Does anyone feel uncomfortable with non-Native witches having spirit/animal guides? I live in a very diverse area with people who are concerned about cultural appropriation. One friend is particularly active in calling out South and Central American practices that are co-opted by non-Native peoples. I happen to be particularly drawn to Celtic paganism and luckily I have Welsh heritage, but how do you all feel about things you don’t have a heritage in?
This is a wonderful question that we all face at some point. There have been some helpful discussions here in the past about this topic and I will share a few before sharing my thoughts.
I shared the following with a friend one time. It is slightly edited for this discussion.
I am sensitive to the issues surrounding Native Americans - their unique cultures, their histories, and the persecution they faced. I know about the horrible treatment they received from European governments, including the offspring of those governments like Canada’s and the United State’s. I also know about the higher suicide rates, the higher unemployment, and the missing and exploited women. These are all complex issues that intertwine with history and politics.
I am against corporations using names like Chiefs, Redskins, etc., for entertainment/marketing/financial reasons. It’s scary we are close to putting white sage on the endangered list.
But… (You knew there would be this, instead of a full stop.)
Practices are not created in a vacuum. For example, there are temples and pyramid structures all over the world. While some of this can be explained with the technology people had at the time, some can also be explained by the simple fact homo sapiens came from African and spread across the world, appropriating the practices of other homo species within the homo genus. Cultures are tied to their religions, which are tied to their governments. These religions/governments interact with each other and co-opt what they like from each other. A perfect example of this is the adoption of an evil being in Judaism from Zoroastrianism found in during the time of Babylonian rule.
I don’t want to minimize any culture so please understand what I am trying to say. (I might not say it in the right way.) Native Americans came from Siberia. South American Natives found their way from islands off of Asia. Yes, they were the first people we know of on these continents, but first doesn’t mean exclusive rights to land or beliefs held in the west. If that was true, Africans would have some strong claims superseding much of the world’s population.
We need to be mindful of the damage we can perpetuate by careless/mindless actions. We need to educate the majority on trying to reach out, understand the complex issues, and work with Native Americans and other minorities to save their cultures and equalize the treatment they receive under the law. We also need to be better stewards of the resources we have on this planet. I try to personally examine each practice to be sure where I stand and in some cases I stop certain practices - like smudging with white sage.
This is long but I hope it is helpful. I know others will have opinions on this topic and I can’t wait to learn from them.
I have my own thoughts about cultural appropriation, but I don’t have the mental capacity to really do those thoughts justice right now. I’m just commenting to let you know that I see this thread and I will answer it when I get a chance
Also, I would just like to mention here really quick that most Celtic practices are open practices that can’t be appropriated from but should still be approached with respect.
Due to the wonderfully diverse and cultural aspects of magickal practice, this is a topic that tends to come up often. It is a great thing to explore and discuss- thank you for bringing it up, @cbd!
@praecog29 kindly shared the links to similar past discussions along with his thoughtful personal reflection- adding to that, I’ll also add a link to the discussion Good things, Bad things where I shared my personal thoughts on cultural appropriation.
When it comes to cultural appropriation, it is natural that everyone draws on their own personal experience. Each situation will have different perspectives and different levels of right/wrong to be considered- it is very hard (if not impossible) to make blanket statements of what is okay/not okay for different groups of people to do.
Despite the complexity of the issue, I will draw on my experience as a Global Studies major and world traveler and try to sum up my own personal feelings on cultural appropriation in 3 basic bullet points:
There are undeniable benefits in learning about other cultures, languages, and peoples.
However, studying and interacting with other cultures should always be done mindfully and respectfully.
Taking things from another culture to ridicule/disrespect or for purely monetary profit is WRONG.
As my major in college, this is a topic of fascination for me! It is always a pleasure to openly discuss such important issues in a respectful and supportive environment like the Spells8 coven
And as with any very complex and multi-faceted issue, I warmly encourage everyone to do lots of research and form their own opinions around the subject.
Thanks again to cbd for opening the discussion!
As everyone else has said, this is a great topic for discussion and one that many people have their own opinions on.
@praecog29 linked to a post where I shared some of my thoughts on cultural appropriation and, in that discussion in particular, we were speaking of smudging and the appropriation of Indigenous practices.
“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.” - Source
The main issue with cultural appropriation is when outsiders to that culture take their practices and either bastardize them (turning them into something they’re not to make it palatable for the masses) or profit from them. This is especially true when it comes to Indigenous spirituality because up until the 70s, it was illegal for Indigenous peoples to practice their faith and belief system.
My general rule of thumb is that if a culture or People as a group ask people not of that culture or group to stop taking their practices and disseminating them into the larger population, I’m okay with not doing the thing they’re talking about. When something like smudging gets taken out of context, it loses its sacredness, I think, because those who are doing it without the context and/or knoweldge needed don’t have the big picture, if that makes sense. This isn’t to say that people can’t be taught, because that’s definitely true, but I also think it is up to that specific group to say who can and can’t be taught.
We also see this a lot with Hoodoo and Voodoo practices, but I’m not educated enough to speak about those practices, just that they are part of ATR and are generally closed to outsiders that aren’t invited in.
I also think @TheTravelWitch has hit on a very good point that is the main problem with cultural appropriation.
As for the second part of your discussion…
I happen to be particularly drawn to Celtic paganism and luckily I have Welsh heritage, but how do you all feel about things you don’t have a heritage in?
Lora O’Brien and many other Celtic-based people have said widely that Blood and Heritage play no part in most Celtic spiritual practices. What they say is more important, and what I have experienced as an Celtic Pagan with an Irish focus, is that Right Relationship is more important that “Right Blood”.
Here’s a great article by Lora O’Brien on the topic of Cultural Appropriation and Irish Paganims.
She also has several videos on her YouTube channel that help in this regard.
I hope this helped answer some of your questions and we’re always open for healthy and civil discussions
Greetings everyone, I know this can be a touchy subject so for me I bring it down to this simple statement, “and ye harm none, do as you will”. In my practice I probably have numerous things from other cultures, but they are used in a most respectful way. I would say do the required research then make your decision on how to proceed. Blessed be.
I too follow Lora. I respect her views, but do not agree with all of her conclusions. Bottom line, It’s important to her and I can deal. Therefore, it’s not a problem for me. Re cultural appropriation: I grow my own sage. I use it in cleansing ceremonies. My ancestors used smugging as well. They called it by a different name. I gain nothing in my practice. I honor the unity of mankind. I try to walk a balance. Let’s talk. The opinions of indigenous peoples matters, but I am a person too, who must also identify as someone.