Dealing With Cultural Appropriation – My Personal Take

Currently, I am going through a “dry” period of coming up with what to write about. Thankfully, a few folks have offered up suggestions on what to write. This weekend’s blog post is courtesy of a question from Ashlynn G. in Washington state. Ashlynn had read my earlier post on cultural appropriation and wanted to know how I approach others on that perspective when I encounter it with them.

This is a bit of a tough area for me. I am not the kind of person that goes around looking for other peoples’ approaches to blow up. I have never found approaching others over their approaches to Spirituality to be a comfortable topic. Even as a friendly discussion. I have my own way of going about my Spirituality and have never felt a need to judge someone else’s approach. There are those that I find distasteful from my own perspective, but I am also not in their shoes. To judge another’s approach beyond how it would or would not apply to myself…well, that’s just not me nor is it something that I feel is a necessary thing for me to do.

Yes, I get the cultural appropriation charge leveled against me because I do have close relationships with two First Nations Gods. However, it has been made very apparent to me that I am not of “the People” (First Nations’ folk). That specific Path is not mine, as I was told. My Path and working with Crow and Coyote is different than that of “the People.” Pow-wows, sweat lodges, vision quests, and the such are not on my Path. I have never been invited to any such thing either. And to be honest, I am not sure I would accept if I were invited. The perspective of a Shaman would never apply to me. I work with Crow and Coyote because They called to me. I can’t control that. But I can ensure that I am not trampling into areas I should not tread.

The same holds true when being provided a description of someone else’s Path. What Gods that they work with is not for me to denigrate. Even the rituals, spell work, and the such is really none of my business. My place is not to be the judge of how others conduct themselves on their Path. I do not know what agreements, contracts, and what-not they have bargained with their Gods. Nor do I need to be privy to that either. My footfalls are the steps that I can control. Those are the steps that I need to concentrate on.

Occasionally, I will run across Pagan folks that feel it is their duty to battle Christians over perspectives, actions, and what-not. Way back when I was a far more zealous Pagan, I would wade into these “battles” on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs – and yes I am dating my fifty-five-year-old self here) for prolonged ‘warfare”. Looking back, I must ask myself a few questions. What did it accomplish? What image did it portray to those not involved in the “discussion”? What did I really intend to have occur? The answers are simple, and not very pleasant to my ears. These accomplished nothing. Essentially, to others, I came off as a very angry, preachy Pagan. Unfortunately, my desire was to try and get folks on the other side to admit to the hypocrisy that I saw in their beliefs.

Much of where I am now on stuff like this comes down to boundaries. Boundaries that I have set myself – for myself. Words do not have to be answered with zealotry and misplaced passion. Words need only be answered with truth and answered only once. Prolonged and protracted arguments will do nothing to establish “right” or “wrong”. Plus, words are only words. When someone takes those words a further step with action – things change a bit. Answering the actions of zealotry requires action in return. Hurt those I love and care about, and that crosses another boundary I have set. I am not an individual of violent reaction. I prefer discussion over fists and weapons. I prefer common ground over battlefields. But my preference can sometimes not be the vanguard of the day.

Hypothetically, how would I approach someone whose personal practice is crossing into the territory of cultural appropriation, blatant or otherwise? Well, as I said before, discussion is my preference to any approach. I would prefer to be as courteous as I could, not come in with guns blazing. The reason is extremely simple. I have no idea why they are doing things the way that they are. I don’t know the bargains that they have made. My assumption may be false, and I am assuming. Even with people I have known forever. My preference is to tread lightly just in case I am wrong. If they don’t listen? Well, in that case, I have done what I can. Forcing people to see a potential error in their ways brings me back to those protracted “discussions” on the BBSs. Arguing for the sake of making noise, essentially. I am no longer that Pagan. Thirty-plus years has softened my approach to such things. Besides, I would prefer to let the Gods and karma do that work. Both are far better at it than I could ever imagine I could be.

So, Ashlynn, I hope this answers your question in a way that is helpful and informative. There are others that will disagree with my approach, and prefer the guns blazin’ approach. I understand how they get there. I was there once myself. This; however, is the way that I believe would be best…if I was to approach someone over such things. As I said, the Gods and karma are far better at responding to such things that I could ever be.

–T /|\

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