Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could enrich your life and improve yourself while you embrace your culture and heritage?
You absolutely can. No matter who you are.
Sometimes, inspiration for self improvement can be found in your own family history. I have heritage from Germany, old Czechoslovakia, France, and Austria as well as Scots Irish lineage. For now I’ll discuss the Scottish ancestry on my father’s side, for he was born to a woman named Violet Shaw and is said to be Scottish and French.
Once I focused on that part of my ancestry, I started learning from it. I learned a little about the history of my clan, how it got started, etc. I looked up my clan’s motto as well. Mine is “Fide Et Fortitudine,” which means “By Fidelity and Fortitude.” This means so much to me right now. I intend to meditate on these two qualities, as I often feel I lack them, and could definitely stand to live by them.
Fortitude is exactly what I’ve been bad at – I have given up far too many times for my own comfort. And I haven’t always been true to myself or others. This motto offers rich moral ground for me to explore, and I can take comfort in knowing that many other members of my own family, down the generations have done the same.
It’s really funny that the war cry of Clan Shaw is “Touch not the cat!” I don’t take this as a warning for clan members not to pet cats, but rather likening the clan members to be like fierce cats that shouldn’t be messed with.
Our clan badge is an upraised hand holding a dagger, and our fruit is the red whortleberry, which is otherwise known as the lingonberry and is a small, sour red fruit similar to a cranberry. It all brings me an image of a scrappy, tough people who are used to dealing with adversity. I want to be more like that.
Knowing that this is my heritage, my birthright, makes me feel part of a tradition. I take the words of the motto more seriously. I think about not wanting to let my family, my clan, down. I think about being proud of my heritage and wanting to be a good representative of the clan Shaw. I also think about how remembering that motto can make me into a scrappy fighter like the proudest members of my clan.
All families have something to admire about them if you go far enough back. If you, like me, are interested in exploring your heritage, you can start by Googling your particular nationality or family name. Learn what the name means, find out what part of the world it came from.
If you have a family motto, look it up. Is it relevant to your life? Perhaps explore a certain food or group of dishes from your origin place. You might even want to learn the language, a skill, or a craft from the area.
Ways I might honor my heritage (feel free to steal them):
Depending on my level of dedication, I might start by reading Wikipedia articles about my family, clan, and Scotland in general. I might go to the Highland Games. I might sign up for my clan newsletter. I could listen to Highland bagpipe music. I could plan a trip to Scotland. I might donate to the clan or help out with a rebuilding project. I could make a copy of my family crest, or buy one to wear. I could learn Scots Gaelic, or at least a few phrases in it. I could make Scottish shortbread or traditional oatcakes. I could drink Scottish beer or enjoy a really good Scots Whiskey, then learn about how it’s made. I could have something engraved with my family motto and keep it with me as a reminder of what’s important. I could get involved with the local chapter of my clan. I could offer to do them a service, such as working on their website. I could make a tribute site of my own.
Any of these things would make me more able to discuss what’s good about being Scottish, instead of just saying “yeah, my father’s half Scot and my mother’s half Scots-Irish…”
There are many things I could do to reconnect with my heritage, and the same is true for anyone. A deeper grounding in where you come from can really help you have pride in yourself and at the same time more respect for other people’s rich cultural heritage.
Why not start the adventure of discovery today?