Reclaiming My Heritage, Accidentally

Samhain is around the corner and I’ve been working on reclaiming my ancestral heritage. Each year when we celebrate, we have an altar decorated for our ancestors and leave spirit plates of food and drink to honor those we’ve lost. I’ve always loved this time of year and had always celebrated it as Halloween annually without fail. Once I met Rimakej, I experienced it for the first time as Samhain. Now it is a tradition for us to host a gathering and invite others to leave photos, trinkets, foods, or items to remember their passed loved ones by on our altar for the evening. We spend the evening feasting after a small remembrance ceremony. But I always left setting up the altar and leading the ceremony to Rima. She had way more stuff and knew much more about her heritage. It never dawned on me that my standoffishness was related to the fact I really didn’t know anything further than 3 generations back and barely at that.

Picture of a deep window sill fully decorated with many framed, old, and/or loose pictures of Cristophe and Rimakej's passed loved ones, human and non-human animal alike, mixed with other Samhain-themed objects, such as mini owl statues, candles, Fall leaves, black roses, and back lace.
Our 2020 Samhain Altar

Getting a Head Start

While we were in England, Rima and her mom helped me to change that by researching my lineage on Ancestry.com (website not affiliated with HHH). Through them, I learned the areas my ancestors likely hailed from. I had a lead to start researching to begin to reclaim the heritage my family had lost touch with. There were so many directions to seek reconnection: stories, songs & dances, language, spirituality, home remedies & herbal medicine, mythology, food, etc. The language would be a barrier, so I started there.

Picture of Cristophe standing in a conifer forest while leaning his back on the base of a large Douglas Fir tree completely covered in living green moss.
Connecting with Nature as my ancestors did during our 2020 Winter stay in England at The Glade near Schumacher College.

Brewing Heritage

I didn’t find another breakthrough until reading one of my books on brewing a few days ago. As I read, it began to dawn on me that mead, one of my favorite things to brew, is indigenous to my ancestral homelands. The book included recipes for various alcoholic fermented beverages that were made with traditional medicinal herbs and foraged ingredients. Ingredients I knew and use as an herbalist and a cook, as well as ones that I grow, forage, or wild-craft. I glanced down at the quart jar of micro-brewed wild-fermented mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) flower mead (pictured below) I had made the week before and thought about how making it and sampling it had felt so soothingly familiar. Suddenly it clicked that brewing mead as a wild ferment (meaning to capture the yeast living in the environment as opposed to adding store-bought yeast) was a part of my heritage that I had stumbled back to. Out of curiosity I grabbed another book of mine, Wild Fermentation, and flipped through it.

Picture of a hand labeled quart glass mason jar next to a crystal drinking glass both containing Cristophe's micro-brewed wild-fermented mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) flower mead.
Micro-brewed Wild-fermented Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) Flower Mead

Heritage in Fermentation

Fermentation is indigenous to all cultures; it was how they preserved food and unlocked nutrients. It is part of my ancestral heritage. I looked at the apple cider vinegar and the lacto-fermented onions sitting in the kitchen. The reasons I came to fermenting were the same as my ancestors. I was already home. Silly, I thought, finally realizing that I was trying so hard to find my way back when I was already here. I’ve been on this journey for a while now. I’m an herbalist and my ancestors used plant medicine. They fermented food and drinks, so do I. They were as zero-waste as possible, used hand tools, and grew their own food. I’m a homesteader who does the same things. They repaired clothes, spun cordage, foraged, hunted and went fishing. I do too.

Picture of a quart glass mason jar full of happily fermenting red cabbage, which has purple bubbles bubbling over out of the top of the jar, passed the glass weight on top, and onto the saucer plate below the jar.
Fermenting sauerkraut from organic red cabbage to share with our Germanic ancestors on Samhain.

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6 Replies to “Reclaiming My Heritage, Accidentally”

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