I love the acceptance and openess of the Spell8 group. I recently tried to take a Irish paganism course. I was dismayed that some Irish Pagans feel Americans are appropriating someone else’s culture. I felt so sad. The majority of my ancestors were Celtic from Centeral Europe to Ireland. The Celtic Tribes covered most of Europe in the Neolithic and beyond. She further stated unless you visited their sacred sites you could not claim to be Celtic. I have been online for months, visiting ancient Celtic Mesolithic sites. I feel moved, I feel the sacred, I see the symbols. If you are an American, you know we come from elsewhere. Many of our ancestors escaped European states due to starvation, political conflict, or for religious reasons. Our spiritual selves desire a culture. I love Native American values, but I am not of Native American stock. I honor this by not making their spirituality my own without cultural relationships. Are Americans to be without a culture, without a historical spiritual history? Are we without a culture? Even though I paid for a course, I could not continue. Many Americans kept their roots in mind. We deserve better. Now I understand how other displaced cultural groups feel. Yes, all land is sacred, yet, not all lands belong to us.
You bring up a interesting point. I don’t know how to answer that. I’m Italian, Irish and Native American. I do understand what you’re saying.
I’m not even sure what my heritage is. I go with what moves me but I would never intentionally disrespect any culture. America is such a melting pot we all have bits and pieces. Plus if you believe in reincarnation the possibilities are endless. Trust your intuition.
Very interesting topic, Wendy!
I feel the same as @christina4. My ancestry is both European and American, I have two citizenships (and married to a third one), and I was raised in and out of syncretic religions.
I am personally opposed to those who feel the need to label their path based on a single nationality or ethnicity. Culture is dynamic and ever-evolving. The movement of people (migration) is a part of life.
We understand the history of colonization and exploitation because we are the result of those actions, but I believe good things (culturally) also came from that. I embrace mixing and matching for its unique value, not to justify future or on-going systems of oppression.
Thanks for sharing this experience with us @wendy4! Which paganism school was it?
I am beginning to agree with you. I need to broaden my vision to include all regions and all times. By not limiting my definition of culture or deity, I can be a citizen of the world. I need to think deeply about this. The school was https://irishpaganschool.com/courses/enrolled?_ga=2.244560197.1199716969.1597215316-941401187.1597215316. Thank you again for your wisdom.
Thanks for bringing this up. I adhere to the “citizen of the world” view. But I understand this too:
When they talk about Americans appropriating, it probably has to do with the influence of Wicca/Neopaganism in America too. A lot of Wicca is based on folk tradition from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, which are all active Celtic countries.
I think what Lora from the Irish Pagan School tries to teach is that they are still a living, breathing culture in Ireland. So it may be a matter of respect for them in Ireland to want you to learn the language and become more involved today, and not to see it as just an “ancient” thing.
That’s probably why they get to claim the term “Celtic”. Because they still exist and don’t want to be conflated with other (diluted) forms of paganism that exist around the world. Have you tried asking her about this?
I am listening to her now. Yes that is her stance. I felt I owed it to her to understand. She is getting feedback from others with my feelings. Others feel disconnected from their ancestral cultures. Many European-Americans were both removed from their roots and colonized land that was not theirs. I wanted to learn the culture from the source. I understand her point of view, I just want to find a place as well. Sad.
I think she understands it intellectually,but she does not “feel” it. One Irish American made the point of saying, our families left so yours could stay. Difficult conversations. We’re talking about the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural respect.
That’s very moving!!
I’m not an expert on those topics but I understand cultural appropriation is a real thing and a real problem. Having said that, I don’t think that respectful exploration of another culture is appropriation, especially when your ancestors participated in that culture.
I know that Ronald Hutton is one of the best writers on the topic of Celtic Paganism. Have you read The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles?
Here’s a reading guide for Celtic Reconstructionism that may be useful too: http://www.paganachd.com/faq/readinglist.html#totallynew
Thank you for the information! I’m ordering now. I’ glad I can ask about such sensitive topics. I want to be respectful, not entitled.
Here is a quote from the Celtic Reconstruction Site: “There are some survivals of pre-Christian Celtic traditions in the lore and folk practices of the Celtic countries and the Celtic diaspora but, after centuries of Christian overlay, most people do not find these folk traditions by themselves to be a whole or viable spiritual path. By studying the old manuscript sources and the regional folklore, combining this information with mystical and ecstatic practice, and working together to weed out the non-Celtic elements that can arise, we are nurturing what still lives and helping the polytheistic Celtic traditions grow strong and whole again. We approach this in part by trying to envision what different Celtic Paganisms might look like today if they had been uninterrupted by Christianity, much as Hinduism has changed over the centuries, remaining the same religion but changing in form with the changing times.” This is my interest. Thank you.
this is just my personal thoughts and i wish no harm or offense to anyone but i sometime wonder when people say that a certain culture can only belong to a certain group of people that when will we become a united nation of us just all being human. At some point or another we need to move beyond borders etc and just allow people to embrace and celebrate each others cultrue, roots, wisdom etc. If anything my personal opinion is that knowledge should be shared. I’m not indian but ive been to india a few times was encouraged to try on their traditional garments, eat their food etc. It was nice to have an immersive experience when i travelled their. It gives you more insight into a culture i guess. I dunno i just sometimes think that we need to stop slapping labels on things and just go im a child of earth period. thats just my thoughts again i dont want to disrespect any cultures or customs but i just feel that unity is paramount to us ever getting to a stage of global peace.
No offence taken at all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as well.
I believe that the intention behind it is the most important thing. If you truly care about learning and growing, and you do it with an open mind and heart, respectfully, then go ahead.
I don’t know much about cultural appropriation but I’m sure “cultural exploitation” happens: When the intent is selfish, for showing off, or to make a quick profit. That’s when the line is crossed.
Having said that, it’s best to ask an experienced person from that culture. But, even then, they probably don’t speak for everyone in that culture…
This is a very fascinating and complex topic, @wendy4! Thank you for bringing it up I studied global studies (sometimes called area/ethnic studies) for my bachelor’s degree and after so many years of learning about it, I can confidently say I still don’t know nearly enough to take a hard stance! Each situation is unique and has so many facets- and there seems to be no hard line between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when it comes to intertwining cultures.
There are many benefits when different cultures can learn and share with one another. Great things come from mixing and merging- new accents/languages, ideas, improvements in many sectors, better living conditions, life lessons, fusion food, etc. The merging of people and cultures helps promote open-mindedness and peace across borders. Because, after all- country borders are usually a non-tangible idea drawn by politics. All over the world, people have a lot more in common with one another than they do differences.
That being said, most travelers or those with an interest in another culture will agree- differences are the spices of life. Learning other cultures, languages, fashions, folk tales, etc is so interesting! I think it is wonderful to celebrate our unique heritage and what makes us who we are. It provides a sense of identity and community, and culture enriches our lives in many ways. It is good to be proud of who you are and where you came from, and absolutely okay to respectfully appreciate other cultures and heritages as well.
The problem lies when differences are used to hurt or belittle others. This has unfortunately happened throughout history and led to some of the controversy around cultural appropriation today. Not to mention, like Franscisco says, cultural exploitation and the taking advantage of other cultures for monetary gain.
I am sorry that your class didn’t have the open-mindedness and welcoming atmosphere you were hoping for, @wendy4. I think you are wonderful for listening to the stance of the class and hearing their thoughts on the matter. It seems that they are presenting their class from their point of view and in my opinion, they have the right to do so. I don’t think, however, that they have the right to ‘gatekeep’ Irish Americans from their heritage. If you feel connected with this history, you have every right to continue to learn about it respectfully. Perhaps there is another class that takes a different viewpoint on the matter? It sounds very interesting and I hope that you can find a way to pursue your studies in a way that resonates best with you
Cultural appropriation is a big topic in the news today. I think it is important to open up discussion about things like this, as many people have different opinions around cultural affairs. It is a big fascination of mine, and I’m also grateful to have a place where we can share our personal thoughts and all talk about such issues respectfully! Thanks again, @wendy4!
I do not want to cause pain to anyone, yet I have needs as well. There are no hard rules here, just a continuum. One problem I have is that my ancestors left tragedies, and caused the decimation of others. We too need a space, and we need to give colonized peoples their own space. We did leave so others could stay, and were in a position to hurt other complex, whole cultures. The School I looked at, I continue to follow because I understand feelings. Yet, there are billions of Americans who cannot claim a Native American Culture, and our ancestor cultures do not value us either. The majority of people react in ways that are harmful to all (white supremacy groups for example). I do really think until an Earth culture is accepted, we will have ethnic problems. Many Americans fear a “Universal Government” or “Universal Health Care for All”. Many conservative Americans fear these things. Yet, when I look at the needs of all groups, I see these things as the solution to the acceptance to the needs for all mankind. I have ideas, questions, and confusion, but the conversation is necessary to save humanity. We cannot solve global warming and the consequences without such discussions.
You have put a lot of thought and heart into these very deep and resonating issues, @wendy4! I feel like you are on the right path, and I wish that more people were willing to face the problems in the world right now with such grace and empathy And I agree- communication is the key to moving forward and overcoming challenges! Spaces like this, where everyone can come together and discuss respectfully are vital for a peaceful world
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom!
I have been reading books I ordered from this reading list. The Mythological Cycle in traditional lore recounts five successive groups of invaders said to have occupied Ireland before the ancestors of the Gaels eventually settled there.
It made me think, European Americans have a story too. We left (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England) to invade another land as well. Maybe we do have our own culture, we just have to remember the stories as before and after. We do not need to divorce ourselves from either our ancestral cultures, or from a culture we are inventing with people from many lands here! If America is a melting pot, maybe that is not such a bad thing. Maybe we can transform this into an appreciation for all groups.
Maybe it is okay to grow from one into more. Nothing needs to be forgotten, just added to. Just another thought.
I agree with that sentiment!
But it’s okay if you feel Irish-American! Irish immigrants didn’t really “invade”, they were refugees and were severly discriminated against.
As far as I know, Irish immigrants in New York were considered a separate race and relegated to separate, Irish-only neighborhoods. So they had to develop a strong sense of kinship and pride in their own culture (Irish-American).
It may not the same as being a full-blooded Irish person, but there’s certainly a meaningful connection.
My earliest ancestors came to America in the mid 1600’s. They were religious refugees. But from another point of view, Native Americans were invaded. It’s a matter of your point of view.