How do you choose a pagan path if you want to be reconstructionist and/or authentic, but don't know ancestry?

I am talking specifically about pagan paths rooted in a specific culture and long history of practice (whether continuous, as in modern tribal faiths, or interrupted, as in reconstructionist faiths). So please don't suggest something such as Wicca or Eclecticism or New Age, because those don't apply to someone looking for a culturally-specific path. Also, do not use this question to preach Christianity, anyone trying to convert me or others to Christianity will be flagged to moderators to deal with.

Many cultures, such as most Native American cultures, and Zoroastrians, say that one's authentic path is in one's ancestry and if you come seeking to learn about their spiritual traditions and can't prove your ancestral connection to them, they tell you to look to your other people's traditions. In addition, many pagans feel most at home in pagan or pagan-reconstructionist paths that are rooted in their own ancestry. But how does one know which pagan path is best to choose, if for example:

1. Someone is adopted or an ancestor is adopted

2. Family doesn't remember or know where you came from (or what region/tribe/nation/etc.) (or, in the case of Native American ancestry, family did not enroll, won't talk about it, doesn't know the accurate tribe/nation/band, etc, the point being you have no proof)

3. Ancestors were migratory and it's not known where they lived when paganism was still practiced in their regions (for example, such as the Pashtuns, who are now Muslim and live in places like Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, but who were migratory and originally lived somewhere else in pagan times, but it is debated where)

So, in those kinds of cases, if you want to be authentic, but don't really have anything solid to go on as far as personal ancestry, and you really don't want to choose one of the modern universalist paths but would prefer something linked to a people of some kind, how do you determine what path you belong to?

Thanks for any helpful answers!


Facade- but what if you are adopted, sealed records or unknown origin, like that, then there is no genealogy to search.

Update 2:

Maybe I should say, assume geneaology is a dead end, there were name changes, adoption, or something else preventing geneaology from providing a background.

Update 3:

Kanien- I'm talking about if someone really does not know, adoption, etc. Obviously you can't just go, oh, I look this race, let me practice their religion, there are tons of different ethnic groups within each race and if someone is mixed there is no way you can tell their ethnic groups just by looking! It's definitely possible for someone not to know their ethnicity. For example if someone looks white they could be one of dozens of European ethnicities, or Eastern European, Jewish, Middle Eastern, etc. If someone looks black they could one of numerous African ethnicities or mixed. If someone looks Native they could be one of hundreds of nations or even be Asian or Pacific Islander. And it's hypocritical to suggest going on looks when you mean, go on looks *except* if you look Native, then you need a CDIB. One thing I always wonder about when I'm told you have to live in the community, is what about those who do have a CDIB card yet live outside and can't afford to travel?

Update 4:

Oh and by the way, ironically the only part of my heritage that I *do* know about is Cherokee, and since my known Cherokee ancestors are unenrolled and some of them appear to have been freedmen, not to mention that anyone trying to reconnect with their Cherokee heritage is considered a "wannabe" who doesn't know what they are talking about, I probably have about zero chance of connecting with that part of my heritage that I do know about.

Update 5:

I wanted to say that there have been several very helpful answers so far that are helping me think about this issue, such as those from Kuva, Karl T, Macadam, and Prana, all of which were helpful and had good suggestions and advice. Thank you!

9 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    Great question !

    The first thing I'd point out is that finding a spiritual

    connection doesn't have to depend on personal

    physical ancestory. That's a requirement we may put

    on it as individuals, but spirituality does transcend our

    genetic history, in many cases.

    You will find one diety (or sort of deity) that you are

    drawn to, and if you open your mind and have a direct

    personal experience (or several) with them, then that's

    really how we know which deity is right for us.

    Next, I'd point out that most caucasions have common

    roots in the Middle and Near East, if you go back far

    enough. Do some checking on DNA and haplogroups

    and you'll see what I mean. So even if you were adopted

    there are some assumptions you can still make about

    your distant ancestry.

    Next, if you choose a Mother Goddess oriented path,

    it's a fact that the worship of the Mother Goddess was

    found at the early stages of nearly every culture on

    Earth... so in that case, no matter what your ancestry,

    worship of the Goddess would have been your most

    early form of spirituality... i.e., your real heritage.

    Finally, you can actually have your DNA tested and

    find out something about what part of the world your

    ancestors come from... and in addition, you can do

    some past-life regression work through hypnosis.

    Naturally, if you choose Mother Goddess worship,

    it's correct for any ancestory... so if that happens to

    be your path, then you can't go wrong.



  • 4 years ago

    Most Pagans I've know don't strictly adhere to any specific path. Since there is nothing so uniquely personal as your relationship with such Gods as you understand and recognize there is no way anyone else can decide what's right for you. The most common thing I've seen is to study widely and find the things that feel right and true to the specific individual who will then incorporate them into a spiritual lifestyle that best suits them. This means that your spiritual journey will be a never ending process of ongoing study, re-evaluation, new revelations, and personal growth. My personal path is a mixture of Native American, Celtic, Asian, and African beliefs, eclectic I grant but it's what works for me for now, tomorrow something may happen that will change everything. You will need to do the same kind of study and exploration as do we all, I wish you the joy of the journey.

  • ?
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Personally I don't hold with the idea that spirituality is genetically based. I would recommend that you study a variety of paths and find the one for which you feel a true affinity, then go with that. If you simply must know, there are genetic tests which will tell you your actual genetic ancestry, and you could start from there. You should, however, bear in mind that many Pagan faiths believe in multiple lives, as in rebirth or reincarnation, and, if they are correct, then whatever the ancestry of the body you currently inhabit your soul would have lived in others in the course of your journey and there is no way at all to determine what those might have been.

  • you must have some idea of what your ethnicity is even if not fully. go with that one you are sure about.

    as for native american beliefs, they vary greatly from nation to nation as i am sure you know. because of abuses that continue to the present, many nations are now reluctant to share our beliefs and ceremonies with anyone not within our nation. we did at one time and we found things sacred to us being bought and sold and generally made a mockery of so no more.

    the other thing is, it is not really possible to practice our beliefs outside the community. so even if you knew what a particular nation does or believes, since our spirituality is not an individual thing, you would still be unable to fully practice it.

    ETA: i didn't say anything about what you look like. thats not a good way to determine ancestry at all. genetics can be tricky.

    as for natives who live outside communities, those who are traditional do find it difficult to practice our ways apart from the rest of the communities. some of those who are native and live outside a native community are other beliefs like chrisitanity etc. those beliefs don't seem to have an issue with a "personal relationship" type spirituality.

    iwould say, if you are really serious about wanting to be part of an indigenous belief system, you need to start from the very beginning and form a relationship with a native person/ community who practice these beliefs. i have seen non natives in our ceremonies. it's rare but i have. without exception these are people with a history with us..they have been supporters of us in our causes and have been there to lend a hand when there is a need. its all about relationships.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    Many people start their pagan path with the deities of their ancestors, because there is already a bloodline connection. But this is because it is easier. But remember, we have all had many lives, in many different cultures.

    What path are you drawn to? You've already made some decisions on this, so I would recommend study and meditation and see which one speaks to you. In the end, that is how we all do it. We are chosen by a path, not the other way around. I call myself an Eclectic Pagan because no one path has given me that singular strong calling. I believe I just haven't studied that yet.

    Even if you have the genealogical records, there is no guarantee that your ancestors worshiped the common deities of their geographic location. So much history is lost, so much is unknown, and many practitioners had their tradition die with them because of persecution.

    Source(s): Eclectic Pagan Witch
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    You may discover some day that you are already on a path called -insert name here-. That is what I discovered. It is my path. I meet people on my path. I have learned that each one these people have a lesson for me. Some of these folks will walk with you for awhile, some will cross your path. Each one is a teacher with a valuable lesson.

    You might consider enhancing all of your senses so that you take in all that is around while you walk the path.

  • 1 decade ago

    I am not sure about other forms of Reconstructionist culture but in Hellenismos we believe that one can follow Hellenismos in two ways .. via ancestry .. or via culture.

    Both are equally valid.

    After all many "Hellenes" in the past clearly were not Greeks.

  • 1 decade ago

    I had that problem. I know that my biological father (never met him)was Mexican, but not from which ethnic group to which he belonged. When I was searching for a path, I tried my best to connect with Mexican paths - however they did NOT resonate with me. The other half of my known ancestry is mainly German. Again, I spent a great deal of research and time trying to connect with the Germanic paths, but it absolutely did NOT resonate with me. All my attempts over about 3 years to forge a bond with the paths of my known blood were frustrating and ultimately fruitless (other than learning lots of neat stuff about those paths, which just weren't for me).

    Blood-ties does not necessarily dictate which path is right for you. For one thing, bloodlines have been mixed innumerable times throughout history - so by now pretty much everyone has a little bit of everyone else in them, unless you live in a small village somewhere in a remote area in a family of people who also never left the area and never married into any other groups over the past thousands of years. Good luck with that!

    I ended up studying and practicing something completely different from anything that was in my known bloodline and being absolutely happy and fulfilled. Ganesha ended up coming to me and basically choosing me - I didn't choose him. For many people this experience is a familiar one, with the gods of a path choosing them, and not the other way around. However, if you don't have that experience exactly, then following what resonates with your heart is the next best thing (I mean, if what Ganesha was bringing to me didn't resonate, I wouldn't have practiced it).

    So the next 7 years were spent in deep study and practice of Shakta Hinduism. I even majored in Religious Studies with a focus on Hinduism in university. About 20 months ago, I got the clear message to turn my attention back to the West and find a path that blended East and West, as pure Hinduism wasn't suited for me (which it wasn't). I had maintained study of the Kabbalah since 1997, though since Ganesha appeared in 2000 it had lessened. I decided to go back to it in earnest to see what I could find. I ended being synchronistically led to finding Sophian Gnosticism which is a Goddess-centric tradition that is based very heavily in Kabbalah, and which employs practices that are generally considered to be Tantric (proper Tantra which deals with the interplay of female-male energy, not NeoTantra which focuses on physical sexuality). This was exactly what Ganesha had told me to look for, and it resonated stongly immediately. I have been studying and practicing it for about the last 10 months.

    Additionally, I recently spent some time in Mexico with a traditional folk healer there. We participated in a temezcal, which is like a Mexican-Indian sweat lodge. Inside the healer and I talked alot of ancestry and spirituality. He saw Legba around me. I've never worked with the Vodou pantheon, though I've studied it often. However, my maternal family line has lived in New Orleans since the mid-1800s, and we even have a family crypt in one of the old cemetaries there. The healer told me that the spirits of the LAND of my ancestors were around me, and that I should consider working with them in order to complete my spirituality. I had not considered the spirits of the land - I had been looking at the spirits of my genetics. A long history in a certain place though is what seems to have been the important factor. This could be another avenue you wish to explore. "New Orleans" isn't an ethnic group, so I never considered it part of my ethnic heratige. I can see that I missed something important along the way. I still have no idea how that info will end up integrating into my path - that remains to be seen.

    Also remember that your path will evolve and change as you do. Commit yourself to your choices, but also be willing to follow your needs if and when they shift. You may very well find one path that 100% suits you, and only your interests within that path will shift and evolve. Or you may find your journey a bit less direct, such as mine has been.

    What is important is to follow your intuition and respect the messages from your Guides and your Higher Self. What is True for you will RESONATE deeply. Look in places you might not expect and see how your spirit reacts. Don't get too caught up in what you think is "proper", or what other people think is "right". As long as you are developing and finding your spiritual center and gaining a relationship with the Divine you are on the right track. Very often people end up in places very different than the ones they expected to arrive at.

    Enjoy the trip!!

  • 1 decade ago

    That is an interesting problem. Perhaps you should look into online genealogy first. Put your path search on hold.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.