Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Luceo non Uro

A lot of people are surprised when they find out about my love of Scottish history and language, since I'm not of Scottish descent. This always takes me aback. Does every devout Catholic have to be Roman born? Does every bull rider need to be raised on an Oklahoma ranch? Do you need to be from New Jersey to know how to navigate a shopping mall? Of course not. People are drawn to the lives they want to live, at least the stubborn ones are.

I identify with the old Highland Clans' history and people. Their stories are full of dramatic fighters and lovers. People who created an agrarian religion that celebrated life without fearing death. People who loved dogs and horses and hunting and music—who told stories, danced and sang, and understood the import of a hot meal on a cold, rainy day. I love these people. I love their lives, their livestock, and even their miserable weather. I may not be Scottish, but both by deed and elevation I am certainly a highlander. Alba Gu Brath, Mac.

When I joined the SCA I was told I was supposed to pick out a name from the country of origin I wished to study and participate as. This is what people would call me, know me as. (It's not often you are told to pick a new identity, an exciting idea.) Naturally I chose Scotland and I picked the name Corbie Mackenzie. Corbie is an old slang term for crow from traditional music of the period. Mackenzie was in honor of the modern clan in the serial novels I was reading that brought me to traditional archery in the first place. Since I joined the Society to learn to be an archer it was a nod to author S.M. Stirling, who's Clan Mackenzie were renowned archers in those books I came to love. Honestly, I didn't know much about the Clan outside of that whimsical fiction. But as I started to study their real history I couldn't help but fall in love with it. Here's why:

The Mackenzie's have two clan crests. An old one with a giant stag and war cry in Gaelic and another, newer, one with a torch-lit mountain and a romantic phrase in Latin. Yup, the Clan Mackenzie has two historic symbols: Antlers and a mountain in need of heat? They are the original, dramatic, identity-changin' Cold Antlers.

Knowing this, how could I not dive into their tales, battles, religion, history and everyday life? These people also knew what it felt like to ride a Highland Pony in a kilt, tend blackface sheep during lambing season, and work with wild sheepdogs that ran across the hillsides like loosed arrows. So I read on, and studied. And the more I learned the harder I fell. Let me share a story about why the Clan Mackenzie has two crests.

See, It started with the stag, and just the stag. That was the symbol of the clan. And the old motto was in Gaelic, Cuidich 'N Righ, which means "Help The King". It's a pretty standard motto for highlanders whose identity was based on war, country, and family. Their motto was a battle cry that was surely screamed out in those endless clan wars. But back in 1605 all that changed. A Mackenzie Chief fell in love with a McLeod and going against tradition and family pleading he changed the crest and motto for his love. He fell for a daughter of the Lewes family, of the McLeod's. The romantic Mackenzie took the Lewes' Family Crest of a bright sun and their motto "I shall Burn without being consumed" and rebranded the Clan Mackenzie with a mountain on fire and a new motto. Which means he literally took a piece of the heavens and represented it on earth with a torch and changed their martial slogan to this, single, amazing phrase:

Luceo non Uro — I Shine, Not burn.

I Shine, not burn! What a beautiful way to see the world! to choose to be a part of light instead of destruction. We live in a culture of victims and anger. We are surrounded by nonstop news foaming at the mouth with rage and fear. Pundits, disaster, crime and threats. All around us there is this fire, this burning. And if you let yourself fall into it you too will be consumed by it. You'll become angry, depressed, unhealthy, scared, and worried. You will stop living the life you were meant to live. Why would you not choose love? Who cares about the fallout?

Tomorrow is a big day. It's Samhain. A holiday those Highlanders knew well. It was the Celtic New Year, and the end of the Harvest and beginning of winter. Not a lot of people celebrate Samhain anymore, but that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you're a diehard Christian, Atheist, Pagan, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic or none of the above. If you are reading this with a heartbeat then you are a fellow celebrant because you're alive. You pulse makes you my brother or sister in a world on fire. We need to help each other shine. We do it through memory, and kindness, second chances, love and forgiveness. You don't have to believe in anything to be a part of those things. All of us can take a moment to think about what inside us needs to change, and who we loss that we don't want to let down, and to be grateful we're still alive to do those things.

Since last October my life has changed in ways I could have never anticipated. Things I didn't plan, not really. I didn't plan on quitting my job when I did. I certainly didn't plan on Merlin. I didn't plan the heartbreak, the arguments, the loss of loved ones, or the hundred things I can not write about here. But in just twelve months I am an entirely different person. I really am. I'm someone who decided to take her own life by the horns and follow a dream most people think is dead in America. To leave the desk and corporate world behind and become a full time writer, shepherd, and farmer. I did it because I was burning there. I was falling apart and fading fast. I just wanted to shine.

So many people are going to wake up tomorrow and go through their day with the absolute certainty that will fall asleep that night. Everyone who dies tomorrow will be wrong. There's no rule out there that says it isn't going to be me. I hope it isn't, because there are so many more stories I want to tell, and love I want to find. But I don't make the rules. I never expect to die, but I also never assume I'll live. Not since I almost died in Tennessee on sunny day. I think that's what really brought me to Cold Antler, a fear that life could be cut short and I was spending it doing something I didn't love. It went against everything I believed in, and everything I believed this life could be. I didn't understand what could be more important than following that goal of a meaningful life? What else is there to do with this gift of time than to spend it being happy? Not everyone can make their wildest dreams come true, but hell, everyone can try can't they? So why do so many people choose to put off happiness? Choose to not try? Why do they do things that make them sad? Why do they choose fear and anger and step into the fire that consumes them instead of lighting the path towards something better?

I can't answer that. But I know on this Samhain Eve that there's a flock of sheep, a black pony, a loyal sheepdog, and a beating heart of a Mackenzie on this mountain farm. All of it is here because that's what this short, blessed, life lead me towards. I chose to Shine, not Burn. And it is a choice, for all of us. And it can all change to be whatever you are willing to create. So will it.

Now go light your torches and enjoy the New Year.

40 Comments:

Blogger Greg said...

Thank You...Well Said

October 30, 2012 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Love it!! Just because you're not Scottish now doesn't mean you weren't before. I'm of Italian/German/Russian heritage but I have always felt closer to the Brits/Irish/Scottish clans. I follow the teachings of Jesus but am a believer that we have all lived previous lives.

I am happy we have gotten to know you - you are truly a light. You come into a room and your bubbliness overflows. Athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit my friend.

October 30, 2012 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Bravo! Inspiring as ever.

October 30, 2012 at 8:34 PM  
Blogger Crisy said...

Beautiful - My family is from Scotland and apparently you are in spirit and heart - shine on my fellow clan girl SHINE ON!

October 30, 2012 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

A most inspiring post! Thank you! My contemporaries shake heads that I explore new adventures at an advanced age, but if not now, when? Time does not sit and wait. It's inspiring to see you, Jenna, collecting no dust on your path of life.

October 30, 2012 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Katou said...

"Not everyone can make their wildest dreams come true, but hell, everyone can try can't they?"

I put those words on my refrigerator to be able to read them everyday.

Thank you, Jenna, for another great post that makes us think about our life and what we could do to improve our situation.

October 30, 2012 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Rich With Life said...

Beautiful. You definitely just brought a warmth to my heart and a tear to my eye. Truly I feel with you that love for life and the want to be happy, to try to be happy. There are so many who don't.

October 30, 2012 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Beautiful post. I am about halfway through Dies the Fire right now. Thanks for sharing it!

October 30, 2012 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Molly Piper said...

Oh YESSS! Just what I was hoping you would do, and this is even better. Thanks to yeh!

October 30, 2012 at 9:49 PM  
OpenID 5fbab216-2302-11e2-bbd9-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Ok, I'm caught. I read the blog.

This post is quintessentially you, my dear. You have changed in the year, and in the past years, but "Luceo non Uro" is at the core of your spirit and always has been--since I've known you and long before, I'd wager.

Tomorrow is Samhain and at my dumb supper table I will honor my ancestors in my surrender to the cold winter months. I will honor all those past, but also those for whom I'm the dream--those people who at times burned instead of shining so that I could shine. As I feel my little guy kicking my belly, getting ready to be born by Yule, I think of the times ahead when I will need to burn instead of shine. So that in my sacrifice my son will have his own chances to shine.

Jenna, this post has inspired me (enough to admit that I read the blog--first time since the summer, I swear!). I think that at times in our lives we need to find a way to do both--shine while burning. Isn't that what you've shown us all how to do over the years? Baby steps while we burn until we can break away and shine full time? Some of us can't live our dreams full time, but the fact that we're living them at all--the fact that they are not forgotten and not up on a shelf-- makes us all shiners in the end.

So, maybe it's finding the balance between shining and burning, or better yet, CHOOSING to shine no matter what your daily circumstance is, that's important.

You've given me a lot to think about, friend. Thanks:)

October 30, 2012 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger karen said...

Jenna,as usual your words make my heart sing. Thank you for sharing your soul with us. Peace and love to you and yours-Karen from CT

October 30, 2012 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Duncan MacLeod said...

Fun, as usual - but I have one critique. Though "McLeod" is an accepted variant, I am quite fond of the more common "MacLeod", as are many whose hearts, as Burns wrote, are in the highlands. The clan seat in Dunvegan goes by the "Mac" and the history of the Hebrides favors it as well. My family emigrated with a group of MacKenzie's, in the early 1900's, making their home in the highlands of the Pacific Northwest. We kept the "Mac", and the "Leod", not allowing the common phonetic bastardization into "McCloud"...god save us. Anyway, a small bit of trivia to all except those who hold the name.... :)

October 31, 2012 at 12:42 AM  
Blogger Abby said...

I wish I had your courage.

October 31, 2012 at 12:49 AM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

Oidhche Shamhna shona dhuit!

October 31, 2012 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Duncan! You are certainly right. I am just used to the Mc spelling because the other MacLeod I know uses that spelling. I saw your blog though, nice kilt!

October 31, 2012 at 7:15 AM  
OpenID roseandphoenix said...

Happy Samhain! I am teaching the Divine Comedy right now (Purgatory), which to me is all about becoming fully human. I just wanted to share because it is all about trying our best to be happy (there's a wonderful line in the Earthly Paradise when he is crying for the lost Virgil: "Dante, why are you crying? Don't you know that man is happy here?") -- we do our best, whatever our faith, to be happy, and to make others able to be happy if they can too. Thanks for the thoughts, and happy Samhain to you.

October 31, 2012 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

I love the spirit of this. And, I find a kindred heart in your love of those rough and ready Scots. Even named my daughter "Reagan Mackensie", to honor the clan whose mottos and traditions mean so much. Wonderful!

October 31, 2012 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger blind irish pirate said...

"Luceo non uro" and I hear "on earth as it is in heaven." Love it.I also appreciate your defense of the historical study. I never really get why people are obsessed with their historical roots. I mean, that's great, but aren't you, you know, just an American? I suppose that cynicism is what makes that part of me so burnt about the edges. :-/

October 31, 2012 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Bonnie C. said...

You never know where life will lead and choice doesn't always figure into it. Last spring my husband and I chose to move with our three boys out of suburbia and onto our seven acre dream property. Three weeks ago today we lost him as a result of a heart attack. My boys are too old for the usual Halloween stuff so I thought i would try starting a new tradition for us with a bonfire. So your words about today being a celebration of life, that we are still here, really ring true for me. Thanks for clinging to the positive thinking.

October 31, 2012 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Bonnie C. said...

You never know where life will lead and choice doesn't always figure into it. Last spring my husband and I chose to move with our three boys out of suburbia and onto our seven acre dream property. Three weeks ago today we lost him as a result of a heart attack. My boys are too old for the usual Halloween stuff so I thought i would try starting a new tradition for us with a bonfire. So your words about today being a celebration of life, that we are still here, really ring true for me. Thanks for clinging to the positive thinking.

October 31, 2012 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

BIP: I know what you mean. Where I grew up in the northeast we wold ask people all the time "where is your family from" and the answer would be "Ireland, Germany,etc.." When I moved out west you got "Boston, Virginia, New York, Etc.." I thought that was so neat.

October 31, 2012 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Eileen Hileman said...

Jenna,your writing is beautiful. My father always said "remember who you are and where you came from" His father came to the US from Scotland and his Mother from Ireland. I agree with Cathy - you are a light - shining brightly. You inspire us with your words as well as your deeds. Blessings to you on this special day.
eileen

October 31, 2012 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I've had the stag crest hanging on the walls of my parents' home all my life. But you know more about my clan than I do!
Our name was changed from Mackenzie to McKenzie when my grandparents came to Canada (there are various stories around that- from fleeing the law to a birth certificate mistake), but Mackenzie is still my clan.

October 31, 2012 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

"All Men Die... Few Men Really Live!"

W. Wallace

October 31, 2012 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

Happy Samhain!

October 31, 2012 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

I find it flattering that you have such respect for the old Scots. My greatgrandpa was Blackhawk Dunphy. The Scot Dunphy's came over, lived in northern Maine and Canada and married into Indian tribes. Being tribal folks themselves it was probably a life and values they could id with. My oldest son carries Grampy Blackhawk's name as his middle name as does my first born grandson. My Gram (Grampy's daughter Lila) used to tell me all about the ("stubborn")Scots and her cousins, who lived on the rez. Grampy married Jenny Gray, stayed within that Scot Indian cocoon up north. They were Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, not surprising since the white Maine folks had a bounty on Indian scalps which included women and children. I am willing to bet that if you look back far enough into your family heritage you will find some warriors who are now smiling from their graves at your spunk and perseverance in seeking the life you feel you were born to live, merging Braveheart with Barnheart.

October 31, 2012 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

and about bastardizations of family names, it was not all done over here. Gram told me the Scot Dunphy's were from the Irish O'Donohoughs, but the Irish were rogues(sorry for any offense, this is what my Gram said and she was not to be disputed!). A web search did indeed verify (not that I doubted for a millisecond) what she had said. When they went to Scotland, they pronounced the family name in a way they begged the spelling of Dunphy, Dunfey, Dunfy, so as to separate from the Irish clan. My Gram was no a woman of books or scholarly degrees, I don't think she had more than a grammar school education, but knowing family stories was what was done back then, well before the current vogue of genealogy as a hobby. If Gram said it, then it was The Truth.

October 31, 2012 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

Oh, wow, Bonnie C., so sorry to hear that! That is so sad. You just made me grateful I got to wake up today and hug my husband and kids, something I had taken for granted, take for granted every day...

October 31, 2012 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger sheri said...

I so enjoy reading your blog...you are so young to be full of such wisdom. I fear I am not "shining", but maybe, someday! Keep giving us such interesting reading, Jenna...we are living vicariously through you!! For some "fun" reading, I recommend the Outlander series from Diana Gabaldon...great Scottish books!!

Sheri

October 31, 2012 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger sheri said...

Jenna, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. You are so young to have such wisdom. I fear that I am not "shining" but maybe, someday, I will. Thank you so much for what you do. I am living vicariously through you...for some "fun" reading, I suggest the Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon..great Scottish historical/romance fiction...based on true Scottish history...thanks again!!!

October 31, 2012 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

As a member of Clan Mackenzie (maternal) - welcome!

October 31, 2012 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Luceo non Uro!!!!!!!!!!

October 31, 2012 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Alicia-Marie said...

Happy Samhain, Jenna.

October 31, 2012 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

As a McGregor, I love the fact that you're a SCOT at heart! I hear bagpipes in my heart and head.

Blessings,
Dianne
www.sweetjourneyhome.com

October 31, 2012 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Jenna -- Your post that reflects your choice to the Celtic realms is thought provoking. Sanhain has a great history. Being Irish with Celtic ancestors I am especially interested in the Scotch/Irish history. I found this info online that fit nicely with your post:

"Samhain is therefore not only a time for reflecting on mortality, but also on the passing of relationships, jobs and other significant changes in life. A time for taking stock of the past and coming to terms with it, in order to move on and look forward to the future."

You certainly have followed this path of Sanhain and I say bravo to you -- barbara

October 31, 2012 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger jls said...

Inspiring. Love.

October 31, 2012 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Drummond Farms Alpacas and Woolens said...

My children work hard to continue the blessings of being Scottish. They have a Swedish father and last name, but joyfully celebrate that they are Scottish. Our sons are bagpipers and Scottish tenor drummers who have played in the circle at the World Pipeband Campionships in Glasgow...what an experience for them! Our girls are Scottish Highland Dancers and one is a certified, through Glasgow, as an instructor. They, and there mum, know that their ancestors, in Heaven, smile down as they play and dance.

November 1, 2012 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Black said...

This is becoming the place I come to remind myself to get my ass in gear.

November 1, 2012 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

This was lovely. Thanks, And I know a few MacKenzies who would be honored to have you a part of the clan. :)

November 1, 2012 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Duncan MacLeod said...

Well, thanks for checking out the blog, that's flattering! We are getting ready to harvest our four pigs next week, so we should have some practical (and hopefully beautiful) posts reflecting on that bit of work soon. I enjoy reading your stuff - keep it up!

Kind Regards,
Duncan

November 3, 2012 at 4:56 PM  

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