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Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation

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#1 Oroboros

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 12:43 AM

I'd really like to know where different practitioners draw their lines, or if they have lines, on this topic.

To be clear, I'm not talking about how many generations of witches you come from. If that is the case this topic will not probably apply to you.

A lot of us from the States (and probably elsewhere too) are absolute genetic mutts if we are honest with ourselves. And of course there are not truly any "States" specific long standing traditions except a few very specific localized traditions like different forms of mountain magic, hoodoo, etc. And Wicca of course(cough). I know, for me what styles of practice speak to me in a "like calls to like way", not in a "it's cool because I like dream catchers" way. And In my personal experience, what speaks to you is not always your dominant genetic lineage. The areas that speak to me ARE part of my ancestry, but not the biggest piece of my DNA pie, so to speak. But, that's just me.

I certainly think if your going to claim a culture or tradition, you'd best know it very well and respect it completely. I also think ancestor veneration and assistance are important. But beyond that I do not personally have a strong opinion.

So, how do my fellow mutts determine what tradition or traditions to embrace?

Do you consider yourself bound to your dominant DNA? or Is DNA not all that important?

What about someone who was adopted from one culture and raised in another?

Do some of you consider it cultural appropriation if a witch chooses to practice a tradition that they have little DNA attached to?

Do you think this matters at all? or Do you think this is the foundation of one's practice?

Edited by Oroboros, 10 December 2015 - 01:40 AM.

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#2 Oroboros

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 01:29 AM

BY THE WAY if this is discussed somewhere else, my apologies and please point in the right direction. A search of this topic brought up an awesome thread discussing Native American practice and witchcraft- during which this was touched upon in relation to that specific topic. But I did not find discussion of this elsewhere.
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#3 Aina

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 01:37 AM

My dominant DNA is African but I also have German and Welsh in the mix. The majority of the spirits I've worked with have been African (Neteru and Orishas). I had a strong pull toward Sanatana Dharma and explored the religion but realized the pull was actually toward Siva (whom I still have a strong connection with).

I'm drawn toward Celtic music and symbols and plan on incorporating some aspects into my practice but I'm still in the beginning stages of research. As for my German blood, Industrial Music - I have so much German Industrial music that everyone thinks I'm from Germany. But I can't speak the language at all.

I feel we're drawn to what we're drawn to. I can't explain my connection with Siva, nor do I feel I have to.

If you're going to practice a path outside of your culture, you should respect it and do as much research on the path and culture as needed for you to fully understand the principles, because not everything is written from a western standpoint.

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#4 Oroboros

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 04:21 AM

Your attitude on this seems to mirror mine. It's sounds like you have a fascinating mix there.
I don't think anyone should feel they have to justify something that is a spiritual truth for them. I come from the view that on some level all life is one. If that is true- it is more likely than not that sometimes a persons spiritual path may appear to be out of step with their skin color or their birth place- and still be right for them.

With Hinduism I personally think there is an unusually good explanation for anyone who may feel drawn to an aspect of it. As Hinduism is the oldest written religion still in practice- it is not unreasonable for anyone to be spiritually linked to it. These things have been part of the spirituality of the human race for so long and so pervasively.

If you look at any comparative religions study. Starting with ancient Mesopotamia, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Hinduism- these are the ancient ancient religions (at least as far as what was written and preserved.) You would see that there are stunning similarities in the lore and legends and in the deities themselves, that are then echoed, slowly changing, altering details, but the core remaining the same and permeating all the way through to modern religions. These ARE the birth places of recorded religion. If there is such a thing as an accurate depiction of deity- it seems logical to me to go to the beginning. It makes sense to me that the most ancient known deities would have the broadest range of people that feel a kinship with them.
So, if you look at it that way- how could you not me drawn to Siva :smile: . Obviously that view is just my opinion.

Edited by Oroboros, 10 December 2015 - 04:22 AM.

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#5 Christine

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 05:41 AM

I'm totally a Heinz 57, genetically and culturally. I don't know what I could add that isn't in the other thread you mention... and I don't know if I feel comfortable, or even capable of, approaching this in a moral way. I am a very practical person, and my life has taught me that worrying about whether what I do and who-what-all I do it with is appropriate, lies beyond the bounds of what I can afford. I've got people to take care of, living, dead, and otherwise. My family taught me what they did of magical craft through the things I was forbidden, and when I learned anyway I was beaten and drugged. Nothing special there, that's how my family tradition has dealt with witch babies for hundreds of years. Since I'm not interested in stifling my gifts or abusing kids, mine is a very loose interpretation of family lore.

Following the main branch of my cultural heritage would have taken me into the southern episcopal church, with a select area of divination permitted but very little direct spellwork or even evocation. Also, contact with local nature spirits is right out. Long story short, nope.

On the other hand, the land wights here seem to recognize me. Or, you know, Norfolk could be fucking with me. This is the land five generations of my moms' moms walked, so we've had plenty of time to get noticed, and to be jerks. But more in the spirit of your inquiry, I didn't start working with the land because it was traditional to do so, but instead this was inevitable. In fact, a major stumbling block in my praxis is the lack of reliable transmission. European folkways no matter how long I study them out of love (lifelong, then) don't encompass all there is to be dealt with in this region. Disease and war have fractured local knowledge; in fact the people who could have helped me, the Scikoak, were wiped out by Powhattan. I've said it here before, but it bears restating, that I view my role in the scroll of ancestors as an instigator of tradition, more than an upholder. And yeah, this is undoubtedly the result of having so many histories to weave together.

My outlook on this was very much different, by the way, when I was a maiden. At that time, I felt that I could see the moral implications of my choices, and my magics, much more clearly. Maybe it was indeed so. At that time, I felt very strongly that the imperative of working within the ancient traditions of the land underfoot trumped all cultural considerations. Family heritage seems much more significant to me now.

Your questions are good questions. They may not be answerable, but I really like that you've formulated them.

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#6 travsha

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 05:13 PM

Cultural appropriation is based on the idea that someone can own a culture.... Which has never been the case in all of human history. No one can own a tradition or practice or style. Humans have always learned from each other and influenced each other and whenever we meet we rub off on one another.

Now saying you practice a specific tradition when you really know nothing of the tradition will make you look like an asshole for sure. Trying to pretend to be something you are not will make you look silly too. But learning from another culture or adopting practices you learned from them is pretty normal.

For a while I tried to learn the practices of my ancestors only.... It felt incredibly forced and fake, and also pretty impossible since I have ancestry from 10+ different countries and who knows where all those ancestors originally came from. I dont live anywhere close to those places my family used to live either. Go far enough back and chances are we are all related in some way right? People dont generally stay put in one piece of land but borders change and people intermingle and their are migrations and such. How is someone with ancestors from 10 countries supposed to follow where the people of all those countries came from before that, and who intermarried who? And what would be the point?

Eventually I decided to just follow my heart... Led me somewhere I wouldnt have expected and which has little to do with my DNA... But it feels so much more natural and so much more "me." And in the end, I still dont practice any one cultures tradition - I have let my own tradition develop and evolve naturally the same way I develop myself. I'd rather just be one with myself and one with the Earth then focus too much on limiting myself to just one culture, or trying to relive the past...

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#7 RapunzelGnome

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 08:32 PM

Culture is a fluid liquid thing. It can't be owned and it is constantly changing.

In the modern world, no person is completely isolated in their own culture anymore. The culture we are living in is a melting pot of all world cultures and the Internet makes that even more true than ever before. Like many have said, most of us Americans are mutts, I have equal parts Nordic blood, Native American blood and Celtic blood, but I was raised in a culture that is completely different than any of those traditions. Some days, I feel that I can claim those traditions as my own, and other days I feel that I have no claim to any of them. My closest connection, from the craft perspective, is the granny magick practiced by my mom's side of the family, but even that is an amalgamation of a bunch of different elements and I am a generation removed from having "lived in it".

The key is respect. I approach all these traditions (and even some that I have no blood connection to, as far as I know) with respect and humility, seeking after knowledge and wisdom. I want to understand the big picture of all these traditions, and as I learn more about them, the similarities are often striking. Somewhere in the midst of those common threads I find golden truths that really speak to me. Somewhere, in understanding all of the creation stories and the folklore and ritual, I find MY culture, and that is not the same as anyone else's... Really. I am careful not to exploit cultures for personal gain or attention or act like an expert or sage in any of these traditions , but in my personal practice, I think that all of it is open to me. If I'm working with spirits that are specific to a certain tradition, then I research the heck out of how to pay proper respect, and part of that includes talking to people who are experts.

We all know what cultural appropriation looks like in its worst forms. The way EVERYONE is Irish on St Pats as an excuse to get plastered and wear green, but even if they do have Irish ancestry, they couldn't show you where Cork on a map and they definitely don't know shit about Brigit or Tuatha Dé Danann. We see the cheap "Native" art they sell at truck stops that was made in a factory in Bangledesh while the artisans at the reservation down the highway can't pay they rent.

We know what it REALLY looks like...don't do THAT. Do your research. Get to know people whose families are the real deal. Go directly to the source for wisdom, and supplement it with academic works so that you can understand it from your own cultural context without fooling yourself. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of patience, and you've got to get people to trust you. But it's worth it. Bask your own ancestors to help you out and you will be led to the right truths that you need.

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#8 Oroboros

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 09:39 PM

Travsha said...
"Eventually I decided to just follow my heart... Led me somewhere I wouldnt have expected and which has little to do with my DNA... But it feels so much more natural and so much more "me." And in the end, I still dont practice any one cultures tradition - I have let my own tradition develop and evolve naturally the same way I develop myself. I'd rather just be one with myself and one with the Earth then focus too much on limiting myself to just one culture, or trying to relive the past... "

------------------------------
This seems to sum up nicely where a lot of us, including myself, eventually settled on with this. I have heard and read discussions by people that are so intent on the DNA issue that if a practitioner says they are drawn outside their own culture, it is suggested they get a DNA mapping to see if what they are drawn to is actually in their genes somewhere. As though, without that explanation their practice cannot be legitimate. I have heard it said that if one is adopted they MUST follow the tradition of their blood ancestry as opposed to what they were raised in. While that is not an issue I have had to contend with myself- I do think the family you choose is often far more your true family than the one you are born with- so obviously I take issue with that stance.


@R.G. Well said :clap:

Edited by Oroboros, 10 December 2015 - 09:40 PM.

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...From ev’ry depth of good and ill , The mystery which binds me still...— Poe

#9 Aina

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 10:22 PM

You can't really use the mapping your DNA as a way of going about it though because you're not getting a true picture. You get the largest chunk of your DNA from your parents and a small percentage from your grandparents, an even smaller percentage from your great-grandparents, etc. A lot of the original ancestral DNA won't be passed on to everyone in the family. It's also randomly distributed, so you won't get the same thing your siblings get (unless you're twins).

And the whole DNA mapping things is worse among black people, my god if I hear "you should be practicing an ATR" one more time and it's not even directed at me because they know I could give two rat's asses what they think about me. But.... Not every African American is from Western Nigeria, so no, we shouldn't all be practicing Ifa. :no:

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#10 Oroboros

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Posted 10 December 2015 - 11:36 PM

@ Aina- Are you sure? lol. People are a trip. I have been told I cannot possibly have Native American ancestry because I'm pale. Hmm. I have even been corrected on how to pronounce my own last name. The arrogance of folks on things they know nothing about is amazing.
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...From ev’ry depth of good and ill , The mystery which binds me still...— Poe

#11 Aina

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 12:51 AM

Chromosome mapping isn't as easy as everyone thinks it is. I had an autosomal test done to show the ethnic breakdown in my body. But that's not the whole picture, it's just the ethnic breakdown in "my body". I'd need to get the oldest living male relative in my family tested (Y-DNA, women can't get this test) and the oldest living female in my family tested (mtdna - men and women can get this done) to continue the mapping process The further back you go, the more info you'll get.

I'm not an expert and it was a year ago when I got my testing done. But I just can't see how someone can tell another person that they have to follow the path of one of the races in their genetic makeup. Because an autosomal test (ethnic breakdown) is not chromosome mapping. It's just one step in that process.

And let's not forget that humans are migratory, whether forced or not. So when you leave your homeland and move to another area, it's only natural that some of their culture gets assimilated into your own. The similarities between the two becomes a bridge that unites them. My ancestors were able to hold on to some of their spiritual practices by mixing it with Catholicism (is that even spelled right??) because they saw similarities between the Orisha's or Lwa's and the saints.

Sometimes I wonder how much of this is about division. Telling someone they can't practice something because their white, or black, Latino...it's just another way of keeping people divided. Honest spirituality is pure, no matter what culture you find it in. Spirituality is personal, it's internal work and finding who you are.

And now I'm ranting :yes:

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#12 Oroboros

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 01:00 AM

I applaud a good rant, personally. :smile:

Of course, in one way Christianity is to European craft what Catholicism is to Vodou. Forgive me if everyone knows this-I'm sure most do. Easter/Ostara, Yule/Christmas, etc.. The reason "Christian" tradition is so damn pagan is as Christianity infiltrated Europe they didn't replace Paganism- they incorporated it. Even a lot of the places of worship remained the same. The lore was altered, disguised, melded, so that the Pagans could retain some of their beliefs and practices safely (or at least attempt to.) And simultaneously, the Christian leadership, like any insidious large group take over, realized that in order to gain the cooperation of the locals, they had to not expect them to change their practices entirely- so both groups, for completely different reasons, blended the traditions significantly. BY THE WAY, it is super entertaining to explain the details of why Christian holidays are really very pagan- not just in origin but in practice- to an uptight judgmental Christian. Talk about a "you can't handle the truth" moment. :)

Edited by Oroboros, 11 December 2015 - 01:14 AM.

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...From ev’ry depth of good and ill , The mystery which binds me still...— Poe

#13 Oroboros

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 01:48 AM

Okay, here is a "coincidence" for you. I have no idea what this person's views are- so this is not a plug. However, I am cleaning, and I have already caught up on my favorite podcasts, so I'm checking out some of the others I listen to occasionally. So, currently playing is the most recent Wigglian Way podcast- about 10 minutes in so far and it is an interview with someone named Pegi Eyers (an author) and she is discussing this very topic. It's episode 135 if anyone is interested.

It sounds interesting, but it sounds rather more rigid than I think most of us would be comfortable with- but we shall see.

Edited by Oroboros, 11 December 2015 - 01:52 AM.

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...From ev’ry depth of good and ill , The mystery which binds me still...— Poe

#14 Aina

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 02:11 AM

I'm listening to it right now. She states that she believes we should practice based on our DNA as well. The interesting thing is, around the 22:48 mark, she states to go back 3, 4, or 5 generations and start from there. That does nothing for me, my ancestors were slaves at that time. But to be more specific, the 5th generation back for me would be my 3rd great grandfather, who according to family history was the son of a slave and slave owner and the slave owner may have been German. So, I would still be starting with a mixed ancestry.
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#15 Oroboros

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 02:14 AM

Yeah, I'm not real impressed either.

There is a beautiful piece of music in the episode though:).

Edited by Oroboros, 11 December 2015 - 02:16 AM.

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...From ev’ry depth of good and ill , The mystery which binds me still...— Poe

#16 Aina

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 02:32 AM

I've found a lot of good music through podcasts...lol.
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#17 Caps

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 06:08 AM

I say study and practice what interests you and what inspires you. I think martial arts are a great example of something that can be viewed in a parallel fashion. People study fighting techniques from all over the world yet they often are not practiced by the people from whom they originated. Just because someone is not Korean but studies Tae Kwon Do doesn't mean they're potentially any less formidable of a warrior than someone who is, it all depends on training and discipline if they are willing to go to any length. Having a good teacher or point of reference can usually make all the difference as well as drive and determination.


Here's the link to the other thread just because no one's posted it yet:

http://www.tradition...text-shamanism/

"It is the still and silent sea that drowns a man." - Old Norse proverb

"It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war."

#18 RapunzelGnome

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 05:41 PM

Exactly. I think that having an ancestral connection might make it *easier* to bond with a tradition, but it's certainly not the only way to bond with it or to make it a part of your life.

And any religious leader will tell you, sometimes converts are the ones that are strongest and most zealous in their faith, because it was a deliberate choice that they made to go in a new direction.

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#19 Oroboros

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 06:09 PM

I like the Tae Kwon Do metaphor. For one, that, like Yoga, and like witchcraft, can be religious, spiritual, or mostly just the craft itself depending on the practitioner. (I'm aware there are those who would argue that you cannot have one without the other, but the same argument would hold for Yoga.) Yet there are people who avidly practice Tae Kwon Do, and know exactly shit about the culture beyond that. That is even more true for practitioners of certain types of Yoga. These things are done with no understanding or respect for whence they came or the underlying principles by tons of people and this is accepted as the norm.

I personally would not do either without having a good understanding of the underlying principles- not just out of respect, though that is another good reason.
---But how can you feel you are doing something in the way it is meant to be done, and therefore how can you truly understand and wield the power of that thing if you do not even understand it any deeper than the mechanical aspects of it? ----Yet, I have never heard this practice criticized or labeled as cultural appropriation- interesting.

I do find it amusing how many fundamentalist Christians actively participate in both of these things with NO CLUE or care that they tie intimately into deep spiritual principles that they would not otherwise be caught dead embracing.

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...From ev’ry depth of good and ill , The mystery which binds me still...— Poe

#20 RapunzelGnome

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Posted 11 December 2015 - 08:51 PM

I have a fundy friend that won't watch horror movies or Harry Potter because it might "open spiritual gateways." She said she couldn't condone it when our mutual friend took a reiki class and some belly dancing lessons . But she yet does yoga daily, in blissful ignorance.

Oh if she only she knew what I was up to....

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