Gradually, I have come to understand that the evolutionary process of “waking up” to transcendent dimensions is also, simultaneously, a process of “waking down” into our ancestral roots and the experience of full incarnation. What follows is the story of how I came to this conclusion as well as a brief description of the Ancestry Mapping process.
A dozen years ago, in the midst of one of those classic mid-life crises, I decided something drastic was in order: a meditation retreat of indefinite duration. The plan was just to sit still, quiet my mind and not move until the contents of my unconscious finally, completely emptied themselves and I achieved ultimate clarity and bliss. Needless to say, it didn’t happen quite like that.
Toward the end of the third month, my efforts to get to the bottom of the dissatisfaction I had been feeling with my life took an unexpected turn: I heard a voice say, “Stop meditating! Get up! Go to Ireland and find your roots!” It was my own voice, coming from some place deeper than I had ever heard before, so I did as I was instructed. I spent most of the next two years living in Ireland, discovering what it means to be both biologically and karmically rooted to a place. The experience was profoundly life altering and empowering for me in ways I could never have anticipated (Please see my blogs “Close Encounters with the Faeries and Wisdom Goddesses” and “Feeding the Hungry Ghosts” for more information).
Since then, I think it’s fair to say I have become obsessed with issues of ancestry and identity. I come by these interests organically. My mother is a genealogist, with whom I have travelled around Ireland and Michigan, placing flowers and candles on the graves of our ancestors. I also happen to be an identical, mirror twin (Please see my blog “Revisioning the Twin Archetype” for more information).
The thing about being an identical, mirror twin (I’m left-handed; my sister is right-handed) is that I am constantly looking in the mirror at someone who looks like me, only in reverse. We have the same DNA, were raised in virtually the same environment and have virtually identical birth charts (I am 5 minutes older). So how to account for our differences? This question has driven me beyond the conventional parameters of the nature vs. nurture debate into a metaphysical and karmic approach to epigenetics. In other words, I’ve come to understand that though my sister and I share identical DNA, the souls with which we relate to our DNA are different, having chosen different experiences over many lifetimes before arriving here on planet Earth this time around. This somewhat confusing and unusual situation is accounted for in Vedic astrology, where first-born twins are assigned the primary birth chart, while second-born twins are assigned an entirely different chart.
In 2005, after several years of exploring my ancestry from the karmic and past-life side of the equation, I took the scientific approach and had my DNA tested through the Genographic Project (sponsored by National Geographic). At the time, it was the only company I was aware of that offered ancestral DNA testing, though in the years since many more such companies have come online, offering various approaches, perspectives and services. If you happen to be female, the Genographic Project maps your maternal lineage, from your mother to her mother to her mother all the way back to the first human female on the East coast of Africa tens of thousands of years ago (If you’re male, it maps your paternal line). I managed to persuade three of my relatives, my brother and two cousins, to also take the Genographic DNA test, so that I could map the ancestral lineage of all four of my grandparents: my mother’s mother; my mother’s father; my father’s father; and my father’s mother.
The first time I looked at these maps was absolutely stunning. It felt like my entire ancestral lineage flashed before my eyes, going back to the very beginning of the human race. But every time is amazing. I can literally feel the roots growing under my feet, from Michigan, to the East coasts of Canada and the US, to Northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean, to Eastern Europe, to the Aegean region, to what was once known as Mesopotamia, to the Arabian Peninsula, and finally to the Horn of Africa.
Since then, several programs tracing the ancestry of high-profile Americans have appeared on TV: Faces of America, African American Lives, Who Do You Think You Are? and, most recently, Finding Your Roots. I have watched each episode with complete fascination and always purchase the DVD sets when they become available.
About a year and a half ago, I had my DNA tested again through a company called DNA Tribes* (www.dnatribes.com), which offers relatively detailed ancestral information going back 500 years, from all four lines of descent combined. I discovered that in the context of the past 500 years, I am approximately 25% Swedish, 25% Polish and 25% Irish, plus 8% Spanish, 8% Italian and 8% Arabian! I was so jazzed by the information I received from DNA Tribes, that I persuaded about a dozen friends and family members to take their ancestry test, as well, and share their results with me. In the last year or so, I have been correlating this DNA information with anecdotal evidence as well as with karmic indicators in each of our astrological charts, derived primarily from Sun and Moon placements, Ruling Planet placements, South Node placements, Astrocartography and Mayan Star Glyphs.
This process has been truly mind-blowing, leading me to conclude that even within the limitations imposed by the hardwiring of DNA, identity is an extremely fluid and karmically-driven thing. It has also helped me understand that our epigenomes, the softwired curly cues capable of switching genetic tendencies on and off, even in utero, are influenced at least as much by karma from past-lives as by our physical environment and lifestyle choices in this lifetime.
My sense is that prior to conception in any given lifetime, not only do we choose our biological parents, we also choose our genetic profiles from the various options within our parents’ combined ancestral DNA pool, in some cases, in ways that defy conventional logic. For example, I know of one man whose biological parents are both primarily of European ancestry, however, his DNA indicates he is almost exclusively of Indian and Asian descent. Several years ago, he traveled to India on a pilgrimage and became so ill while there he almost had to be airlifted back to the US. In another, similar case, two parents of European ancestry have produced an offspring whose DNA is primarily Native American. Several years prior to learning about their son’s ancestral DNA profile, they travelled as a family to the exact locations in the American Southwest and the Yucatan Peninsula where his ancestors once lived. Finally, a close friend of mine who has always felt a strong affinity with indigenous cultures around the world and been estranged from his Northern European family of origin, discovered, through his DNA profile, that he is descended from an Aboriginal tribe which was colonized by Northern Europeans several hundred years ago.
In my experience, the overlay between DNA mapping and karmic influences highlighted in one’s astrological chart, form a rich tapestry of identity and rootedness, assisting in the waking down, as well as the waking up, process.
(*Disclaimer: Please be aware that ancestral DNA testing is still in its infancy and is, therefore, not an exact science. For example, the DNA Tribes test reflecting one’s “deep ancestry” is derived from the “top 20 matches in a database of 827 native populations that have experienced minimal movement and admixture in modern history (approximately, the last 500 years)…identifying populations where your DNA is most common…)