My Guardian Angel Is a Socialist by Carol P. Christ


When I began to research our family tree, my father told me that his grandfather George Christ emigrated from Germany because he was a socialist. I eventually learned that it was not George Christ but his parents, Thomas Christ and Anna Maria Hemmerlein, who emigrated from Bavaria. Thomas died in 1863 when George was an infant and George died in 1895 when my grandfather was an infant, which explains how their stories got confused.

Thomas and Anna Maria emigrated less than a month after negotiations for a new constitution following the uprisings of socialists and democrats the 1848 revolution ended in failure. Thomas and Anna Maria boarded the ship to America under different surnames and listing different villages of residence. This suggests that they had fallen victim to concords signed by the church and state that prevented poor men from marrying. Besides not being permitted to marry her beloved Thomas, Anna Maria was herself an illegitimate child, one of three born to sisters in the family of the poor teacher George Hemmerlein after he died.

It is easy to imagine Thomas and Anna Maria supporting the revolution of 1848 in hopes that they would be allowed to marry and be given land to farm. Nor is it difficult to understand that they were deeply disappointed and perhaps afraid of being persecuted for their beliefs when they decided to leave Bavaria in 1849. Anna Maria, who lived until 1907, would have been the one who told these stories to her son and grandsons.

My grandfather and my father were staunch Republicans who often complained that black people and poor people were asking for too much and who firmly believed that woman’s place is in the home. The last thing they would have wanted too have is a socialist ancestor! Nonetheless, my father passed the story he heard from his cousin Georgie on to me.

When I returned from trips with my cousin Bill Christ and friend Christa Schoeniger to the villages of my German ancestors in the spring of 2016, I had many questions and a great deal of information to assimilate. I succumbed to the flu that had afflicted Bill during our journey and entered into a kind of trance where I communed with the ancestors, asking them to fill in the gaps in their stories.

I stayed in this state for several weeks, eventually realizing that I needed to return to my life and to start working on the final details of the upcoming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. I thanked the ancestors for their presence and asked them to leave. They did as they were bidden. Several weeks later, I left for Crete.

While singing with the group in the Skoteino Cave, I sensed the presence of Thomas Christ behind my left shoulder. Words immediately formed in my mind, “I thought I told all of you to leave.” My great-great-grandfather was quick to  reply, “I have been waiting so long to find someone in the family who could understand why I was a socialist, I could not leave.”

Thomas Christ is still with me, reminding me–who am viewed as the black sheep by in the family because of my political and spiritual beliefs–that I am not the odd one out. I am the one who is following in the footsteps of Thomas Christ and Anna Maria Hemmerlein, who were oppressed by both church and state.

As someone who affirms the sisterhood of women and who experienced unconditional love from my mother and grandmothers, I was surprised that a male ancestor chose to become my guardian angel. I understand now that he came to heal wounds.

The fatherless children of George Christ, with my grandfather Irving John, center. There are no photos of Thomas Christ or his son George, but I imagine them to have been of medium height with brown hair and brown eyes, like my grandfather.

* * *

a-serpentine-path-amazon-coverGoddess and God in the World final cover designCarol’s new book written with Judith Plaskow, is  Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.

FAR Press recently released A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess.

Join Carol  on the life-transforming and mind-blowing Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. It could change your life! Spring tour filled, sign up now for Fall 2018.

Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger

 

 

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Categories: Ancestors, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General

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12 replies

  1. Last night I was talking to someone from Germany about healing ancestral wounds, and trying to remember your story, and this morning here it is. Happy New Year, Carol!

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  2. Thank you for this inspiring story! I do believe that we can and should help heal ancestral wounds. The effects of these wounds can be passed down generation to generation as each repeats hurtful behaviors and prejudices it learned from the previous generation. Breaking that cycle, in whatever realm, is brave and necessary work! And – my grandmother was a socialist, too! She used to astonish my grandfather’s conservative business contacts at business dinners by mingling with the men (all the women gathered in the kitchen at that time while the men smoked cigars in the living room) and saying “of course we all know that socialism is the perfect system…” I learned a lot about rebellion from my grandmother!

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  3. Very interesting. My great and great great grandparents (no doubt earlier, too) are mostly from Germany, but I’ve never done the research to find out more about them.

    Happy New Year to all.

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    • You can start with Family Search which is free and your parents and grandparents, but many German records are not online even though they exist in church archives in Germany. Ancestry which is not free connects you to others researching the same individuals, but buyer beware, incorrect information I posted a while back can still be found on the trees of others who copied it from me!

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  4. Thank you for sharing the stories of your ancestors, Carol. History tells us so much, and I’m glad you have met your Guardian Angel.

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  5. I have a sense of compassion sometimes instinctively guiding me, and I wonder if compassion itself can somehow be our Guardian Angel. Love that black & white family photo, thanks for sharing it here, Carol, and Happy New Year.

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    • I suspect the photo was taken at the time of or even on the day of George Christ’s funeral. He died at age thrity-two of tuberculosis. Only three of his children survived and only two of them (my grandfather and Bill’s grandfather) had children.

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  6. Starting the year by looking back — in your case WAY back — can be useful. Last night I thought about 2017 and realized that despite the political upheaval, or perhaps in part because of it, 2017 for me was longer than 2016 or 2015. I think most of this difference is the amount of work I’ve put in to workshops and P.R. about my book The World is Your Oracle. I’ve been busy, gotten more done, and so the year felt longer.

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  7. Lovely story. Thank you for sharing. My family, from the South, were racist, but never Republican, though I think being socialist would have been a bridge too far for them simply because of the unjust negative connotations of people here in the US (who think communism) and don’t know about democratic socialism. You are fortunate to have been able to do your ancestry Carol. And I applaud you for having the courage to avoid the herd mentality and group think and stand in your integrity on this point.

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  8. Having lived in Germany for about 3 years, I think of myself as a democratic socialist. It combines a desire for the greater good for the entire population with with a recognition of the individual freedoms that we need for democracy to function.

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  9. What a wonderful story!
    I have an ancestor, Adam Crist (German spelling Kritz) who may have been from Wurtemburg. His wife was Elizabeth Vollmer, born in 1752.

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    • My Christ ancestors (name spelled as I do} are found all the way back to the 1500s in Unterpreppach and Ebern, Lower Franconia, North Bavaria. As the surname refers to early or devout Christians, all people with the surname are not related–just as all Muellers (millers) are not related. Here is what Ancestry says about your surname: “German: from a Slavic form of the personal name Christian, possibly from Czech Kríž (see Kriz). German: from a dialect variant of Kreutz. Jewish (from Ukraine): nickname or occupational nickname for a wool carder or barber, from Yiddish krits ‘scratch’.”

      According to my researcher, Christ is a not uncommon surname in all of Bavaria, while Hemmerlein is found more commonly in N Bavaria.

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