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Cultural Appropriation


Oroboros
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I came across the following a few minutes ago. It's taken from the Celtic Heritage site.

 

"Simply having Celtic ancestors does not give one any special insight into Celtic civilization. It can provide one with a powerful motivation to learn about Celtic culture, but it will not, in and of itself, give one a superior aptitude to learn. This is, in some ways, a peculiarly American problem: when our families came to this continent as immigrants many of them lost the use of their languages and all direct access to their ancestral cultures, so that genetic lineage has come to be more important than culture itself in defining ethnic identities within what is really one vast Anglo cultural continuum with regional variations.

 

"Taken too far, this can lead to a really obnoxious form of racism, as in the claim that one's genetic background must define one's cultural allegiance the claim that people with black skins, for instance, should only be attracted to African traditions (and, conversely, should have no place in European ones), or that only people with Native American "blood" (however little) should have any involvement with Native American cultures, and so forth.

 

"Given the amount of ethnic mixing that has taken place here, the demand for "pure" ethnicity becomes ludicrous. As someone who is part-Russian, part-French, what single ethnic label could I possibly give myself? I suppose I could claim a "Gaulish" lineage through my mother's side, but it would have very little to do with why I am attracted to Celtic culture, and why I've devoted much of my life to studying and defending it. I know people of "Celtic" descent who are actively participating in African traditions, and people of African descent on this continent who feel drawn to Celtic things. For that matter, I know people of African descent in Wales and Scotland who are fluent in Welsh and Gaelic and have completely embraced Celtic language, culture and ethnic identity. One major promoter of the Breton language is Japanese."

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Aina, I was going to say something along the same lines here but you beat me to it. That is a good article & it makes you think. It's an important topic that is not a popular one to discuss-as far as I am aware of, anyway. I don't know why though.

 

Oroboros, there are some threads with conversations touching on the topic of ancient religions here in the forums and if you haven't come across them yet- I bet you would enjoy reading about them and could, perhaps, contribute your own thoughts too. Lots of interesting things to read on this general topic and some unique perspectives shared.

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Aina, I was going to say something along the same lines here but you beat me to it. That is a good article & it makes you think. It's an important topic that is not a popular one to discuss-as far as I am aware of, anyway. I don't know why though.

 

Oroboros, there are some threads with conversations touching on the topic of ancient religions here in the forums and if you haven't come across them yet- I bet you would enjoy reading about them and could, perhaps, contribute your own thoughts too. Lots of interesting things to read on this general topic and some unique perspectives shared.

I am interested. You don't happen to remember the title of the thread(S) you are referring to do you? Do you think searching "ancient religions" would get it done?

Edited by Oroboros
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I am interested. You don't happen to remember the title of the thread(S) you are referring to do you? Do you think searching "ancient religions" would get it done?

 

You could try searching that particular phrase, sure. I don't have a lot of time this morning to search (plus sometimes the search button doesn't pull stuff up for me). Here are three I remember off the top of my head, to get you started. You can check the myths & legends section as well, maybe. I have to get going for now, but have fun searching & reading.

 

Sin, The Mesopotamian Moon God...

http://www.traditionalwitch.net/forums/topic/11671-sin-the-mesopotamian-moon-god/?hl=%2Bancient+%2Breligion

 

Luciferian Gnosis...

http://www.traditionalwitch.net/forums/topic/4845-luciferian-gnosis/?hl=hindu

 

The next one is a book list-but a worthwhile mention for further reading..

 

Material recommendations for Hekate Study...

http://www.traditionalwitch.net/forums/topic/11796-material-recommendations-for-hekate-hecate-study/?hl=luciferian

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  • 1 month later...

I am a little late to this thread, but I thought I would weigh in. I only follow the traditions of 1/4 of my genetic make-up. I am a typical American mutt. The quarter I follow is my Mother's Mother's heritage and traditions. I am glad I have a rich tradition to follow, and it is passed down for a few generations, BUT being that it is not even half of my heritage, I am denying a lot of tradition and the flavors of those other cultures. So in my case this is still a high degree of appropriation. I have to side with Caps above, study and practice what speaks to you. The spirit/egregor of a tradition is stronger than any DNA coursing through our veins. So I believe we as humans can follow the footsteps of any one or combo of traditions while still fully embodying the power of that culture. If you walk with respect, I don't view it as appropriation, but honoring the truth of a tribe that inspires your craft to a higher level!

P.S., I follow my Grandmother's traditions, which is Eastern European, but go back a few generations from her and it is further split (Russian Jew, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Roma, etc. Etc.) So this isn't even an American issue, I think it affects most humans if you go back enough generations :)

Edited by witchpriest
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  • 3 weeks later...

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

My path is as void as possible from as much cultural influence as possible.  I found it much more beneficial for myself to return to a primal sort of witchcraft - that which was just everyday living for primal humanity, of which the ability to communicate with the soul and/or spirits of those human, non-human (such as animals), and other than human (spirits of the land, as well as of other non material realities) was simply natural to do.  It was not seen as anything special.  This primal form of witchery spoke to me clearly, calling me back, and therefore I did not embrace *it*, but *It* embraced me.

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

I do feel very bound
by my DNA but not in the sense of any cultural appropriation.  It is very much in regards to 'Tapping the Bone'.  To me, our DNA carries an organic memory of all who have came before us. Our DNA does far more than just supply the building blocks of which we are made (our genetic makeup),, but also contains one's Spiritual genome, so to speak, which can be far more important than blood lineage (IMO). Blood does not make one a witch.  It is the spiritual energy imprint that is passed on that makes one a witch (thus inheriting the ability of a seer, medium, etc,.)   We carry Spiritual energy as stewards to then be transmitted to the next generation. 

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

This is the very reason why bloodline cultural appropriation is less important than the Spiritual genome itself.  Once again, it isn't the bloodline that makes the witch. A bloodline may link one to a 'class' (for lack of a better term), but it does not make one a witch.  If one has inherited the DNA of centuries of a witch, and chooses to ignore the inherent abilities and go on with a mundane life, is one still a witch?  I would contend not.  Therefore, being adopted from one culture, and into another really holds little clout in the role of a witch in the true sense.

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

I think it has nothing to do with cultural appropriation for the reasons stated above and more.   In my experience (and I stress that on purpose), each person rebirth (not reincarnation) is accurate in respect to the cycle of birth and death.  In each incarnation, a person takes on a particular personality if you will.  This personality allows you to learn and experience that which is needed for you in that given incarnation.  Think of it like this.  If you look at old photographs of yourself starting at the age of four and worked up yearly to your age, you would look at them and recall lessons and unique experiences that you had at that given state in your life which were appropriate for that time.  Yet, the you today is certainly not the same as the you at 4, 7, 12, 16 etc. years old.  While you still maintain the memories of those experiences and lessons, the personalities of those times are left behind, and you have grown into your present personality.

The same can be said for this incarnation of your being.  *You* may have existed in various cultures in previous incarnations, learned the lessons and had profound experiences of those cultures, But the *you* of today is no longer those things (they may not even exist in the bloodline of your current incarnation), all the while that Spiritual genome carries that memory, waiting to be accessed.  So you may not have a DNA link to that culture, but Spiritually, the memory can be present for you to access.  So practicing outside of a tradition that you have little to no physical DNA to is less cultural appropriation than it is a Natural knowing.

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

I think the answer to this question is a matter of perspective.  To many, it is the bloodline that validates ones *status* as a witch, much like a royal bloodline validates ones royal status, but IMO it is the spiritual link, or spiritual DNA if you will that is important.  True validation comes when ones efforts on whatever path you walk come to fruition!

This of course is simply my own opinions based off of my own experiences and insights in the material and non material realities as I have navigated them.  So please take it with a grain of salt.

 

Edited by Jaesin
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  • 1 month later...

I am also totally late to this thread (judging by when it was started, and nobody has replied in a good month or two lol) but it is precisely one of the things on my mind lately and often in my recent past (the 4 and some years I've been trying to learn my path)

 

I am "mutt" as seems to be the favoured term. Haha

French and Native American on moms side. To further break down: Mi'qmak, Mohegan on her fathers side.

Her mother's father was adopted and lived on a reserve (I need to go find out again where this was, embarrassing... Of all the most traceable things in family history I should know this). He labelled everything in Michif that we have found of his which is REALLY curious because I thought that was more used westward in Canada...and he was from the east. But he had no Native blood that we are aware of. However he grew up fully immersed in the culture of his parents. (Unlike the rest of us in the family, including those with actual native blood lol how's that for irony).

 

My father is proud Scottish (obsessed with that aspect of his heritage, pushes the family tree and clan history on everyone but ignoring the Irish, welsh also from his mother's side)

And his grandfather and grandmother were German, all of his family traced before this, from Germany entirely.

 

So native, German, Scottish, welsh, Irish, French.

 

6 ingredients (which could be further broken down by tribes, clans, geographical origin, religion, etc)

 

 

So am I picking a tradition from among these? Don't even have a clue yet lol

The only learning along the lines of the craft that I had passed down to me to any extent was from my German great grandfather and maybe sorta my grandfather (but he kinda checked out and became alcoholic, and now both are passed) and a bit from my non-native great grandfather who grew up on a reserve lol...(mostly to do with herbs, natural medicines) and I mean all of this was so minimal... I was physically/geographically separated from most of my extended family most of the time after maybe the first 5-9 years of life.

 

But... I can't help feeling like I am supposed to be learning something associated with my heritage/bloodlines...

It's sad everyone was as scattered and tragic and far away or just dead and gone as they were, while I was growing up, but...there are no decisions made for me and if I do commit to a particular name-able path of any sort it will be a matter of the heart regardless.

 

As for now... I'm doing what I know, what I'm drawn to and what works... But still feel like I'm not quite "on" the track I should be yet.. :)

 

 

Cultural appropriation? Well... The truth is, unless you grew up immersed in the practices of any of those, the actual people in these geographical locations who DID grow up with their traditions will laugh and see you as an outsider largely. All of them. Some in fact will guard even the most trivial aspects of their way of life from outsiders. And if you push to learn, you will be seen as appropriating or "stealing" in many cases. This is very difficult when you are a mutt from a transplanted family history because, well, we didn't very well start a whole new culture, religion, traditions etc of our own entirely that has no ties to the past. So do we ever belong anywhere fully? ;)

 

But we are all getting more and more mixed, and this approach is getting older and older...

It's a strange wiggly line is what.

And much of the "walling up" encountered will only serve to hinder the preservation of ways of life, thought and practice. But remember it's often done because of cultural theft and then complete bastardization and abuse of traditions to make money, sell books, run super fake religious "retreats"...and the list goes on.

 

I guess the best thing to do is listen to those who actually know what they are talking about should they decide to share with you, show the upmost respect. Make deep friendships and connections and don't claim you know everything because you read a book about the place your great great great grandmother lived lol

 

It still doesn't sit right with me to have absolutely no history/cultural exposure growing up/blood (at least one of these) affiliated with a practice/tradition/lifestyle and then take it (from modern books) and claim this is you, your identification 100% of course but this is an ever changing world and I do believe sharing and learning will happen for those searching for the right reasons and behaving respectfully.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Being at least 5th generation, white Aussie, I'm definitely a mutt.  And I can't tell you what 50% of me is about because I never knew my father.  I think we have a much more laid back attitude here and more of a 'check it out, give it a go' attitude because so many people have come here from all over the world.  Something like 200 different races/nationalities now call Australia home.

 

On my mother's side, they are mostly from Britain/Ireland/Wales.  But, they are Jewish and have the whole wandering through Europe in the middle ages thing in them, so who knows what's in there.  My attractions have been to Sumer, Israel, Palestine, Central Australia and parts of Dakota.  A strange mix I know.  It took me a long time to realise I'm not attracted to a culture per se, but to land and from that, the people who developed a culture in response to that land.

 

I found it very interesting that when I was 29 I did a meditation and was given a name ongala.  Then later on, I had a very strong reaction when I came across a Lakota people known as the oglala.  To my western ears, they sound very similar.  And then I discovered the beliefs of the oglala and certain peoples of Central Australia were almost identical - particularly the belief they both came from Pleiades - yet neither group had any contact with each other that I'm aware of.  This probably speaks to my pull toward shamanic practices more than anything else.

 

And what they all have in common, (except the UK connections) is they are all desert areas.  The UK pull is more to do with recent ancestors coming from there about 5 generations ago.

 

As for cultural appropriation.  For me that's easy.  Someone who collects 'made in china' pieces cheaply, who loves the show of a culture and never goes beyond the glitz and glam is appropriating.  Someone who feels a genuine connection and does what they can to study and learn is not appropriating in the current meaning of the word.  It comes down to respect.

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I can trace my genetic heritage to basically all of Europe, and I feel like none of those cultural traditions apply for me. Its possible that no single cultural tradition matches with what I do. I built my practice from the ground up, without any research into what other cultures had done; I tried paganism, but none of it clicked. Instead, I asked the spirits in the world around me what they knew of the world, the gods, and how magic works. I based my practices in how I was guided by the immaterial world, and its been quite a rewarding experience. I suppose there's a little bit of a lot of traditions in what I practice, because every culture touches on the fundamental truths in different ways and acts on those truths they way that they need to in order to meet the needs of the communities built around them. I'm not looking to build a community. I will help people with what I do when its feasible, but mostly I'm just trying to better myself and understand the forces around me and inside me. And to do that, I will follow where my guides lead me regardless of who else has done it before me. Not to invalidate their experiences or as an attempt to take anything away from them or butcher their own belief systems, but because I need to take that path too. To speak symbolically, there are only so many paths through the same forest. Even if everyone going in and out starts in the different places and has different methods of navigation, paths have to merge and diverge and cross eventually.

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Cultural appropriation? Well... The truth is, unless you grew up immersed in the practices of any of those, the actual people in these geographical locations who DID grow up with their traditions will laugh and see you as an outsider largely. All of them. Some in fact will guard even the most trivial aspects of their way of life from outsiders. And if you push to learn, you will be seen as appropriating or "stealing" in many cases. This is very difficult when you are a mutt from a transplanted family history because, well, we didn't very well start a whole new culture, religion, traditions etc of our own entirely that has no ties to the past. So do we ever belong anywhere fully? ;)

 

But we are all getting more and more mixed, and this approach is getting older and older...

 

 

 

I grew up 'immersed' in the practises of my family.  But, I am also the product of a 'mixed' era.

 

EA, you are absolutely right, the 'enclosed' attitude is last weeks news.

 

We no longer live in a world of closed, tight communities.  We move, we emigrate, we marry different races/nationalities and settle on different continents.

 

This has plus and minus points.

 

On the plus side, I have met many other Europeans (from non-English speaking countries) who still live with several generations in the same house or close vicinity.  If your family is cool, then this is wonderful.  Someone said "It takes a village to raise a child" and I agree.  It can be wonderful to grow up in a close-knit community. 

 

On the minus side, not many of us do it any more.  We increasingly live more isolated lives.  I don't expect my kids to stay nearby when they're older.  In fact, I'd be very surprised if they do.  Travel is so easy, I certainly did it.

 

And at some point, many people look back to their 'roots'.  They want to find a base for their beliefs, their ancestry, but we're all so mixed up that it can be almost impossible to trace.

 

I watched a fascinating documentary recently about DNA.  Apparently, blue eyes (like red hair) are a genetic mutation, and scientists now have a theory, that everyone with blue eyes originated from one 'mutated' person in the Baltic region.  Do you have blue eyes?

 

I do, therefore, I'm a Baltic mutant LOL  Who knew?

 

Another theory is, that all human life, as we know it, started in Africa, and we basically all just spread out from there  It makes sense to me.

 

I guess the point I'm trying to make is, we're all cut from the same cloth.  People divide themselves into groups, it makes them feel safe and special.  But in magickal terms, the same practises are often carried out by many different groups.  One of the joys of the interweb (and being an English speaker) is that we can communicate with each other and share this fact.  What I thought was exclusive to me, isn't.  Others practise the same thing, just differently.

 

As Odalibuc, just beautifully said "there are only so many paths through the same forest".

 

If people won't share, that's their problem, carry on regardless.

 

Read everything, study everything, and hopefully you will find what suits you.

 

I myself have Irish and Italian heritage, but am a very naughty old witch, who is adding to her Book of Shadows with all sorts of 'nasty foreign' things that would make my grandmother's toe's curl!

 

It's all a matter of perspective :)

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You naughty blue-eyed witch! No, I have rather dark brown eyes. I am no mutant! Lol

I have heard a lot of people upset about the topic of "cultural theft" in my daily life in general lately and it's getting so excessive sometimes. There are things that people will claim, and then if you look back, they were borrowed from another culture, and they borrowed it from crossing paths with someone else entirely different before that. But people want to get arrogant and claim things.

 

On the other hand, if you have a unique family coat of arms, a very private family or tribal tradition, or something like this and then someone takes it to flash around as their own or make a buck, that really is horrible, and I totally get it.

But it seems like people are getting so self righteous about cultural appropriation out there on social media and such, that they are losing sight of what really is and isn't unique to their heritage or traditions, and what in fact has evolved and exchanged amongst many groups of the human race for eons.

Anyway, yeah. I'm just blathering on saying what was basically already said, cuz I'm cranky about the self-righteous sorts lol

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  • 2 weeks later...

Cultural appropriation is an anthropological concept supported by decades of research and there are over a quarter million scholarly books and articles discussing it in academic fields as varied as anthropology, sociology, law, political science, social psychology and philosophy. Cultural exchange is obviously not the same thing as appropriation or the literal experts in studying culture wouldn’t have made two wildly different terms with two wildly different definitions. Cultural appropriation is “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission … when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways.” -  from Who Owns Culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law by Fordham law professor Susan Scafidi. Cultural exchange is “an intentional act of bringing two or more people or groups together to exchange information about their differing backgrounds to understand each other.”

Obviously they are not the same thing. 

 

“Two ways in which cultural appropriation can be harmful are easily identified. The first sort of harm is violation of a property right … The second sort of harm is an attack on the viability or identity of the cultures or their members. Appropriation that undermines a culture in these ways would certainly cause devastating and clearly wrongful harm to members of the culture … Other acts of appropriation potentially leave members of a culture exposed to discrimination, poverty and lack of opportunity.” - from The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation (edited by Young and Brunk)

There are literally thousands of books by experts in the study of culture, history and law that go into detail of what appropriation is and how it is harmful, two of which I’ve cited already.

 

 

So, all in all, cultural appropriation does exist, it is extremely harmful. Cherry picking from closed traditions such as Folk Traditions across the world is wrong. Attempting to learn from a member of that Folk Tradition (who will be okay with teaching you) is okay.

Edited by mudang
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I think the most important aspect to this is: are you using someone’s cultural practices in a way that could harm that culture? Or is it something you are doing in the privacy of your own home?

 

In my area cultural appropriation usually means a white person taking on some Native American practices (I know it does have a much wider meaning than that). For example, my uncle (via marriage to my aunt) is an elder and spiritual leader in one of the local tribes. It’s a huge part of who he is, and specifically links him to his ancestors. It’s also deeply important to him because he has only been legally allowed to practice it since the 70s. I’m an American mutt, but basically of European descent. I don’t think I could ever practice any of my uncle’s beliefs without feeling very uncomfortable. It is not my culture, and my ancestors had a hand in making it illegal for my uncle and his ancestors to practice it.

 

I love reading and learning about all the different cultures and practices, but I basically lean towards the practice of my ancestors, though that is a wide swath of traditions. But I believe the bottom line is: what you do in private is your own affair, and no one has the right to tell you otherwise. It is when someone steps into the public to gain something from another culture’s practices (like a white person selling weekend warrior sweat lodges) that I think a line has definitely been crossed. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I don't there is anything wrong with wanting to learn from other cultures and participating in those cultures. The problem really begins when some takes things from a marginalized group and begins to exploit them, spread misinformation while pretending to be experts at it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I comoletely agree with that and see it a lot actually where i live. People claim things that they have taken from another culture or from someone else's traditions, they mash it up together and then they claim it as their own and make a fortune out of people that are looking for spiritual peace of mind.

I myself am a south african, yet i am white, blonde and blue eyed. My ancestry is a mix between French and Duch from what my grandmother told me, and it's actually easy to see.

I also grew up in a christian home but never felt truely drawn or satisfied with the religion. I have a deep love for celtic music and one of my biggest wishes is to live in Ireland someday. I love traditional weapons such as throwing knives, kunai, swords, tamahawks, bows and arrows and have been practicing and taught myself how to throw my knives and tamahawk.

 

So i think a person could say that these 'traditions' or 'influences' called out to me. I think for most of the people here it is like that. We practice what we are comfortable in and what we feel free in. Something that feels natural to us even though it's not in our 'DNA' so to speak.

No wrong ever comes from learning and researching what draws you, in fact it's a bonus to be more enlightened about what draws you.

The more you know the better, and the closer you feel to it.

So I also don't think that the traditions you feel drawn to should be witheld due to bloodlines or denied due to your DNA makeup. The world doesn't work around the rules of society. It was man that declared the ways that society should work. The land, spirits, energies and all other things don't work according to man made rules.

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By now, eclectic should be a tradition...I read, I experiment, I make it up as I go...because nothing is going to fit exactly, or even closely. So even my practice is a mutt, like me. I'm not interested in reconstructing imaginary history or dress-up. I am interested in connecting to the over-all stream of magical consciousness. Anything that can help me do that is worth the effort of researching and adapting for private use. I am not going to play at being a native shaman because I am not a shaman, but I am a witch and I can walk the same paths, my own way.

 

I'm Dutch, German, English and N. American, going back 4 generations. I like Vikings well enough, but I don't live in a Viking culture so what good is that? Yet Norse influence shows up subconsciously. I still live in this era of time and this place.

Edited by Zombee
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  • 9 months later...

I was born in Britain, have a long ancestry to Britain, and have a surname which is centuries old, but I do not feel that the path I have chosen is down to DNA, but more to my feelings to my ancestry. If it were DNA, I could have Roman, Angle, Viking, Saxon or goodness knows what in me!

My path is taking me down a route of traditional British witchcraft, mainly using what is native to this island. However, the internet and global shipping open up all sorts of supplies from other lands, so I do use non-native herbs etc, and there is enough information available on these items to be able to know if they will be of use.

One aspect of my path (and is influenced by) is I often think of how witches worked a thousand years ago. They must have only been able to use products local to them, say herbs for example, which they must have grown or sourced from local woods, countryside or markets.

Trees, I feel, may have played a large part in their craft.

I often think of a witch finding a pebble on a beach or on the river bank, feeling it to be a good pebble, and using it as a charm, but never knowing if it was a precious stone like Agate or Jasper or Tiger's eye, and to be honest, it it probably a standard pebble. But if it felt right, why not use it.

 

Sorry if I have rambled on  :P

Edited by Nemesisuk
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I'm Polish, Slavic, Swedish and straight up New England Puritan/English. Of course, there could be more, but I've never gotten DNA testing done. The one I'm most drawn to is New England/English folk magic, and not just because it's "trendy". It fits somehow. I'm drawn to the folklore and fairy tales of the Slavs otoh, though I've never felt drawn to their magical practices.

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This is something I've been thinking of lately. I'm of mixed ancestry as well. The longer I delve into different aspects of witchcraft, the more diverse cultural themes pop up. Not only as in what speaks to me but visions I have and spirits that interact with me. It bothers me a little and I'm not sure how to blend these aspects into something harmonious.

 

There is a lot of Native American influence which makes sense as my grandma was half Shawnee. And I live in the U.S. But there is some Hindu influence as well. Maybe all that transcendental meditation I was doing?  I read a lot of OSHO. There is also Celtic influence and Anglo-Saxon which is my ancestry. These aren't things I went after or was necessarily interested in. This is my inner landscape. My little corner of the Otherworld.

 

I've come across some opinions about people who collect spiritual practices like trading cards or treat spirituality like a buffet. But I didn't choose this. It just is. So, I would say that ,among other things, a witch is a portal. And as such would have access to many different spiritual groups. Especially in these times where nearly everyone is exposed to many cultural influences, even if only through literature and the arts.

Edited by Anubha
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  • 4 weeks later...

Although I agree cultural practices cannot be owned, you can find many who basically admit they are appropriating and assigning ownership to the things they take, but take them anyway. Why would someone outside of the southern region of North America combine turquoise, silver and the skulls of animals of this region (just an example) if not to appropriate another culture, when they have no ties to it.

 

I wouldn't do it myself and I think it's in slightly bad taste to adopt an expression of a cultural trait from a certain country (practicing a cultural trait in a way exclusive to one region) when there is no connection between you or your land and them and their land? Because then you are connecting neither with your land nor theirs. By all means, white Americans can practice native tradition, but I do think they should do it under guidance of those whose ancestors spent generations understanding.

 

It's a paradox, or something similar. People may adopt elements of a tradition but still call it something that links it. If they don't believe in cultural appropriation, why continue to name it that way? I think a lot of people, turning away from the middle eastern religion they were often raised in, struggle with an identity crisis. I know I did/do. By all means be inspired by those who inspire you, but I would hope that one is respectful. By respectful I mean actually try and bond with those who have a link to this culture you have appropriated, or make it clear it is your own (often uninformed) interpretation of what they do. Shouldn't be using a Inuit deer hoof rattle as part of any random practice and still call it whatever they call it, it has become something else.

 

Personally, I would not seek a bond with anything outside of Brittonic, Slavic or Scandinavian culture or magic, or Bronze Age (or previous) British imagery. I feel that well and truly accepting these chalk downlands as my homeland (I'm the only one in my family born and bred in this region, my connection is stronger than the others) has rewarded me with the trust to use its imagery and history with maybe a little more ambiguity than a tourist would be allowed. I feel this range extends, to a lesser extent, across Britain, though there are high points (west coast of Scotland and the islands) and east Midlands (Lincolnshire, and the Danelaw generally). This range weakens of course because Britain is by no means a historically (or prehistorically) homogeneous land mass of people, although culture is widely similar.

 

My Polish and Danish (more so) roots offer me, I feel, a window into two other worlds, but as they are distant these are by no means assumed or automatic and I have to be more respectful, or maybe less casual, than I can be seeking Brittonic and prehistoric British inspiration.

 

This is just my perspective, and I wouldn't howl at someone who honestly believes they are respectfully using tradition and rite from a very foreign culture to their own. We don't own the land, or the animals and minerals that can be found on and in it (despite how people try), but I do think it is only respectful to engage with those whose ancestors have worked hard to interpret and learn it, rather than the magical equivalent of saying "Ooo, that person's worked hard at that book, I'll have it for free, thanks!" and go on to talk about how it is actually a door stop.

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One of the ways that I look at this issue, applied specifically to spirituality/magic, is this this:

 

Let's say I'm a lawyer, but I get it into my head that I'm meant to be a heart surgeon. I went to law school, my business card says "lawyer on it"... but that alone shouldn't really inherently prevent me from going back to medical school, putting the hard work in, and training to become a heart surgeon. Ok, fair enough. But let's say that heart surgeons - and indeed, the entire field of medicine - has been fucked over by lawyers for centuries. And let's say that as a result of this, no medical school will offer to teach me medicine, on the grounds that it's their field, they don't like me, and they don't feel like they have any reason to teach it to me. What is one to do? I could call myself a heart surgeon, but still keep practicing law, but that's just ridiculous. I could just go ahead and try doing an open heart surgery anyway, but that will undoubtedly have serious negative repercussions. Or, I could just resign myself that I'm probably never going to be a heart surgeon in this lifetime, and if I don't like law, maybe I should just study something else entirely. Maybe someday I'll have enough good fortune to gain the trust of some heart surgeons who will teach me anyway - and if that happens, and I learn how to perform open heart surgery, then great, I can do that then - but it's probably best not to hold my breath, and just roll with the situation as it is. 

 

I've definitely been drawn to some paths in my life - certain Native American tribes' religions, some African Diasporic stuff - that seemed like they were really calling me, but when it came down to it, I realized that I'm probably never going to be legitimately initiated into those traditions, and if that's not the case, then I should really just leave it alone. And I get that the spiritual forces involved are not controlled by human beings, but humans do pass on the knowledge of how to contact those spiritual forces. Reading a book and having a feeling that it's right is not going to give me enough familiarity with the spiritual technology (eg ritual forms, means of trance-induction, etc) to really work with those forces. If they are really calling to me, if it is my life's path, then chances are someone who does have familiarity with that path and is willing to teach will cross paths with me anyway. 

 

(I should note that the above is something I've had to learn the hard way, and it took a lot of humility to reach those conclusions). 

 

***

 

And now, since everyone else is sharing about their own genetic backgrounds and how that ties into their paths: On my mothers side it's half Ashkenazi Jew, half a mix of Irish and German; on my father's side, it's half from southern Italy, the other half a mix of German, Scottish, and English. The two lineages I currently work with as far as Ancestors go both on my mother's side: her father's paternal line, who are Jews, and her mother's maternal line which goes back to Ireland. I'm involved in Druidry, so I guess the Celtic stuff in there covers that. I work with some Greek deities, which I suppose is covered by the Italian, and a particular Celtic deity has been calling to me recently in trancework, although there's only record of him amongst the Gaulish traditions, rather than Insular. Years ago, early on my spiritual journey, I had a strong calling from Shiva, so there's a wildcard, though I don't really work with him anymore, for the most part. My training in magic comes from several human teachers - one trained in general "shamanism", one who works entirely with Ancestral healing, and one whose traditional witchcraft is rooted mostly in stuff from the British Isles, Germanic folklore, and Scandinavian trolldom stuff. Plus I do duel-faith observance with (albeit very heterodox) Christianity, and dabble in stuff like astrology, Tarot, and kabbalah. And of course, I learn the most from the spirits, particularly of nature and of the dead. As an animist, I try to seek out places of power in my locale, and honor the spirits there, but I certainly don't claim to practice the traditions of the local tribes. 

 

Well, make of that what you will. 

 

***

 

As a closing note, I dream of a day when the societal systems we live under to-day - capitalism, colonialism, racism, sexism, the dual monopoly of conservative Christianity and reductionist materialism over all philosophical and religious fields, etc - are long gone, when we live in some better world, and I imagine that when such a world exists, the shamans and witches of all continents will have no more need for secrecy and suspicion of outsiders, and will form vast global networks where practitioners of all traditions will learn from each other and help each other to hone humanity's collective spiritual technology, and better our relationship with the spiritual otherworld. Such a thing is nothing more than a pipe-dream in the society we live in, but someday, maybe. 

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I can relate to this description. I feel I may have been called by Diana/Artemis. I am wary, due to my philosophy, about pursuing this, however I am fortunate enough to have a friend who is a Hellenist, who informs me it's quite normal to be involved with only one deity and that I don't have to start worshipping a whole pantheon and become a Hellenophile just because I may be drawn to her. I also feel this may justify me violating my own rule, if someone like him is so welcoming.

 

I'm still not sure if the connection is me pursuing her or her pursuing me, I've never been interested in the traditional classics, but I find her admirable. I am also unsure if this is some philosophical infatuation (she is a strong female figure not defined by who she is married to, which I respect, and who has intimate connections to forests, as do I) or that I might actually find myself building a rapport with her, due to my godless animism up this point, I don't want to worship anything again or I will feel I have not really escaped the religiosity I fought with a few years ago.

 

As such any relationship I may have with her I will always feel like a guest in another culture's history. I wish to seek ties with the natural forces, will a deity distract this, or will she possibly make a "deal" of sorts which is mutually beneficial? Greek deities after all are not like typical ideas of God, verging far more on personification, and much more human than we realise. I don't know.

 

Sorry I'm blathering but it seemed appropriate to the topic.

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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?

 

I come from a line of Jewish and Celtic peoples. I'm drawn to Norse paganism, however. I have some elements of the Celtic faith (i.e. mainly the creatures and spirits like fairies), but follow Freya. Freya deals with fairies and elves, anyway, but it definitely comes from my Celtic roots. 

 

I was drawn to my beliefs. Different things call to different people for a special reason. I don't think DNA has to be involved, but it definitely helps with the connection. The foundation of one's practice should be what calls to them. I went to a southern baptist church that my family felt was very important for several decades, but never felt at place because I wanted to practice witchcraft. 

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I think it's worth noting, just because it seems to come up a lot in this thread, that one's blood ancestors stretch a lot farther back than the people whose names we know. No matter how long one's family may have embraced Christianity, somewhere further back in the lineage, there are spirits who, in life, practiced pre-Christian religions. 

 

 I don't think DNA has to be involved, but it definitely helps with the connection. 

 

______________________________________________

 

^ I agree with this, generally. I would add, though, that, in my opinion, no matter who you are, you have some ancestral spirits, from somewhere back in your family tree - it may be a long ways - who are alive in your DNA and guide you magically. I don't think you need to try and reconstruct the historical spirituality of your culture(s) of genetic origins - at least not necessarily - but it is there, and it does play some role, however subtle. 

 

(Sorry if this post digressed too far from the original topic). 

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