As I mentioned before this month’s Ancestral Threads series is born from my personal ancestral healing journey. Through this journey I embarked on a sleuthing expedition to get to know my ancestors and the healing needed – through family lore, historical records, internet searches and shamanic workings.
Along the way I uncovered triumphs and traumas and have came to an acceptance of the varied experiences my ancestors faced. All their experiences and life choices make up who I am today. But before I go into how I see my ancestors living through me, I’d like to share some of my heritage with you.
I am a white South African and my ancestors have lived in South Africa since the very early days of white settlement of the Cape in the late 1600s. While my heritage originates in Europe, I am decidedly South African in outlook and identity, with my heritage being a mishmash of the various Europeans settlers of our land. While I am English-speaking and my accent sounds British to many here in the U.S., I actually have very little English blood – less than one eighth to be exact.
Van Aardt – meaning of the earth
My maternal grandmother, Alvira van Aardt, was Afrikaans with her heritage being almost entirely Dutch (with a smattering of French Hugenot and German).
My first Van Aardt ancestor to arrive in South Africa did so in August 1700 as a sailor for the V.O.C., the Dutch East India Company. Over the years the Van Aardts migrated east, finally settling in the 1700s on the western bank of the Great Fish River, which formed the Cape Colony boundary with the Xhosa Territory and is now present day Klein Karoo.
I recently discovered that the Van Aardt family farm was the site of the 1816 Slagtersnek executions. Those executed were Boers who were resisting the British colonial government’s policies. I had no idea that my family had direct ties to these early stirrings of Afrikaner nationalism. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this new information.
De Villiers – meaning of the vine
My De Villiers ancestors, through my paternal grandmother Helene De Villiers, arrived in South Africa in 1689. They were French Hugenots who had fled France following the revocation of the Edict of Nandes, which outlawed the Protestant faith.
The original De Villiers settlers were three brothers who were recruited by the V.O.C. to set up vineyards in the Western Cape. The De Villiers family have played prominent roles in South African politics, sports and society throughout the years.
Harpur – meaning one who plays the harp
My maternal grandfather, Sam Harpur’s ancestors were protestant farmers for several generations outside Omagh, County Tyrone, in what is now Northern Ireland.
My grandfather left for Southern Africa in the 1930s, finally settling in Johannesburg during World War II, where he was a self-made businessman.
Unfortunately I do not know much of the origins of this family line but I do feel their energy very clearly.
Crawford – meaning crossing of blood or crows
My paternal grandfather’s parents immigrated to South Africa in the late 1800s from Coleraine, a small town on the most Northern coastline of Ireland. I have not been able to trace my direct ancestors further back than that but do know that the Crawfords originate in the Scottish southern uplands.
There the Crawford clan served mostly as warriors and foot soldiers for various Scottish monarchs over the centuries. Even though I know little details of my Crawford ancestors, they have been the most rowdy throughout my ancestral healing journey.
As I uncover the stories and journeys of my blood ancestors, I have begun to understand myself and my motivations on a deeper level. My personality traits and interests are not just of me but are deeply rooted in those who have gone before.
- My feisty spirit and battle-ready nature has its roots in my Crawford warrior and frontier Van Aardt’s ancestors’ battles.
- As I heal from my own childhood sexual wounding, I believe I am sending healing back into my bloodline to all my female (and male) ancestors who had to keep their wounding secret.
- I come from a long line of creative women and skilled needleworkers. As I sew my own creations, I feel the energy and imagination of my mother, grandmother and all the women before who stitched and quilted.
- My grandfather Sam Harpur’s entrepreneurial blood runs through my veins as I constantly adapt and hone my own business, Crafting the Sacred.
- Speaking of work, it does not escape me that my strong work ethic must be driven by my ancestors belief in the Protestant work ethic.
- At university I threw myself into working for SHAWCO, a Cape Town-based student social welfare organization. At the time I did not realize that my great-grandmother, Wilhelmina De Villiers, and great-great-grandfather, Dr. Jasper Anderson, were instrumental in establishing child welfare and public health services in the Cape in the early 1900s.
- I am constantly surprised at how much knowledge I have of tilling the land which comes out in my writing. My body and soul holds the memory of my ancestors who farmed the lands of South Africa, France, Ireland and beyond.
- I never expected to be an immigrant myself, but as I traverse a new culture I draw from my ancestors who traveled the world and adapted along the way.
- Beyond the family records and historical contexts, I feel the energy of my ancestors – their will to live, their strong convictions and their hope in making a better life for their children.
And so it is that my ancestors live through me. As I heal, they heal. As I live, may they be honored.