Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
What is Genetic Memory?
Genetic Memory has a lot of definitions but today I'll be focusing on one view and definition of genetic memory, the one that states, "Genetic memory is a process in which a memory is passed down through the generations without the individual having to experience first-hand the topic of the memory." It is a psychological and sometimes spiritual theory that can be best illustrated through our primitive fears. Across the globe a good portion of people are afraid of snakes, even if a great many of them have never seen a snake. According to the Genetic Memory Theory this is because when our species was evolving our ancestors lived in tropical climates where snakes were often venomous and it proved to be wise to stay away from them. Apparently it was such a big part of our survival that it became hardwired into our genes, even long after people moved away from the danger. Genetic Memory is at best a controversial theory. There's really no hard proof of it, just a collection of social observations that could be attributed to it, but also may have other explanations. Most scientists believe fear of snakes is more inherited by watching the behavior of others around you in your formative years then in your genetic code. If a parent or authority figure reacts wildly whenever they see a snake then you're likely to grow up with the same fears, regardless of whether or not the snake poses any real threat anymore. None-the-less, to play Devil's advocate, I have written down many cultural observations that seem to span the globe and let the reader decide for themselves if there's anything to this theory.
All across the globe there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of old folktales and mythologies that describe a "man of the forest" or a hairy ape-like man. Logically speaking the only peoples who should have any stories relating to apes are those who live in close proximity to wild apes. No ape species live in Asia, Europe, or the Americas and yet many cultures on these four continents have stories that predate zoos and the like by thousands of years. In North America non-native peoples tell of Big Foot and the Skunk Ape, while Native American tribes speak of Sasquatch, Skookum, or a large variety of other words for the same animal. Their names for the beast range by the tribe but often are identical in description. In the Himalayan mountains there are stories of the Yeti, a large white ape who thrives in the harsh winters there. In Australia the Yowie is king and in Indonesia Orang Pendek or "little foot" is said to be a small upright walking ape in a part of the island where chimps are not known to reside. Germany also has it's own version of forest dwelling ape that has been long theorized to be a surviving pocket of Neanderthals. This brings us to our next question. It's known through fossil records that modern humans and Neanderthals (as well as several other apes and hominids) did once cohabit. Recently a five year old child's skeleton was found that seemed to signify that Neanderthals and man even interbred at various points in history. If this is the close relationship we shared with these now extinct creatures, could our modern folklore be a recollection of a Neanderthal? This is the speculation of Genetic Memory Theory.
Flood Myths are common throughout the world and turn up in most major religions along with a lot of minor ones and tribal fables. These stories of course have the flood in common but most also involve animals, either being rescued, or taking on the role of the rescuers. Most often these stories have moral undertones as well. In Western society we're most familiar with Noah's flood story but this story was not the first, nor the only flood myth. Flood myths can be seen on every continent with startling popularity. At least 500 separate flood myths have been recorded by anthropologists studying tribes across the world. It's seen in religion, folklore, and mythology all the same. For years people have speculated upon Noah's flood and Atlantis, wondering if they could have really happened. If such a flood did happen that wiped out a good portion of the human race, then are these stories based on our ancestors memories, passed on generation after generation through oral and written traditions? Scientists say there is currently no evidence that such a flood took place or such a people in the case of Atlantis. However there are speculations that a great culture could have existed at the end of the ice age and been swallowed up by the sea when the glaciers started to melt. If a civilization like this ever existed we probably wouldn't know about it, the ocean having long since taken it's toll on the ruins. Most historians believe flood myths are merely stories that were written down after a number of floods took place in different regions to different people, becoming a common experience. Who's to say where the stories end and the facts begin.
Incubi, Succubae, and other Demons
Most ancient traditions tell of demons, ghosts, vampires, zombies, or other spooks that are either a person coming back from the dead or something which has always lived in a paranormal state. What do these things have in common? Most of these 'monsters' are people who have died, but even if they're not, they do often share in their purpose. Most of these ghouls can be seen preying on, killing, or sucking the life out of people. Belief in these creatures was very strong until the modern age when science could explain why corpses sometimes appeared to grow longer fingernails and drink blood that dripped out of their deceased mouths (all signs of natural decay.) However many still persist, as real today as they ever were. Many of these tales have some sexual element in them whether they are a vampire feasting upon the living, or an incubus tormenting the night visions of women. Not all of these encounters are negative. Some cultures maintain they are visits from dead lovers. In any event these human-like creatures that prey on people are still evolving. The monster of choice today seems to be aliens, abducting humans and probing them with scientific instruments, a great insight on the fear many people have of technology and how it can be used for evil purposes. Are alien abductions a screaming genetic memory or something else? Indeed these ghosts and goblins have so many differences in temperament, description, and status that it's hard to say if they really correlate or if they're just the mad inspiration of centuries worth of horror writers. What can be known is that by studying these seemingly inhuman characters we can often garner great insight into what it is to be human. Genetic memory or not they make for fantastic story devices.
Lake and Sea Monsters
Lake and sea monsters can be seen in stories and religions dating back to the time when man first stepped foot in the water. Until very recently, only a little more then a hundred years, it was thought giant squid were a flight of fancy, a superstitious tale told by drunken sailors. When their enormous carcasses started washing up to shore the scientific community took immediate notice. There are still all sorts of stories that have never been substantiated, from the tale of a sea monster in Beowulf's epic to Leviathan in the Bible. Great sea serpents slither through time in our most precious of sea fairing stories and haunt the lakes of our world. The Loch Ness Monster is probably the most globally known but Canada has Ogopogo, America has Champ in Lake Champlain, South America harbors a suspected plesiosaur in Lake Najuel Huapi, Patagonia, Africa has Mokele Mbembe in the Congo, and Sweden has "Storsgie" who lives in lake Storsjon. Could all or some of these be real creatures? Could they all be a genetic memory of an animal we once actually encountered thousands of years ago? Indeed the oldest accounts of these monsters go back for thousands of years in the tribal traditions of South Americans and Africans. It's an interesting prospect.
Large Wild Cats
In Medieval Europe Christians routinely told tales of large, often black, wild cats that preyed upon them and stole away their children. These beasts were sometimes attributed to shape-shifting witches but were probably more commonly seen as demons in physical form. The strange part of this story is that large wild cats don't exist naturally in Europe and this was a time when zoos had not yet been invented and the only people likely to see such wild beasts were the rich elite who either traveled or received exotic beasts as gifts from foreign lands. Could some of these creatures escaped? Maybe. Could enough of them escape to cause such widespread stories? Probably not, especially considering the only large cat known to regularly be seen with a black coat is the black panther of South America, somewhere beyond the reach of even the royals of the time. Although the religious aspect of these stories lost favor the big black cats are still spoken of in the present. Farmers in Ireland, the Southern and Western United States, and other far away places blame a large black cat for killing their livestock. Biologists say that even if a large black cat, or several, got out at any point in history a location such as an island like the UK could not support a large predator without routinely losing massive lots of livestock. Even so it's not that far of a stretch to think these animals might be escaped "pets" if not for the fact the stories predate man's interest in keeping them as such. Could these stories be part of a genetic memory of something like a Saber Tooth Tiger who did once live alongside humans and who may have been black? No pelts survive of these beasts so there's no way to really tell.
In North America there is a tradition among many tribes that tells of an enormous bird with a 18-25 foot wingspan that travels the skies ahead of storms. At face value this might seem just a story but there may be some truth to it. Storms kick up winds, even before they reach an area, and these winds are what large known birds ride. The larger the bird the more strain flying becomes until the largest of the modern species are known more for riding these gusts then actually flapping their wings to fly. Sometimes these birds were said to steal children and other times it's seen a more positive animal. There is at least one eagle still in existence today that preys upon monkeys, and in studying the monkey bones from their nests we have come to realize these same eagles may have once preyed on our ancestors' children in Africa. To add to this story we know from the fossil record that Argentavis magnificens, a bird with a 21 foot wingspan (that's the same size as a small plane) did indeed inhabit South America and possibly North America, though they are thought to have gone extinct six million years ago. Could these creatures have once lived alongside man, and are these the stories that are told today, or is there something else going on here?
At first glance most people will see werewolves as little more then a monster used in kitschy pop-culture horror movies. However werewolves are not a modern phenomena by any means. In Medieval Europe werewolves were accused of all sorts of things and believed to genuinely exist. Not only did sane people think werewolves were real so did a handful of mental patients who thought they were becoming werewolves. This phenomenon was so popular it eventually ended up with a title: lycanthropy. What is our fascination with wolves (or dogs) and men? Some speculate werewolves were hairy feral people living in the woods after being thrown out by their prospective societies. In fact children or people with deformities, mental retardation, or various visual diseases were thrown away in this manner because they were thought to be cursed. Indeed mental illness can account for people believing they were becoming wolves, as well as some of the herbal medications of the day which could have hallucinogenic effects. Man-eaters, "werewolf" people, could have been suffering from starvation, anemia (which can result in a thirst for blood) or severe mental ailments. Still, why wolves? Why were these people crossed with wolf mythology? There were other predators at the time, and many other paranormal beasts, so why wolves? It wasn't just Europeans, in Egypt the ancient Egyptians worshipped Annubis the jackal headed God and in the modern United States the Dog Man of Michigan is still popular. It's interesting that people around the globe would pick cannids to mix mankind with, wild cannids in particular. I'm not sure how this could be blamed on genetic memory but it is a common global mythology and as such should be respected and studied for it's significance.
Wrapping it Up
So is there any legitimacy in the Genetic Memory Theory? Personally I think it's a really flimsy idea, somewhat logical when discussing global phobias but lacking in logic when it comes to modern day sightings of global phenomena. I have more faith in people then to think modern day sightings of various cryptids could be accounted for just by some random memory of an ancestor that just popped into their minds so visually as to cause some sort of mass hallucination. Do I think all these stories come from some grain of truth or that all cryptids are what they are said to be? No, I think alternative explanations can be given to many of them, but I never deny the experience of the person ever happened. Truth is merely how one decides to view the world and differs with the situation and the individual. Curiosity on the other hand should never be squelched. It is a seeking of answers that brings us the knowledge that enrich our lives and we should never forget this. If I could give advice to any young aspiring scientist or researcher it's never lose your curiosity or sense of awe, no matter what those around you are saying. Strive to explore all explinations and theories and choose which is best suited to your veiw of the world.
If you enjoyed this article you may also like others by Theophanes:
More by this Author:
Catching Marbles - A New England based travel blog
Tales from the Birdello - For all homesteading and farming matters
Deranged Thoughts from a Cluttered Mind - For funny personal anecdotes
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on September 25, 2012:
You have terrible manners, have you a mother? Yes, I use two spell check programs for my articles - Microsoft Word and the HubPages spell check. However this is an older article so it may have only had the first. I just rechecked and found two very minor typos and several words you wouldn't find in a dictionary either way because they're just not English. Is that what you're complaining about? Just so you know I'm not God and therefore not perfect in any sense. Next time please be more respectful. Instead of saying my spelling is terrible maybe politely point out which words are misspelled. Then I get a nice editor and you get to come off not looking that an ass. We all win.
Really? on September 24, 2012:
You have terrible spelling, ever used spell check?
tiru on October 27, 2011:
dar is one movie which tells about genteic memory. the main component of movie is dat one old man has meny martial arts skills ,after long time in his family on person has nearly 80% equal DNA structure with dat old man. know dat scientists are going to get those arts from old man to this person using concept of genetic memory. is it possible in real life.
Unknown Kid on April 12, 2011:
Everybody have the genetic memory even me ! it written in everybody DNA and to be specific it on the ARN but we can't decrypt it, sometime you have it on your dream for examples you dream about old ages that may mean that this was a memory of your old grand father or maybe B.C who knows ?
AJ_Zaid on November 29, 2010:
That's pretty nice and interesting
Valgaard on December 23, 2009:
Ive believed the theory of ancestral memories for years in fact my ancestery is well documented and i look like and share the same height and weight of my ancesstors as well as they have always been soldiers and leaders of men as far as history records when my son was born i knew my immortality was achieved something all parents understand I will live again through my son my grandchildren and so forth as I have lived in the past I belive when death comes theres nothing but the knowledge and DNA you leave your children I have believed this for years and am quite comfortable with it
maiet d. biliran on November 18, 2009:
Very interesting article. Might be worth conducting further or more research on genetic memory to prove or disprove said theory.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on January 14, 2009:
Emperor of the USA your comments are terribly confusing but thank you for popping in. I'm an American and yeah... a lot of us are narssisstic and illogical and of course all governments have faults but I hope you don't hate everyone just because of a few bad apples. There really are genuinely interesting and compasionate individuals out there in the States, I mean here has to be wth that big of a population!
Emperor of the USA on January 03, 2009:
most of all why Immortality has been one of the mainstays in so manystories including all of the alledged RELIGIONS! the true roots of all ofour DNA's menory lies in how we interpret the signals we all get in burstsin invention, thoughts, dreams, ect, but the menories are so old that weNEVER GET A CLEAR PICTURE of our orginal home, which is why we find ourselves always evolving swimming upstream (like the salmon) but in ourcases we're trying to create a version of our orginal homes from manymillions of years ago, the other half of this picture is the fact that we are all half primate monkeys, & I have logical effective answer for that as well but I need something in return, safe passage to a country that hasonly limited contact with the Evil United States of America the damagesI am still sustaining from their treatment & the life I've been forced tolive has done unbelieveable harm to me A harm that can never be compensated & so I either wait to win the lottery so that I will have enough money to leave with want little is left of my possessions the American Public is a stupid bully race of being that I never want to see again I do not want to sit with them, nor be in a store with them nor beassociated with then ever again the reasons are to long to go into hereso If there is someone out there who can learn to be patient with me &treat me with the same earned respect as I would treat anyone else rich or poor then I would like to hear from you if I don't hear from someone soon this american insanity will kill me & you all will lose another piece of the puzzle but my puzzle is far different from most others atlarge. Mine is a teachers puzzle one that doesn't come along very often& so I wait again to hear from someone who can actually do something aboutmy predicament that was created for me by Hypocrite Americans. YoursSincerely the DNA Supreme Entity also known as Chez. (818)377-5237 & (818) 888-5116 P.S. A copy of this was sent to Peking Univerisity for seeking other countries that might be able to help me,I really don't like being confined to this planet with the kind of people on it but I can't get off alive so I'm stuck, so I'll help what ever country that is willing to evolve to such a high level they won't ever need to trade or do business with any one else because of the new technology I will bring them. I'm certainly not going to give anything to the lousey USA. I'll fast myself to death before I do that.
Hrm Caesar St. Augustine de Buonaparte Emperor of the USA.
Michael Weaver on September 12, 2008:
The Chinese actually did experiments trying to prove the existence of "Rods". However, tests proved otherwise; rods were in fact proven to be tricks of light and photographic anomalies (NOT intentionally done, as in a hoax). My brother-in-law was crushed, his fantasy dashed...
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 05, 2008:
Yes, genetic behavior in animals is well documented... it's why herding dogs instinctively seem to know not to eat the sheep or livestock their herding and why ratting dogs even generations after being bred to kill rats will still obscess over squirrels and other little creatures. In dogs these behaviors were directed by men (a dog that proved to be a good protection dog was bred to another protection dog and eventually the offspring were consistently good at protection.)
Chickens come from Africa origionally, where there is an abundance of snakes that can eat them and their eggs. They've lived there for probably several million years cohabitating with these predators... so it doesn't come as a surprise that some of their behaviors stay with them long after domestication and the need for such fears and responses. Scientists still debate what's causing these reactions though... is it memories or something else?
Garry Nelson from Hawaii on February 05, 2008:
Hello, An interesting thing about the snake fear mentioned at the start of your article. I live in Hawaii. We do not have any snakes here.
I have chickens that are descended from who knows how far back. I'm sure at least the time of wooden galleons. Obviously they have never seen a snake. The last snake this line of chickens would have seen may have been thousands of generations ago. Yet they were terrified of a life-size rubber snake that my son put in the yard.
King of Sardonica on February 05, 2008:
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 04, 2008:
Absolutely MrMarmalade. It's nice to have found a home for my plethera of seemingly useless knowledge! (Seriously, being a walking Trivia Game rarely has benefits.) Thanks for the compliment!
MrMarmalade from Sydney on February 04, 2008:
Your knowledge and research are most profound.
Thank you for a great hub.
Can you give us more please?
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 04, 2008:
Rudra: Rods are usually bugs that the camera can't focus on... it's been proven by a lot of different researchers with a lot of different cameras (and flying bugs!) though some still believe rods are some sort of flying creature from another dimension that pops in and out of our world at accidental intervals... fun for a story, but little else in my opinion.
Sandra: The largest fossil flying bird to date was found in Patagonia. It's called Argentavis magnificens and had a 21 foot wingspan (oops, I'll have to change that in my article.) Anyway, some people do suspect this bird who only went extinct 6 million years ago could be a candidate for the Thunder Birds of Native American legends. Non-Native Americans have been reported to see these huge birds and one boy said he was carried off by one in the 1970's. Apparently his mother and neighbors witnessed the bird pick him a foot off the ground and drag him quite a ways... Interesting I think.
sandra rinck on February 04, 2008:
OMG! I didn't know that there was a 25ft wingspanded Eagle flying around. That is just crazy cause I swear up and down that I saw this gigantic friggin Eagle last september and since I had never seen anything like I assumed it was some sign from God but if that Bird actually exist that means I am not crazy, and I did in fact see it prior to a storm, that was said to be the biggest in S.D in 20 years. Fantastic!
Rudra on February 04, 2008:
Thanks for that, what about the RODS that are being captured on videos (slighly different to what the hub is about).
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 04, 2008:
Oh Bob, that sort of Genetic Memory I consider different. The seeing photos of anscestors and feeling familiarity is deffinately something that may be able to be chalked up to Genetic Memory. I just don't think it should be used to explain modern sightings of things (that borders on the rediculous.)
However I too have had many experience of Deja Vu and do believe in things like reincarnation... there's actually an interesting phenomina relating to patients of organ transplant that claims sometimes memories and personality quirks from the donar can be felt by the implantee. Perhaps I shall research that more.
optimisticbob on February 04, 2008:
I have had many personal experiences that I have shocked up to genetic memory. When I see photos of ancestors, there is an uncanny resemblence that is easily explained by by genetics in the biological realm. We all accept that hair color, height, maybe even intellectual ability transfers in our dna. Why then wouldn't we accept that memories could transfer through generations.
I was visiting Scotland a couple of years ago and as soon as we made our way to the Morvern Penisula and the Isle of Mull, I started experiencing memories of locations that I had never been too. When I stepped out of the van into the kirkyard at Locahaline, the hair stood up on my arms, my blood pulsed and I was visible shaken by the proximity to an ancestoral burial ground.
I would ask you to think about stuff that you just know but don't recall ever learning. Where does it come from? I have meories of my grandmother and memories that could only be from my grandmother when she was a young girl. I try to cherish the unexplained and somehow, the thought that her memories were part of my dna adds a bit of credibility.
Woody Marx from Ontario, Canada on February 04, 2008:
Really impressive piece! Thanks for all your great hubs!
Misha from DC Area on February 04, 2008:
Thanks, it was fascinating reading :)
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 04, 2008:
Depends who you ask Rudra. The "Big Foot" of the Americas I think is interesting, though I do think a lot of them can be explained by bears... however there are a few accounts that are really interesting. Rumor has it a footprint was found and cast with dermal ridges (like human fingerprints have) that went the opposite direction of all known primates, the story continues that a second cast was made hundreds of miles away and around 40 years later with the same rideg pattern. It's something to think about... The optamist in me likes to think there could be something strange and undocumented out there. Is it "big foot" - I'm certainly not one to say!
Rudra on February 04, 2008:
Is big foot for real.