Big Rowan Ackison (greensh) wrote,
Big Rowan Ackison

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Pagan Views on Appropriation

The Wild Hunt is a blog that has "news, opinions, and events dealing with (or of interest to) the modern Pagan and Heathen communities". A recent article called "The Danger of 'Wannabes'" spoke to the appropriation challenges faced by Native Americans cultures. The focus of the article was on "New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans". I had some interesting reactions to the article ranging from agreement to confused indignation. A blogger on the shamans_circle community asked, "Anyone here have any experience with these sorts of hucksters?"

As I've said before, appropriation is a BIG issue. My remarks below are not meant to downplay the challenges faced by indigenous peoples. With that said, this is how my buttons got pushed...

We have met the enemy and he is us...

In some ways I am one of those 'hucksters'. Incredibly sincere and spiritual shamanically oriented people I know are those hucksters. Modern Pagans who pursue reconstructed ancient belief systems are hucksters. Most any book author is a huckster.

I guess what I am trying to say is that appropriation is not as black-and-white as this article may infer. The New-Agers are not all money grasping con men. The painting of the new-ager as the boogy-man is nuanced by a pagan prejudice towards this nebulous spiritual group. Shoot, most of the new-agers I know, and I've walked in those shoes myself, don't benefit financially from their spiritual affiliation. There is also an inference that any involvement of money in spiritual teaching/instruction is a sign of corruption. While this is a strength of the modern pagan movement, beliefs about money create division between some pagans and other spiritual groups.

More importantly, nobody is completely innocent of some degree of appropriation from somebody. In very, very general terms, the modern pagans have appropriated from the occult ceremonialists who had previously appropriated from Christian/Jewish mystics who previously appropriated from ???. Are we all held to have completely original thoughts? What would the world look like if FDA approved spiritual beliefs either came through an uninterrupted pedigree spiritual line or were completely disconnected from all existing realities?

My $.02... the article is good food for thought. I just wish the meal was more balanced.

Another person commented, "If you go around saying you are a Roman Catholic priest even though you never went past seminary, maybe that's a bit un-ethical because you are lying to people". This got me thinking. I responded:

The Roman Catholic priest analogy is a good one. I'd take that one step further. Let's say that I believe that Mary was the mother of God and that she was a virgin. Does this make me Roman Catholic? No. It just means that I share a belief with the religion. The appropriation line would be crossed if I also believed that Jesus was a vampire AND I then told people I was a Roman Catholic priest who could make them sub-vampires in Jesus' image. Could I believe that Jesus was a vampire and Mary was his virgin mother without claiming Roman Catholic affiliation? Probably. I could even claim to be a priest of the "Vampire Jesus" religion. I don't think there would be an issue of appropriation as long as I did not claim to be Roman Catholic. I could be accused of some bizarre idea mixing, but since when was this a crime?

This was all interesting food for thought that I am sure will be the basis of future blogs here.
Tags: appropriation

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