Knowing the Unknown Unknowns

dnaA couple of days ago, I had a pretty good idea who I am when I woke up that morning. Going to bed later that day was a different matter. Much – and nothing – has changed. How so? Well, I got an email from that my DNA heritage analysis was done and that I could see the results on the web.

Now, why did I do that in the first place, you may say. What’s so important about one’s ethnic heritage?

It’s not important at all, but interesting. And a little more different from what I thought it would be.  It also conveniently confirms certain believes I have had all along.

Let me start with telling you what my ancestry is, ethnically speaking………….Really?
Sorry, no, I am not going to tell you what it is. Because it does not matter. Most is not surprising anyway, only one is in the sense of “Oh, who would have thunk!”, and another one in the sense of “Now that’s surprising!!!”. And the latter is the only one I am going to share. As it turns out a part significant enough to not being categorized as “trace” is European Jewish. And I say “In your face, Schicklgruber Dolferl (better known as Adolf Hitler). Can’t imagine how many of your fellow “pure Aryans” had that as well, desperately trying to cover up their ancestry so to not fall victim to their own genocidal schemes. And you feared you did as well, for a good reason, didn’t you, Schicklgruber? Had the SS look into that because you weren’t so sure, were you?” (I call him Schicklgruber because that was his father’s actual name, himself being born out of wedlock by a Maria Schicklgruber. Later on, Dolferl’s father took on his mother’s husband’s last name.)

My little Schicklgruber-rant is not unrelated to why I had the DNA test done in the first place, though. Because, more often than I care for, I run into people and arguments on social media who come very close to being Schicklgrubers themselves. You know, those who insist on purity in heritage, and that this is the only thing that can determine the line of spiritualty one should follow. For them – if I were so misinformed to eclectically choose a path other than the one and only predetermined by my ancestors – I would be a plastic-this and a fraud-that.
And make no mistake, these Schicklgrubers can be found in many – if not all – ethnicities, not only those associated with Germany.

But now, with the results of my DNA analysis in my hands, I can confidentially say – evidence based as it were – what I have wanted to say all along: Total. Fail.

Why? Well, I am 28% of one big European ancestry, 23% of another big one, and 17% and 16% of yet two others, respectively. And then the Jewish aspect and a couple of traces. Now which one ancestry’s spiritual traditions would you permit me to follow, you little Schicklgrubers of this world?  Can I choose myself, or are you going to do that for me? Does it make your head explode that there is someone out there who actually could choose one, or, by all the Gods, pick and choose from many?

For those interested how it could be that I am so multifaceted, genetically: I was born in a region that, although once inhabited by Hallstatt Celts (as evidenced by a rampart near my home town, was Romanised early on. And only a few centuries later it started to develop into one of Europe’s biggest melting pots, Vienna, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Vindo Bona, as the old Celts called her, the White Fortress, on the river named after the old Goddess Danu. People from all over the lands covered by the Habsburg realm made it to Vienna, may that be because they left their Alpine homesteads for a military career like my great grandfather, or their northern Austrian (almost Czech) rural dwelling simply to seek fortune closer to the Imperial Court. Like his wife, my great grandmother. And I have six more of those, of course. Bavarians, Hungarians and some I don’t know. No wonder my ancestry is all over the place…

So, with this mix of ethnicities – not one really manifested in a significant enough way to be called a majority – I can say with a level of conviction I could not muster without that darn test: DNA does not and should not determine your spiritual path! At all.
I much rather would advise to follow – as my friend and fellow Druid John Beckett says – the Gods that call you, even if They are Gods from different pantheons. And if you don’t believe in Gods, follow what’s right for you. Don’t listen to the Schicklgrubers.

I have found my path long before the test, and it led me to write “Mountain Magic”, where I delve into the traditions of my calling, DNA approved or not.

(“Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps”, available at (preferred) and distributers such as


And I can only say that I went to bed that day enriched in a way I could not have imagined when clicking the link in the email, that said “View your results now”.

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6 Responses to Knowing the Unknown Unknowns

  1. I had my DNA tested a while back. I knew the majority of my ancestors had English surnames but wondered whether further back I had Celtic bloodlines which may explain my calling to the Brythonic gods. When it came back my father’s line was Saxon (as predicted for Smithers) but my mother’s line was Yenesei, linking me to the Ket people, which was a huge surprise! And a lot of other lines thrown in. It doesn’t affect my devotion to my Brythonic gods one bit although I do wonder whether I’ll be drawn to interact more with the Anglo-Saxon deities and even find out more about the ways of the Ket people, who only stopped practicing shamanism in the 1930’s, in the future.

  2. David Hogan says:

    Perhaps a person should define themselves by what they achieve within this brief shine of candlelight rather than their DNA heritage. After all in the end, we are mostly just old people looking back on our lives… : )

  3. NanLT says:

    Reblogged this on Writings of a Pagan Witch and commented:
    I have often wondered this myself being a British-American with ancestors of just about every European nationality you can think of.

  4. Running Elk says:

    Reblogged this on Shamanic Paths and commented:
    I can’t express how how wonderfully this expresses my issues with the whole concept of cultural appropriation, which seems such a buzzword in most esoteric, spiritual and secular fields these days. Thank you, Abfalter. Both for the post and my new favourite label for the purity crowd… Schicklgrubers 😉

  5. David von Schack says:

    Well written and spot on! You know my day job is to think about genetics and genomics. Very little of genetics is deterministic. Yes, Mendel and Darwin were (mostly) right and yes certain simple traits are mostly encoded in your genes, but as much as you don’t want to be defined who you are as a human being by your hair color you also don’t want your genetic makeup or genetic heritage define and therefore limit you who you are! Seems like the most ridiculous and backwards idea – but then again you hear a lot of this being discussed.

  6. Clint says:

    Well said. Bloody well said. I’ve long held the same notion that the race wars of this world are nothing but the ramblings of idiots. And with the understanding, we are all one tribe no matter where we are born or what color. We could (I hope) build a better place for our descendents. So we may become ancestors to be proud of.

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