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  • Writer's pictureHeathens of Yorkshire

The Ancestors

-by Dan Coultas, March 2018

(c) 2020 The Saxon Storyteller

This week Deity of the week will once again be a little different, as instead of one, there will be millions! That's because this week we will be discussing the ancestors.

Ancestor worship is a large and important part of Heathenry. While our first instincts may be to look to the powerful Gods for guidance and help with life's problems, it is often best to look first to the ancestors, who not only will have been through similar trials and tribulations to us, but also have a vested interest in our self preservation and success.

One of the reasons reputation is so important in Heathenry is that for an individual to continue to have a spiritual presence after death, they need to be remembered in a favourable light. Therefore the relationship with the ancestors is two way. We remember them, tell their stories, and keep them in our hearts so that they continue to live on. In return they give us the benefit of their experiences, to help us in our own journey through life.

This can be applied to the ancestors as a whole, all those who came before us, or it can be applied to specific individuals. This can be an ancestor you knew in life, such as a grandparent who has since moved on, or it can be someone you never knew, but you have formed a connection with regardless.

Ancestor worship in Heathenry is a huge topic, and one that I have barely scratched the surface of here. I can thoroughly recommend Jenny Blain's 'Wights and Ancestors' for a more detailed exploration of the topic. What I thought would be good to do this week though is for us all to share a little bit about an ancestor or group of ancestors that are important to us. This way we can all honour those individuals.

Hail the ancestors!

Below is a selection of the responses we had to this post, honouring specific ancestors: Ernest Coultas - by Dan Coultas

Ernest Coultas OBE

The ancestor that I would like to honour and share with you is my Great Grandfather, Ernest Coultas OBE, Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea.

Born in Scarborough in 1894, the son of William and Emily, Ernest completed Merchant Navy Officer training at HMS CONWAY in Liverpool. His schools motto, 'Quit ye like men, be strong' would prove to be a useful mantra throughout his life. He served at sea with distinction in both the first and second world wars.

As master of the Clan MacBean during the battle of the Atlantic, Captain Coultas was part of the very first convoy to be attacked using 'wolfpack' tactics by the U-Boats. 'All went well until the morning of October the 17th (1940) when convoy HG3 encountered Commander Hartmann's wolf pack. The wolf pack stalked the convoy until evening and then in swift succession Hartmann sank the 10000 ton steamer Yorkshire, Sohler the 7000 ton City of Mandalay, and Schultze the 7200 ton Clan Chisholm. The Clan MacBean was the fourth ship in the fifth column, only three-quarters of a mile away from the Yorkshire when she was hit.' After this initial attack, Captain Coultas proceeded independently towards the UK, trailed by Hartmann's U-Boat, who 'at 7 PM attacked the Clan MacBean. Captain Coultas first knew it when he saw a submarine periscope and then a torpedo coming down it's track.' 'Chief Officer Croscombe, on the bridge, put the helm over hard and the torpedo missed the bow by what the Captain swore was inches. Hartmann tried to maneuver in close for another shot. Captain Coultas manoeuvred too and kept him bow on. The submarine's gun was firing, but the men were obviouly nervous as they saw the bow of the merchant hip looming larger every moment.' 'The Clan MacBean had closed to within a hundred feet of the submarine when the skipper saw the danger he was in and crash dived. Captain Coultas could hear the cries of dispair from the German gun crew as they were left high and then wet on the submerging deck.' Having run directly over the submarine, 'Captain Coultas rang for emergency full power and sped away' (Hoyt, The U-Boat Wars, P40). He was awarded the OBE for 'resolute handling of his unarmed ship, by brilliantly forestalling the enemy’s movements, and by courageously holding on his course, and so running into point blank gunfire from the submarine,’ and forcing the enemy to dive and allowing the ship to escape (The London Gazette, 19 March 1940).

As the Master of MV Empire Elaine he was part of the assault convoy during Operation Husky, the 1943 invasion of Sicily. On the night of the 9-10 July he unloaded landing craft under the heavy fire of the Italian shore batteries, having survived U-Boat attack on the transit across the Mediterranean. Having played this crucial role in the liberation of Europe, Captain Coultas and his ship were sent to the Far East, where they saw further action in the war with Japan. The Clan Line lost 30 of the 55 ships it managed during the war, and almost 700 officers and ratings. More than a quarter of British merchant seamen registered in 1939 were not alive in 1945 – a far higher death rate than any of the armed services.

Having survived the war, Ernest died in 1949 at the age of just 55, leaving behind his wife Bertha and children.

Many of you will know that I am myself a seafarer, and so it is easy to see why Ernest is such an important ancestor to me. Whenever I need help with anything connected with seafaring from navigation, to ship handling, to simply dealing with prolonged periods at sea, there is no one better for me to look to.

He is also a shining example of bravery against the odds. He served on very lightly armed ships, and faced the highly capable German U-Boats as well as the armed forces of Italy and Japan, and yet through he own skill and bravery, and possibly some help from those watching over him, he survived serving at sea in both world wars. He was awarded the Lloyd's War medal for bravery at sea for taking his ship closer into the shore than he had been ordered, under heavy enemy fire, to give the men in the landing craft the best possible chance of reaching the beaches alive. This selflessness and dedication to the mission is something I aspire to, and I can only hope that I would do the same if faced with similar circumstances. I like to think that with his help, I would.

Ernest has helped me many times in my career, and even though I never knew him in life, I know him now. I hope that he is proud of me for following in his footsteps as a sailor and as an Officer, but I'm not so sure what he thinks of me being a submariner, seen as they were the bain of his life for so many years!

George Lovett - by Sabrina Coultas

George Lovett

My ancestor that I look to most is not nearly as exciting as Dan's, but he means a lot to me. My grandad, George Lovett.

He was born 10th August 1925. He was a farmer and when the rest of his farming crew got shipped off to war he was made to stay on the farm as he was the most valuable person, although I know he wanted to go. He married my grandma and they had 6 children, although the eldest wasn't actually his as my grandma was sadly raped. He raised him as his own and this only came to light after my grandad had passed away in 1998. Whilst both of my parents come from large families, we didn't actually have much to do with many of their siblings, two of my grand parents had passed away before I was born and we had little to do with my other grand mother. My grandad Lovett had been in my life as long as I can remember, he taught me silly things like how to dip bread into soup and how to drum my fingers. He was so encouraging and when I was learning to play flute he was always up for a concert for one. I never got to say goodbye to him as he passed away very suddenly and this never settled right with me. But then I discovered heathenry and how important the ancestors are. I'm a firm believer in you live as long as someone is thinking of you and so I think if him at least once a day to keep him alive.

Alfred Brigmount - by Daniel Warden

Alfred Bridmount

Whilst we are on the subject then, this is my Great-Grandfather, Alfred Bridgmount, served in the Royal Artillery 39-45. He was already elderly when I was born but thankfully I do remember him although he passed on when I was still fairly young. I keep this photo of him on my wall and I have the uniform he is wearing here.

He described the war as "the worst days of my life" and that is all I recall him saying of it.

My Ancestors - by Charlotte Holme I was drawn to heathenry by my ancestors. My father came from Denmark to England as a child and lost all contact with his father. I’d been searching for him for a few years with no success. I am a textile artist and I was working on a quilt and I’d ordered some wooden runes to sew on (basically put holes in like buttons) but I thought I’d have a go at casting them. Hmm- I was really surprised at the results! At the same time I found my Danish grandfather but unfortunately he had died in 2000 in Sweden. But my dad had lots of half siblings and through one aunt I discovered my family tree. My 5 times great grandfather was Frederick V of Denmark! (through his mistress Else Hansen) he officially recognised his children with her and they all married lesser royalty.

So through him I can trace my ancestry back about 1600 years on some lines. The people I find most interesting are obviously the pagan ones- Blot Sweyn, last pagan king of Sweden, Elisabeth the Cuman, a tengrist from Hungary... and there are others who I appreciate for different reasons, strength, the seek for knowledge, kindness...

In my practice of heathenry ancestor worship is something that I do most. One of the first things I discovered is that the gods aren’t interested in your minor problems, so instead make offerings to your ancestors. In summer I like going to a local playing field and having a drink with my ancestors and talking to them. I have an altar to my ancestors (which is more like a nature table) it changes with the seasons.

I try to contact them through lucid dreams and meditation- they tell me what I should be looking for or doing.

Since this piece was written in 2018, some more of our loved ones have joined the halls of our ancestors; I would like to honour the following people we have lost since then: Maggie Cooper Pete Lovett David Coultas Peter Coultas Freda Frost Shirley Frost Noel Newbie Blacky DeMarco

We call to the ancestors. Those who have come before us, Who continue to guide us to become the best we can be. Whether as warriors, as farmers, as mothers, Whatever your trade, your deeds, You not only provide us with an example, But you continue to actively guide us in our lives, Watching over your descendants as your own children. We are the product of your loves and your lives, And we shall do our utmost to uphold your honour and reputations. Hail the ancestors!

by the Saxon Storyteller (c) 2019 Heathens of Yorkshire

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