Pagan Journeys

Pagan Journeys => Pagan Chat => Topic started by: SeaTurtleSwims on November 13, 2013, 11:16:38 PM

Title: What do you think about this sentence?
Post by: SeaTurtleSwims on November 13, 2013, 11:16:38 PM
I am reading a book on osteomancy (throwing bones) and to be honest, it is only so-so. Her history seems right and certainly it's interesting, but as a wildlife biology major some of the things she writes in the name of science just flat out aren't true (like how she defines shells). Anyway, my commentary aside, I came across this sentence about adopting new spiritual traditions: "Never assume that reading a book about a culture's customs will grant you free reign to appropriate the culture's spiritual treasures for your own" (Throwing the Bones, Catherine Yronwood, pg  14).

This really made me pause. It's something darting in and out of my life lately. A Shinto talk I attended where the monk stated that many traditional religious Shinto figures would be offended if they were told only parts of their religion were being adopted in a non committed way. And more recently as I took part of Samhain, I was talking about Dia de los Muertos with a friend and he said something along the lines of "but we wouldn't participate in it because we're not Mexican". An act that you can look onto and appreciate but not take part of because it is not your own? Or maybe it's just a very American symptom of "what do you mean, 'no'?" haha

As a pagan who has no single path, I won't even call myself an eclectic, that sentence definitely gave me a pause. Is it disrespectful to adopt bits and pieces of your favorite parts of a culture, practice, holiday or religion? To me, I see where both sides are coming from and don't have an answer. Because if it is disrespectful, I'd have to be the first one to raise my hand and say "I do that all the time".

Your thoughts?
Title: Re: What do you think about this sentence?
Post by: earthmuffin on November 13, 2013, 11:56:13 PM
I don't think it's disrespectful to adopt parts and practice as your own. We all do that all the time. People have always done that with religions and spiritual practices and that is how religions and cultures have evolved. If you have an interest and you study and approach it with good intentions and respect, there is no harm done. It's your personal spiritual path and I don't see how what you do in your own private worship and celebrations can be disrespectful to another. To me, what would be disrespectful is if you passed yourself off as a traditional authority/expert on the "traditional" customs, whatever they were, when you didn't come from that tradition. You might still be an authority of sorts, depending on your training and expertise, but I think it is very important to be clear on exactly what your experience and understanding is when speaking about it to others, particularly if you are in a teaching capacity or  making money off of spiritual services or works such as books on the subject (the appropriateness of making money off of those things is another area often debated). I'd be interested to know what that author's background is and if she has appropriated someone else's spiritual traditions in making money off her book sales.
Title: Re: What do you think about this sentence?
Post by: Crystal Dragon on November 14, 2013, 12:30:40 AM
I agree with EM.

And as I read the sentence in question, I see that it could be interpreted a couple of ways.  One could interpret it to be saying you can't use anything that isn't already in your cultural background ... but the way it's worded, I would be comfortable interpreting it as saying that one can't claim to be something (Mexican, Celtic, Native American, what have you) unless you've either been born into the culture or have be properly trained or otherwise allowed into a group.  The latter pretty much is in concert with what EM described.
Title: Re: What do you think about this sentence?
Post by: vordan on November 15, 2013, 12:04:59 AM
I pretty much agree with the others, it is okay to incorporate bits of different things into your path as long a you do not claim to represent that path. I have picked up much for Taoism but I am not a Taoist, I incorporate bits of hoodoo, witchcraft, Native American beliefs, Wicca, Siberian shamanism, Norse beliefs, Celtic beliefs, Classical mythology, Voodoo, Chaos magic, Hermetic philosophy and more, but it is my own path. I do not claim to represent any of those paths but it is okay to say you were influenced by a path. It is much in the same way that an original artist who is creative can use influences from many artists. If a person wishes to follow a specific path, they must study that path with devotion from a traditional teacher and some are culturally specific where you must be born into the culture. I used to tell my coven that many answers are like a grey scale, a few things are pure black or pure white but the bulk of it falls into shades of grey. This particular question falls into situational ethics, where you look at it on a case by case basis. Using a technique or type of energy, is not the same as borrowing a culture, you have to look at what exactly you are trying to do in each case.
Title: Re: What do you think about this sentence?
Post by: thegeekwitch on November 15, 2013, 03:01:16 AM
Also agreeing with the others - there's a difference between cultural appropriation and having a genuine respect and reverence for a tradition.  I can't really say any more than as long as you're being respectful and acknowledge the origins and roots of the tradition or practice you are carrying out, then I can't see why you can't utilise it.
Title: Re: What do you think about this sentence?
Post by: Shalandriel on November 15, 2013, 06:13:42 AM
I have no issue with it for the most part so long as you're respectful and not "taking" anything that's specifically not to be removed/can't be removed because of context. There are certain cultures that are very blunt with who is/isnt allowed to practice anything from their culture. There are also certain aspects of certain religions that can't be removed from context because in reality, it would then cease to be what it was meant to be.  However, I see nothing wrong with adopting practices simply inspired by these cultures /practices so long as it doesn't make a claim of being traditional. Hope that all made sense.
Title: Re: What do you think about this sentence?
Post by: Summerhawk on November 15, 2013, 08:25:35 PM
I work with animals a LOT. I have an animal totem, and a guide. I know that NA also revere nature. I am not NA, but I do have Celtic roots, and the Druids also work with animals. As did the ancient Egyptians. Some things are not unique to any one particular path. I cannot imagine if someone told me that I had to stop working with animals & nature just because I'm not NA, or that I was doing something wrong. Or that I couldn't practice Iamblichan NeoPlatonism because I'm not Syrian....yeah, I've got two words....
Title: Re: What do you think about this sentence?
Post by: dragonspring on November 15, 2013, 08:33:40 PM
I would agree with what the others have said.  Taking something and using it for your own path is not cultural misappropriation so long as you do not claim to represent that path.  Having seen the local Cherokee culture misappropriated on more than one occasion, I think it is pretty obvious when the line has been crossed. We have NA inspired objects and artifacts in our home because both my husband and daughter have Cherokee blood, but they are not recognized members of the tribe nor have they ever been trained by a Cherokee shaman.  While we might recognize or use some of the elements of the NA religion, we do not claim a NA path.