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Ethnic groups practicing certain beliefs


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#1 Circe

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 05:50 PM

The title of this probably came off as pretty racist, but I wasn't sure how else to word it and I have this nagging question on my mind that hasn't left me for a while.

 

For general background, I remember stumbling across some threads online saying how white people shouldn't practice Voodoo, as the religion was practiced by slaves brought to America who had to masquerade their beliefs behind Catholicism. Since their spirits and ancestors are connected with slavery, some people feel that white folks shouldn't be involved in the practice. 

 

I have a few more examples:

 

-Folkish Asatruar believe that only those with Northern European descent should practice the religion, as they feel the religion ties with their cultural background.

 

-Some Native Americans shamanic groups only want those with Native American blood in their circles.

 

-A handful of Santa Muerte cults feel that those with Mexican/Hispanic blood should only be within her practice.

 

How do you all personally feel about a certain ethnicity or race practicing the folk religion of another? I know this is a very broad, complex question but I'm curious as to what you all have to say. 


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#2 Solanaceae

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 06:13 PM

Cultural Appropriation & Geographical Significance

Suddenly I seem Eclectic

What connects us on this path?

Cultural Appropriation

STUDY OF OTHER CULTURES

Witchcraft and Cultural Appropriation (Context: Shamanism)

Native American witchcraft or medicine

Reiki

My rant about totems


Edited by Solanaceae, 22 May 2018 - 06:16 PM.

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#3 Phaedra

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 06:22 PM

Ohh yes, the topic of 'appropriating' other so-called ethnic paths is a well-trodden road. I don't let it bother me, regardless. If I'm interested enough in a path to explore it in earnest, no one's issue with my own ethnic heritage is going to slow me down one bit...I just probably wouldn't join in on their social get-togethers, if the sentiment was shared by the majority. The story of human faiths and traditions has always been one of exchange, and if one was truly limited to their cultural background alone, the world would look VERY different, and probably in a very bizarre and unpleasant way.
 
Besides, Maman Brigitte is a Loa of the Voodoo tradition, and she's as white as Ed Sheeran.

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#4 Solanaceae

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 06:51 PM

In the cases of Voodoo and many N/A traditions (most likely the others you mention as well ), white people and people from other backgrounds have been accepted.  (I know white folk white folk who work with Santa Muerte, but not I do not know how accepted they are). 

In Voodoo for sure, it is the spirits who decide. If they accept you, no one can say otherwise, no matter what the popular ideal is.


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(Fragments from "Auguries of Innocence") William Blake


#5 Circe

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 09:55 PM

 

Ohh yes, the topic of 'appropriating' other so-called ethnic paths is a well-trodden road. I don't let it bother me, regardless. If I'm interested enough in a path to explore it in earnest, no one's issue with my own ethnic heritage is going to slow me down one bit...I just probably wouldn't join in on their social get-togethers, if the sentiment was shared by the majority. The story of human faiths and traditions has always been one of exchange, and if one was truly limited to their cultural background alone, the world would look VERY different, and probably in a very bizarre and unpleasant way.
 
Besides, Maman Brigitte is a Loa of the Voodoo tradition, and she's as white as Ed Sheeran.

 

 

Ah yes, Maman Brigitte. I read voraciously about Haitian Vodoun when I was younger and was surprised to see a white Irish lwa, until I heard that mercenaries brought Saint Brigid from Ireland to Haiti and she was integrated into the practice as Maman Brigitte. That's why I always wondered about all kinds of people practicing the religion, as it has many influences from around the world other than Haiti. 


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#6 Zombee

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 10:03 PM

My bloodline is mongrelized Eurasian-Hebrew &'I've never left the USA. My geographic location & thus the local cultural communities in which I've lived, participated & paid taxes has fluctuated with life changes. Every religious and spiritual belief & practice I have has been appropriated from other times & cultures, particularly reconstructed trad witchcraft. I couldn't define a concise modern day, N. American belief-system that reflects the "culture" of my experience if I tried. This is just the way it is. What i do, think and believe in my own space is nobody's business. I respect surviving indigenous traditions whose language, beliefs and practices are desired to be preserved and continued for posterity. Gated community thinking ... Not so much. If someone doesn't want to entertain foreign, impure practices then they shouldn't do it, but they can't stop somebody else from playing wannabe copycat. It's been too late for a long time.

Edited by Zombee, 22 May 2018 - 10:07 PM.

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#7 Oroboros

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Posted 22 May 2018 - 10:29 PM

Thanks for posting the links Solanaceae- I was headed that direction.

 

I'll also add: IMO, with the exception of a very few family traditions that have made it to America- if your white in the US, you'd be hard pressed to practice without doing what some would consider cultural appropriation.  The key is to act with respect and go to the effort to understand the bones of whatever practices you drawn to.  America is, if nothing else, a melting pot full of mutts. By it's very nature, witchcraft practiced here will glean from various cultures and belief systems.


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#8 Ozman

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Posted 23 July 2018 - 05:59 PM

If you are sincerely drawn to a path then I say go for it, who cares what others think or say and they can have their groups that reject while others can have more open groups. Coming from a US-American standpoint people have the right to accept and not to accept who they want. With that said the best Druid I ever met was of Ethiopian Decent and one of the most repected people in Stregha in Northern Mass is of India decent and they have no problem working within those frames. Just like one of the most respected Rastas in Mass circles is of Scots descent. So, if you're heart and mind are in the right place go for it because ethnicity is not about race but about shared values, religion, outlook, etc etc. 


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#9 Onyx

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Posted 25 July 2018 - 04:22 PM

I was born in Scotland so Celtic witchcraft. Now I live in Canada, some Native practices have crept in, like smudging with sage etc. My Daughter in Law is Cree, I had to teach her how to smudge.
I did my DNA test and I'm really a Viking! Hail Odin!
Really we are a global society and it seems nothing is separate and distinct except the French Canadians. Their special... Or so they think.
If you believe in reincarnation, a Hindu concept, Maybe we were something different in a past life and it resonates with us in the next life.
I have the attitude of if it works, use it.

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#10 ReleaseTheBats

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Posted 25 July 2018 - 08:19 PM

Great article links!

This is a very complex subject and it's varied largely on location and the interplay between colonialism and persons displaced due to colonialism.

I don't have a fully ironed out "this is my exact position", but essentially I think it depends on how you're getting your information.

Are you practicing with a group that have backgrounds in it? Preferably with people actually from the cultures that started those beliefs? You're going to get a lot more genuine information that way than simply picking up a book at Barnes & Nobles and then announcing you're a shaman.

Terminology is also sensitive as it's also varied based on tradition, group, and the terms that they use versus the terms that colonizers used to describe those practices.

For example, the popular term Shaman is a term that was used to describe persons such as medicine men and women in different tribes, shaman is not looked upon as an acceptable term because it was a name forced upon them much like Indian.

Within the practices of displaced Africans due to slavery, yes Vodou (depending on tradition as well as Haitian is different from continental West African) does incorporate catholicism and yes Maman Brigitte exists as a Loa. However, context is important. Vodou the way we identify it in the USA was a result of slavery, and those people were barred from practicing their native religious practices. So Vodou in the USA was created out of necessity.

 

For me, I think ancestors play a larger role than is conventionally accepted in a mainstream sense. Sometimes you'll get a pull from an ancestor that you may not even have any DNA with anymore, but perhaps your grandma did. Othertimes it'll be someone you have a small amount from them, but the deities/spirits of that place accept you outright and provide guidance. Othertimes it'll be a dominant part of your heritage perhaps something you grew up knowing or it may change as you uncover more about your history. In my opinion there's a pull that happens in these cases where it feels like someone is grabbing you by the front of your shirt with a balled fist and dragging you to see something important.

Now the other part to this is that we tend to work with the land as well as practitioners, so you may work with native spirits, plants etc. that have nothing to do with your heritage at all, or maybe you have spirits that pass through in the same sense. They give you a message or remind you of something and then they depart. I tend to view these as different than the normal sense of working with a spirit or deities overtime. Typically there's no hardcore relationship with this spirit, it's not invested in you the same way that spirit that's been around since you almost died at 4 is. As a result I tend to focus on respect in whatever sense it means to that spirit when it pops up, and sometimes that's traditional in certain aspects.

Edit: as an aside I think a lot of the desire to adopt practices from identified groups comes from a lack of consistency within the USA. It's political in many ways so I won't get into it too much here. But certain things that are frequently desired in cultures we think we know about (i.e. shamans, dia de los muertos etc.) similar variations can also be found in other traditions if you look for them. But looking for things isn't a common hobby in many ways, so it's easier to just "adopt" it. Like how Cunning Folk are a part of English and Welsh traditions, Seiðr are huge in Norse mythology/Viking mythos, these are what we would consider shamans for lack of better terminology to compare and in many ways Druids were also seen as what we would conventionally consider to be Shamans. It's out there, you just have to do some digging.


Edited by ReleaseTheBats, 25 July 2018 - 08:31 PM.

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#11 Aurelian

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Posted 25 July 2018 - 09:15 PM

Sigh.  The main issue with this is people thinking they have a RIGHT to other peoples practices!  I've seen a lot of people get involved with other cultural traditions, and after they've read a few books they consider themselves an expert on it and proceed to tell indigenous practitioners what is what!  

 

Be respectful, be humble, or else, just stay in your lane.  A lot of POC are trying to decenter whiteness right now, so don't get up in their faces and throw a fit if you aren't accepted.  

 

There are white people in the US joining the cult of Santa Muerte, as has been mentioned above.  Some of them throw a fit when they go to...the temple, the church?  I'm not sure of the exact terminology, but some of them throw a fit when it's all in Spanish and they can't understand what is being said, and whine and moan and ask for it to be said in English.  How about they learn Spanish and stop trying to colonize a tradition that has existed for hundreds of years?  THEY need to do the work to enable them to work this belief system.  Adapt instead of acting a fool.

My 2 cents, anyway.


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#12 Onyx

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 05:26 PM

A lot of POC are trying to decenter whiteness right now, so don't get up in their faces and throw a fit if you aren't accepted.  
[/quote

Sorry, what is POC? What do you mean by decenter? Actually I think white people are a minority now.


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#13 Oroboros

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 10:14 AM

A lot of POC are trying to decenter whiteness right now, so don't get up in their faces and throw a fit if you aren't accepted.  [/quoteSorry, what is POC? What do you mean by decenter? Actually I think white people are a minority now.


———————
POC is person of color.

This is the definition of decenter:
“to cause to undergo a shift away from what has been its traditional center, focus, orientation, or emphasis”

If you think white people are the minority in Europe and North America I suggest you consult your census data. If you are speaking of globally, first you will need to define “white,” but it WOULD be unexpected if persons of European decent were the global majority, now wouldn’t it.

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#14 Phaedra

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 02:03 PM

Also, there's a big difference between being a social minority and being a population-count minority. In most circumstances in the western world, and in many locations elsewhere, to be white is to be of the social majority in that generally speaking, the stereotypical person of social power is white. ...I reckon to some it could be pretty unnatural-seeming and cringe worthy to have a cultural outsider donning the mantle of your personal sacred heritage, and it gets trickier if the two backgrounds in question have a complicated or contentious relationship, like with white americans and most POC groups I can think of right now. If it works and fulfills you, certainly embace it and let it enrich your path! Just do so with humility and respect for others and for the history which brought their ways into your purview. 


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#15 celticdistance

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Posted 10 September 2018 - 03:49 AM

I know this is late and I'm not sure if anyone has said this but when it comes to spiritual things I think that's a whole nother jar of cookies. We have to remember during old times these things were past down to family members and those who did the same/ looked the same in said area. Let's be honest in many cases with spells or  just dealing with the arts in general things can go south and ruin someone's life or a whole group of people's lives if someone makes even the slightest slip up and as we all know most old hands of any group can be know it alls even more so if they feel said newbie lacks the something that they feel makes the craft (in this case race not saying it's right but it happens) Heck the arts from my understanding for the longest were past down to certain members that said group felt "worthy" to practice the craft. Point being not even those of that group could just join at will but more so chosen to participate so of course most will feel some type of way about someone they feel is born unworthy. Again not right but part of the territory.

                                         As for what I think on the matter, I say do what you feel works for you. Some white people connect more with voodoo or hoodoo and I think they should walk the path they feel calls to them as I feel with any group. People will talk and it won't always be nice, life's to short to let someone else dictate how you live.


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#16 Onyx

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Posted 10 September 2018 - 09:36 PM

Growing up in Scotland, as I did, we have a tremendous amount of immigrants in the British Isles, because of the Commonwealth, everyone who lived in a member country, has the right to be accepted into Britain.
Strangely enough, all races will develop a Scottish accent if they live there long enough.

I think maybe that somebody Catholic may connect with Voodoo, because of the Saints being used. Just my opinion.

Edited by Onyx, 10 September 2018 - 09:39 PM.

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#17 BlackbirdSong

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Posted 13 September 2018 - 12:39 PM

I think it's about respect, as Aurelian says. I do think there is a difference between taking inspiration from a cultural practice, seeing a spell done a certain way or hearing a technique, and (having done the research on that technique) weaving it into our own Practice. However, if someone wishes to fully practice a Craft that is not from their culture, then I think they need to immerse themselves in it, do the research, speak to people who were born into that practice where possible and take their guidance, as Aurelian says learn the language if you need to, actually do the work. They need to be aware of their own place in the world and realise they may not be widely accepted because of, not just historical events, but current racism. 

 

I live in England and with the Brexit decision, the racism is hugely obvious. I constantly hear slurs against 'immigrants', and am constantly exposed to the lack of understanding that is abound about any other race or heritage but White-British. People have no idea that everyone from Britain was originally an immigrant if we go far enough back, they have no idea about the history of the language and how it's odd complexity stems from that mingling of races. I don't think it is any wonder that many Witches feel protective of their own culture, neither that they feel hostile to people who still fail to offer true equality today. We often hear that spiritual paths should be open to all and should not be kept to race - but, personally, I think this is only true if one truly commits to it.

There is a big problem with white privilege and feeling this 'right' to practice whatever we want to, on whatever scale we want to, without actually thinking about it with empathy, understanding, knowledge and context. This links to Aurelian's comment about language - if you want to be part of a tradition, learn the language; there are so many traditions with important songs in their language. There is also a problem with Witches not examining their desires hard enough - do they want this connection because it feels 'other', because it's new and exciting? What is it that appeals to them? The way the practice is carried out? Does it simply feel more real to them because Witchcraft is more present and practiced in that culture without such a break in its history (or at least the history people knew about)? Is it to do with admiring a person they've seen practice it? Is it the particular Gods/Saints/Spirits worked with appealing or calling, and if its appeal then what is it about them that appeals? Is it a rejection of their own culture and a further movement away from a religion they grew up with (often Christianity) because those things have hurt them? All these questions and more need to be asked (in my opinion) before thinking about working fully in another practice.

Essentially, I - as a White English woman - have no right to complain about a group of Witches or Shamans who want only those of their culture included. My culture still ostracises them and until that changes (and I have helped bring about that change rather than sitting back and letting others do it) then I have no right to infringe. In fact, it is important that those cultures do have those safe spaces to practice their own religion or Craft. There will also almost always be someone willing to teach you a practice, but you may have to move country, travel long distances, learn languages - if you're not willing to do these things then I don't think you have the right to complain you're not included.  

I'm not saying someone cannot be called to practice another Culture's Craft, work with their Gods or practice their religion, but I do think we need to really do the work if we want this. Similarly, I think we should be actively working to lessen racism and the ostracism of other skin colours, cultures, races etc. if we want to include ourselves in this. Some of these deep, powerful and meaningful practices were used in revolution against slavery and oppression - like Haitian Vodou - so of course it is offensive to have people making them so much less than they are.

Edited to update: Bear with me, this may seem unrelated at first, but I think it's an important illustration of racism today and white privilege.

In my area parents and children have a fun thing going on where they paint a picture on a stone and hide these stones in the area (around part of a London borough), then children look out for them while going about their day etc and then rehide them for someone else to find. They have a Facebook group and - as my son adores the whole thing - I am a member. To give an example of the level of racism here right now, I got up the morning after the above post and found someone had posted a stone with a picture of Golliwogs* on it. I contacted a group leader immediately and the matter was well dealt with by them, however I found out that before I joined a few weeks ago, this issue had already come up with the same and similar pictures. The group actually split because a large quantity of members felt Golliwogs and other racist pictures were not only acceptable for themselves and their children, but that by disallowing these images, it breached their rights to 'have fun'. It made me so emotional, angry and ashamed that people would do this - yes, I am aware of it already, but this was like an extra punch in the face about the racism of this country and the area I live in. I am full of disgust for it all. 

So, until these awful issues are dealt with, and people stop White Priviledge, I don't think a white person has the right to complain about not being allowed to 'join in' with a cultural practice that they weren't born into and often don't understand. I don't think they have the right to moan about any acceptance issues relating to themselves being accepted by other cultures. Some of the people in the Painted Stones group felt it 'ruined their fun' or was 'unfair', without considering the continued ostracising of other races and cultures, of families participating in that group, without considering how they were teaching their children racism was funny and 'their right'. The same applies to some Witches - they do not have the right to faff about with practices without consideration of those who have been and are being ostracised, be it for colour or race. They need to be using the utmost respect of other races and cultures and analysing the bejeesus out of their own white priviledge before deciding to take those steps.

Sorry, if this is garbled, this situation with the stones has shocked me - in a children's group and that many saw no issue, truly horrific.


Edited by BlackbirdSong, 16 September 2018 - 02:02 PM.

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