My father always said, "never forget who you are." I have laughed about that for years, because we are not special people. He came from farmers and laborers. None of us have made much of a splash in history that I knew of. He did not know what I have found -- he thought because of our name (Lovier) that we were descended from the Dukes of Normandy but he didn't know for sure. Boy, was he ever right -- and then some. Our ancestors turned out to be a lot more spectacular than he could ever have imagined.
I dug deep, researching the ancestry. Not just four hundred years back to Samuel Fuller, who came over on the Mayflower, or to the ones who colonized the country and fought in the Revolutionary war, but as far back in the mists of time as I can travel, to places where it all blurs into mythology. I took it back to the ultimate western myth -- Adam and Eve. I had found a Jewish great-grandmother, the great-great grandmother of King Ferdinand of Spain, in the family tree. Ferdinand was ironically anti-semitic, and responsible for the Spanish Inquisition. Interesting twist, there. Especially since I am a Jew by choice, I decided to go back as far as I could on that line. When it showed that King Solomon and King David were my great-grandfathers, I was incredulous, but the great-grandparents that stopped me in my tracks were Ruth and Boaz. Discovering that brought tears to my eyes. I have always felt close to Ruth. Are they even real? I feel they are, though I don't think we can prove it. There is solid evidence that David was real, though his reality was in question until fairly recently. Most of the historical figures in the bible before that are thought by scholars to be fictional or created from composites of historical figures. There is no real evidence of their actual existence.
I have felt the psalm By the Waters of Babylon in the depths of my soul since early childhood when I first heard it, and now I know why. My direct ancestors, the leaders of the diaspora, the exilarchs, were the ones singing it. There is no doubt at all that they were real. So is Hillel, my 67th great grandfather.
The mythical beginnings go back on several other lines as well. Fornjot the Giant of Norse myth came up as a grandfather -- he whose sons were named Wind and Snow and Ice. Did he exist or is he just a story? Where in the line of descent did the myth become reality? The Viking grandfathers who came after were real enough to be anchored in history. Then there is the Celtic line that goes back to the founders of the Tuatha de Dannan, to Dan and to Arianrhod and Llew... of course, that is not real, though Celtic spirituality calls to me as strongly as the Jewish, and my Welsh ancestors were real enough to be written about in Britannica. And there is my great grandmother, the Britannic heroine Queen Boudica, who is almost mythical. How awesome to have the warrior queen as a great-grandmother!
I count as grandfathers David, Solomon, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, Kings and queens of France, Hungary, Poland, Spain, England, Lithuania, Judah, Portugal, Germany, Norway -- what a panoply of magnificent ancestors! I am stunned by the scope of it. The Hundred YearsWar was fought between my great-grandfathers over who should rule France. Several historic wars were between one of my great-grandfathers and another over some territory or slight or power grab. Some of them did each other in. In some cases, I found great-grandfathers who were brothers, connected through two different paths. Kings Henry III and John of England were two of those.
And there are the saints: Arnold, patron of Beer; Gertrude, patron of Cats; St. Louis IX of France, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Portugal, all patrons of the Third order of St. Francis, of which I was a member for 34 years, and all of them my great-grandparents. There are a dozen or more saints in my direct line. That, apparently didn't rub off on me.
One of the great grandmothers, Anna Jageillonka (pictured above), a Holy Roman Empress, has several portraits of herself with large, elaborate hats, and in this one she is holding a small dog. My cousin said we have inherited the dog thing but fortunately, not the hats. That one looks like it has a spider hanging from the edge of the brim.