Using DNA Tests to Further Your Ancestral Witchcraft
Recently I've been delving into some intense ancestral work, and part of that work includes building my family tree and getting a DNA test. There is something powerful about knowing the name of one of my ancestors and the names of all the children she helped deliver as a midwife in 16th century Appalachia. There is also something confusing and frustrating about knowing the name of the ship that my great-great grandmother came to America on but not being able to go back any further because immigration officials changed both her first and last names.
Despite the roadblocks I've encountered during my research, I feel an intense connection to my ancestors that I've always sensed but never really tapped into until now. I feel like, even though I can only go so far back, all my ancestors see that I'm reaching out to connect and are reaching back to me. It feels like my effort and intention are enough for them to acknowledge my search and guide me onward.
Knowing that my tree would only grow so tall, I decided to get a DNA test as well to see if I have ancestors in parts of the world that I wasn't aware of. Surprise: I do. I used MyHeritage to test my DNA because I am also using them to build my tree. (Also the founder is Israeli, so that's a plus because, if you don't know, I'm a Jew.) Here's a breakdown of my results.
I was not surprised by the 53.5% Ashkenazi Jewish. Both my dad's parents descended from Ukrainian immigrants, so I'm very Jewish on that side. I was also not surprised by the 23.7% Irish, Scottish, and Welsh as my mom's side of the family came over from Ireland. I did not know of any Scandinavians in my family, but, due to migratory patterns, I wasn't too surprised to learn of my 16.7% Scandinavian ancestry. I have also long had an affinity for Norse mythology, so that intuitive connection was validated.
So I was not surprised by about 94% of my genealogy. There's about 6% in there, though, that I was not expecting: the 2.7% Greek and 3.4% percent North African Sephardic Jewish estimates. While I have also always been interested in Greek mythology and recently been intrigued by Moroccan Jewish culture, I had no reason to think I am descended from either of those areas. But since learning of my ancestry, I've been doing more research into the Jews from both those areas (although I'm not completely certain, I'm assuming these estimates come from the Jewish side of my family), and what I've learned has added a new layer to the deep, subconscious connection I've felt to these places. In the past whenever I'd seen movies or read stories or heard music from these areas, I felt a kinship that I was somewhat confused by. I didn't feel right trying to incorporate aspects of these cultures into my own practices for fear of appropriating them, but I also wanted desperately to partake in them. Now I realize that feeling stems from the blood of my ancestors, the same blood that runs through my veins today. Mixing Greek and North African practices into my craft is not appropriation; it is a return to my roots.
In addition to rediscovering my Scandinavian, Greek, and North African heritage, I've dived even deeper into my Ukrainian/Russian (it was all Russia when my family was there), Irish, and Appalachian roots. The photos above are all of my mom's dad's family, and we're really lucky to have so many records and photos of them. They came over to America so early (some during the 1600s) that it's easier to access their records than the records of my dad's side of the family. I even found a list of babies delivered by one of my ancestors who acted as a midwife for the family and for other women in the area. I knew my grandpa grew up on a farm in rural Alabama, but I never knew how steeped in Appalachia my family was, and it's beautiful and empowering to relearn the things that were so central to the women of my family in the past.
I'm currently building an alter just for my ancestors, and it provides an amazing feeling of connection and power when I work with it. Even just looking at these photos helps trigger my ancestral memory and brings me closer to the magic that used to be so commonplace.
I know DNA test are a little pricey, but I highly recommend saving up for one. Just that simple breakdown of my ancestry opened new doors for my craft, and I wish I had done it sooner. So go and build your family tree. Examine your DNA. Remember where you came from.