grandmother, Ruth Valley Roush. Her father was Levi Valley (originally spelled Valle), whose ancestors had come to Canada from France in the 1600s and eventually found their way to Vincennes, Indiana. Ruth's mother was Alice Maud Sharp, an Irishwoman. So Great-Grandma Ruth, who I do remember and who died when I was four, was almost entirely French and Irish, with a smidgen of American Indian.

Today I made an astounding discovery with an internet search. God bless Google, truly! The Valle family of France originated in Brittany, a peninsular territory in the northwest corner of the country. Brittany is one of five regions recognized to be of Celtic heritage which continues in the present day, having a particular language and historic culture in common. The other regions are Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and the Isle of Mann. Ruth was almost entirely Celtic!

I do have other European ancestry in my blood, Dutch and German. (Incidentally, the Germanic peoples are also historically connected to the Celts!) But I feel most connected to the French and Irish, which might seem to be very different culturally. Yet Brittany is distinct from the rest of France in its Celtic tradition, so those peoples had, and still have, more in common with the territories of Great Britain as mentioned. Valle is one of the most ancient family names in Brittany, and they were distinguished members of the aristocracy in the region.

I think that my conversion to the Catholic Faith has drawn me even more closely to my Celtic heritage, and I am so excited to continue this exploration of my roots. I think that we can feel a little lost in the United States of America, because we are a very young country and increasingly distanced from our immigrant ancestors. So if you feel inexplicably drawn to certain countries, cultures, time periods, and traditions, I think it's worthwhile, especially in the spiritual sense, to find out where you come from. In this way you may figure out where and how you belong.

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