Recently I was talking to a friend in the Caribbean about the culture there, and how much slower it is than here in the states. Rasta life. The same day, I had another conversation with a different friend about where our families came from, both of us having Scots-Irish backgrounds in part. He asked me when my people came over. I honestly wasn’t sure. I know now, after a bit of research that my paternal grandmother’s family came over sometime between 1631 and 1669. So clearly my family were colonists, and I related this to my earlier conversation regarding Caribbean culture. Because Caribbean culture, as unique as it is (and by no means am I implying that all of the islands are the same), would not exist were it not for European colonization and the gross horrors of the slave trade.
But I started thinking about the other side of my family, too. Particularly of my maternal grandfather’s side of the family who were Polish royals until that wasn’t a thing anymore. This is a documented family tree.
See, what got me thinking about all of this was this podcast I was bingeing on called Lore. It’s about all kinds of lore from all kinds of places, much of it creepy and how humans get their ideas of monsters and stuff from, well being monsters.
So one story was about a haunting in the south and the supposed cause of the haunting was that there was this slave owner who had 2 slaves chained in his cellar and one night all of his slaves fled north and he was so mad he beat the men in the cellar to death and then sealed it forever, with the bodies inside. And you know, then of course it was haunted.
But another story was one I’d heard and remember being both fascinated with and horrified by before the podcast. I hadn’t thought of it in awhile.
It was the story of the Countess of Bathory. If you don’t know it, it’s the story of a Hungarian Countess who ruled a region at the time called Transylvania (no joke) and was truly a monster. The long and short of it is that she had a torture and blood fetish. She ruled for years in her husband’s stead while he was away on military campaigns, and then in her own right as a widow after his death. She’d hire young women as servants from surrounding villages and they never came home. Reports speak of tortures like leaving girls naked in the snow and throwing water over them and watching as they froze, or in the summer, having them lie naked on the ground, covered in honey and watching as they were devoured by insects. According to reports, she liked to force objects under fingernails, strip skin away from flesh, and even bite pieces of flesh from her victims. Lastly, she was rumored to have bathed in blood, believing the blood of young women would keep her young, herself.
So there was an investigation, and it was discovered and recorded that indeed, there was truth to the rumors and at least 80 bodies were found, although accounts from servants spoke of as many as 350 victims, with one servant saying that she’d found a diary that Elizabeth kept of her victims and it listed over 650 names.
All of the servants who confessed to helping her carry out the torture were executed. The Countess herself was walled up with no windows or doors in her chamber except for a way to pass food in and out. She died 4 years later.
Interesting bit: the investigation and ultimate conviction was by a Hungarian uncle. The only thing that saved her from execution was her high station…she was a relative of the King of Poland.
I don’t know much about monarchies. Most of what I know is about England. One was a Plantagenet or a Tudor or a Hanover or a Windsor or whatever. But everyone was always trying to steal the house from someone. Seems like. So broken bloodlines. So I thought, hey, could this crazy-town lady be my ancestor? Maybe no. Because royals were always fighting and sometimes one house kicked the other out.
So I looked up the Polish royal lineage. And it looks fairly unbroken. And I think this monster is one of my distant ancestors. She’s there…in the blood down to Nicholas, my family. And I’m like, whaaaa?
So I was thinking on these two levels about different sides of my family. Bloody countess on one side, and colonists who quite possibly participated in the slave trade on the other. Or at least were part of a culture of oppression.
So I need to look up the McGees. The McGees that are us, anyway. We are like the Scot/Irish Smiths, apparently.
And I know there are written records. And of course there are good Gees in the tree. (My friend said this and it tickled me… the prefaces “Mac” or “Mc” meaning “son of”.) I know some of them personally and surely there are plenty I never had the pleasure of knowing.
But there had to be the sorry ones, too. The rotten. Look at my other side. I think I’m related to one of the most horrible murderers in history.
Good Gees, bloody Countesses…it makes for an interesting tree of life. Or gallows. And that is all in my makeup. What, or whom, are the skeletons in your closet?