Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tracing Ancestral Totemic Roots

Over the last six months, while much of my attention was focused on caring for my terminally ill grandmother, I did find some time to continue to explore the path that my art is leading me on.  Ever since my stay at OAC in Belle, Missouri I had been considering the role and relationship of plant and animals our lives, represented as totems.   More recently, I found myself inexplicably drawn to traditional Scandanavian and Finnish music and mythology. I had no context for this, afterall, my family has Scottish, Irish and Germanic roots. I passed this music fascination off as a quirk

Then one day, I was looking at the Galbraith crest. I never really looked into its symbolism, which is odd, since I have it tattooed on my shoulder blade. The crest has three white bears muzzled with a blue bridle against a red background. The bear has a strangely elongated head and is often depicted with it's tongue sticking out.  The colors associated with family crests have specific symbolic meaning (Red=warrior; White=peace, Blue=loyalty). 

The name Galbraith was derived from the Gaelic "gall-bhrealnach", which means a stranger, or foreign Briton.  Indicating that the family called Galbraith came from outside Gaelic lands.  Scottish history scholar Tim Clarkson researched further into the name, having been puzzled by its appearance and origins.  He came to conclude that the blanket term "foreigner" was misapplied, and actually referred to Viking. Which means that the Galbraith family very likely has Scandanavian roots. The white bear, with its elongated head, is very likely a polar bear.  The sea faring Vikings would have most likely encountered the polar bear and would have been impressed by its ferocious nature. The color red symbolized the warrior qualities associated with the Vikings, while the white and blue (peace and loyalty) symbolized the family adopting the chivalrous culture of the Scottish clan system. Clarkson goes on further to explore the Galbraith back history, which is fascinating and even alludes to associations with King Arthur.

I am now exploring the totemic energy of the polar bear and how it might serve to illuminate my life.  Suddenly, things are starting to fall into place and make sense. Could this explain why I found the strange fascination with Scandavian music and myth? This could also explain having a gluten intolerance (which is common for those of northern European heritage).  Is this why I find much personal growth coming from facing and overcoming difficult obstacles? Could it explain my tenacious nature and, as one friend pointed out: "my aggressive need to learn!"Obviously the Celtic influence is strong, but digging deeper, I can also explore the long-forgotten Viking roots that made the foundation of what the Galbraith family was and what it can contribute to my life in the present.

What might you discover about yourself by looking at the totems and symbols depicted in your family crest?

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