Sons of Winter and Stars (Live in Studio) (2012)

Once in a while I come across music that is so beautiful (in my subjective opinion) that I just want to cry when I hear it. The Finnish band Wintersun does that for me.

I don’t know when I consciously realised that as much as half of the music I love the most is Finnish. My music collection is stocked up with bands like Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Amorphis, Turisas, and Norther. I couldn’t really account for what it is about their music and culture and languages that so intrigues me. I’ve seen a couple of Finnish bands perform live here in Melbourne, Australia, namely Ensiferum and Apocalyptica. I get the impression that a number of the bands are connected to each other. Here’s hoping Wintersun make their way here at some point in the not too distant future. Otherwise one of these days I’m going to have to take a metal fan pilgrimage to Europe. From what one of my husband’s German-born metal-loving co-workers tell me, let alone what I’ve managed to glean from watching YouTube videos with a profound sense of jealousy (!), Wacken sounds like an amazing metal festival. (Then again, I was able to nearly be showered in German metalhead vomit thanks to a very drunk fan watching the Rammstein set at Australia’s Big Day Out festival in 2011, so we do get to enjoy some of the sights and guttural sounds of the European metal scene over here.)

I love the folk metal genre in general, too, and it’s not just the Finnish bands. I saw Swiss band Eluveitie perform in Melbourne a couple of years ago and they were just brilliant. Easily one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen (a room full of bearded heavy metal fans moshing to bagpipes and low whistle has to be seen to be believed – it’s glorious). I was first drawn into folk metal via accidentally stumbling across Scottish pirate band Alestorm on a community radio station as I flipped through the channels. Since then, it was a short leap from Pirate music to Viking music. I fell in love from the first moment I heard a melodic scream about Valhalla (thank you, Swedish metallers Amon Amarth). On a completely related note, I named one of my cats Odin.

I find it interesting that I was always drawn to Celtic and Norse mythology and music inspired by those cultures. After a few years of my being helplessly drawn in that direction, my genealogy-researching history-geek sister uncovered a few direct lines of ancestry through our family to the Vikings and the Normans – we have evidence for Norwegian and possibly Swedish Viking heritage, and there’s also a thread in our heritage that appears to trace back to Finland, many centuries ago. It’s kind of cool to me to realise that countless generations ago some of my direct ancestors came from a part of the world that had always held a hitherto unexplained fascination for me. I feel like that validates my interest in learning more about a part of the world that’s about as far away from Australia as I can imagine. So, in the meantime, I’ll keep listening (and picking up random words in other languages as I attempt to learn the lyrics to the non-English songs).

Genealogy Bits and Pieces

My younger sister and I have both had a long held interest in genealogy and history. Why, I can’t explain, but we both studied history at university and we have both attempted to trace the family tree. However, in this case most credit ought to go to my sister because she’s the one who’s done the most work.

Both sides of our families have done a good job handing down the stories of our family through the generations. We have a strong picture of where our family came from and how it got here, to Australia. Our ethnic heritage would be best described as Anglo-Celtic. That is, a lot of our ancestors are English, and the rest are a mix of Welsh, Irish, Scottish and French. Our grandmother once told me that some of her ancient ancestors were Spanish people who somehow came to Scotland (something to do with the Spanish Armada in the 16th Century, apparently).

I’ve been assured that there are early representatives of our family mentioned somewhere in the Domesday Book,[1] which was a survey of England published in AD 1086[2]. But I haven’t worked out who or where they are and my understanding is that at some point there was a shift in the spelling – apparently the name is a variant on Solomon.

A member of our family was in the employ of Captain Cook[3] when he sailed to Australia and another member of that same family, my direct ancestor, later turned up on Australian soil as a convict and squatter[4].

On another branch of my ancestry are early English settlers in Melbourne, Australia, and I have been to a few of the family reunions to meet distant cousins who were also descended from that line.[5]

One of the more interesting revelations (to me) in our explorations of our ancestry was my sister’s recent (October 2014) uncovering of a direct line to English royalty – King Henry I of England,[6] son of King William the Conqueror. Somehow my sister has managed to plot out our paternal ancestry in a direct line to them. That is, King William is my grandfather x30 generations[7] (I guess this makes Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II[8] my really, really, really distant cousin… unfortunately too distant for me to be included in any royal inheritance, bummer[9],[10]). One of the things that really surprised me was to discover that Grandad Conqueror – as I now think of him, obviously – was also a Viking.[11],[12] Suddenly I’ve uncovered this branch of Norsemen in my ancestry that I’d kind of hoped were there as a convenient means of explaining my otherwise inexplicable intense fascination with Norse mythology and Viking metal music and Beowulf and all that. What I wasn’t expecting was that at some point my family would be able to trace a name-by-name line to English and Norwegian Viking royalty. So, it’s pretty cool for my sister and I to see where our ancestors fit into history.

Apparently it’s not that unusual for English people to have King William appear in their genealogies but still, I think it’s kind of fun to trace the path our family has taken as it weaves through history. I guess next step would be to find some of the great Celtic warriors somewhere in there.


William the Conqueror

References / Further Reading (all links here accessed 20 October 2014)