Earlier in my post on different categories of ancestors, I mentioned the idea of honoring tutelary spirits and gods of the countries, cities or tribes that one’s ancestors are from, especially if you don’t know much about them or don’t otherwise feel that connected to their culture. Tutelary means guardian- and national personifications in particular tend to be feminine, hence the title of the post.
Ruadhan, a Hellenic Polytheist of British & Irish descent, does this by honoring Britannia & Hibernia, the Roman national personifications of Britain and Ireland. Though they have been adopted by the natives and Hibernia is also various called Eriu, Kathleen ni Houlihan etc. He even wrote a myth explaining their origins.
In another post he notes: “One thing that I regret not posting about this year is my ritual and prayer for my re-envisioning of Shrove Tuesday as Pancake Feast of Britannia and St. Patrick’s Day as Bacon & Cabbage Feast of Hibernia.” I’m always interested in seeing creative polytheist alternatives to St. Patrick’s Day- or for that matter interesting spiritual takes on any secular holiday.
Here’s a list of national personifications from Wikipedia. Oftentimes in Europe, or European colonies they have a name of a Roman province (as above) and are inspired by Athena/Minerva. Some of them are more suitable for honoring than others- especially if they have more character and mythos surrounding them, and are not just symbols. Some of them are more identified with war, nationalism and imperialism. I pretty much just see Uncle Sam as a rather sinister symbol of the U.S. government. Lady Liberty, or Libertas to use her Roman name is honored by American Pagans of many traditions. Columbia, an older national personification has also seen a revival, but there is more controversy surrounding her due to her name and associations with Manifest Destiny. I shall write more of her another time.
There is also often a representation of the ordinary citizen, and one could choose to honor them symbolically for one’s unknown peasant ancestors. I think an even better option is to honor a prominent labor organizer, or other national hero. Cities often have statues of founders or more symbolic characters. I live not far from the Minnesota State Capitol, which is like many capitols adorned with various Greco-Roman style statues. Natural features, such as rivers and mountains have their own spirits. For my own ancestors, as I already mentioned there’s Hibernia & Britannia- there are some who claim that the goddess Brigantia is an earlier antecedent.
For Scotland, there’s Caledonia, Scotia (originally applied to Ireland!) and Jock Tamson (their equivalent of John Bull) I am part German, though I have not been able to trace that part of my ancestry. Germania is the national personification, she doesn’t seem to have much mythos surrounding her. There’s also Berolina (Berlin), Hammonia (Hamburg) and Bavaria (once a country, now a region)
Frau Holle is said to be the mother of the Deitsch people and that is who I’d be most inclined to honor for the Germans- though my ancestors were not Deitsch, they immigrated later on I believe, but I like the Deitsch-American folk traditions.
Cute pic of various national personifications (tried to post here but it was too wide!)
Slate article “Do other countries have their own Uncle Sams?”
Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: American history, Britannia, Columbia, Deitsch, Frau Holle, genius loci, Germania, Germany, Greek mythology, Hibernia, ireland, Lady Liberty, Libertas, mythology, national personifications, Scotland, Statue of Liberty, tutelary goddesses, tutelary spirits.