Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Genetic Memory

Being able to find facts of my ancestors’ lives through my genealogical research has been very rewarding. But it’s not the meat of what I want to know. I want to know who they were, what behaviors dictated their choices. Were they kind? Honest? Were they survivors? Were they selfish? There’s no true way of knowing, except in the bits of written documents I am sometimes lucky to find where their character is described.
What I really want to know is how much like me they struggled through the world; is there more of them in me than this blood? Did they make some of the same mistakes I have made? Or have I made some of their same mistakes?
The idea that we can carry hurts and wounds and anxieties through our bloodstream, passing them onto our children, is an energetic truth I accepted, unsure of what the science would say. I have felt the weight of my ancestors’ choices, both good and ill. And then I came across an article in the May 2013 issue of Discover Magazine that put science to my theory.
The article talks about the new branch of science derived from epigenetics, where methyl groups attach themselves to our DNA, acting like bookmarks, seeking out specific DNA genes needed for the cell’s proteins. The DNA itself does not mutate, but the methyl groups, isolating those specific genes, decide the recipe that makes you who you are. I am not a geneticist and that is the bare bones of what I understand.
Geneticists discovered that epigenetic changes in DNA can occur in adult years. It was previously believed this happened only in early development. These epigenetic changes can also be passed from parent to child. They discovered that both diet and chemicals can account for these changes, but what of life experiences? This query is what launched behavioral epigenetics, a science which states that psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited.
These scientists wondered about the descendants of those who had survived brutal cultural massacres; like the Jews in Russia and Germany, the Tutus in Rwanda, the Native Americans who walked the Trail of Tears, and all those innocent children born and yet to be born to the rape victims in the Republic of the Congo. Do they inherit a tendency towards depression or anger in these methyl groupings? Through a series of tests, they discovered that yes, they do. And, just as we might inherit the bad things from our parents, we might also inherit the good. Perhaps those fairy tale ideas of family lines being “trustworthy” or “courageous” were not just romantic ideals.
What they also discovered, separately, is that we can alter these negative traits in our DNA through positive life experiences. This is where nurture comes into play. We can break the family curse, so to speak. So for me, the question of nature versus nurture is as unanswerable as asking what came first. Both the chicken and the egg are necessary for both to exist.
Drug companies are taking this science and attempting to create a medication that would cleanse us of these negative methyl groups, in the hopes of gifting people a clean slate. But those of us who do this Work know there is another way. Psychiatrists already do re-patterning work, which is like nurturing your brain into believing something different than what you’ve experienced. It’s not a lie. It’s gifting another way of responding to an experience you have already had. I would believe that this work also detaches some of those unwanted methyls from your DNA. This science is still being explored, but it lends credence to some of my Ancestor work- healing family tragedies that may have caused ripples down the family line, known or unknown.
Our emotional bodies exist just as fully and surely as our physical bodies do. Just like a broken bone that doesn’t mend correctly can affect your future gait, emotional scarring from abuse and violence can alter what your persona might otherwise have been. What this new science theorizes, is that if you have children after these events occur, you could pass that behavioral change onto the next generation.
It’s why personal growth is so important. It’s why doing your work is the most important thing you could do for your children. In my own family, we tend towards anxiety. What if that is an inherited trait caused by some event in my family’s past? I don’t think you have to know what happened. What if we could heal that in this generation of children so that it was not passed on when they procreated? What if we were the last cycle of that anxiety?

The idea of making amends, of healing the river of emotional dis-ease cascading down into me is like a way of cleaning up my emotional environment. I am healing all of the baggage of those methyl hitch hikers. I am doing it for me. If I were going to have children, I would also be doing it for them. I do this work so that I might help others do this work, so that we can all make choices from our own place of authenticity, and let the ghosts who walked before us rest.


  1. I have had the same experience as I do this work. Knowing much about some of my ancestors has been very helpful; also doing energy healing, that brings certain traumas I am carrying from my ancestors, has helped me to move through them. I believe it helps them also. This is a great work that we do in many ways.

  2. Exactly that! It is work that is bigger than we are, and it is easy energy to access when we remember that we are a drop of water in a river of our family line. We can easily reach back to the source and pull from it.

  3. I don't even know how to thank you so much for this post!!! About a year before I got ahold of that Discovery Magazine article I told my husband I thought there was such a thing as memories being passed through bloodlines. This thought brought me to the same place as you seeking to understand and know my ancestors! My faith path often talks about honoring the ancestors, but all I had been exposed to on the subject was the plate of food that we reserved for them at feast after ritual. But I know now that idea of ancestral memory was being stirred by my ancestors within me - it was them calling me to seek them out. Anyways - I was super excited to see your blog and to know others are seeking their ancestors and reconciling the things that need healing and celebrating the things that act as balm.


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