The eclectic nature of many Pagan paths is one of the major draws for a lot of people who come here from other more structured religions. There are plenty of books and resources out there which tell us all about the wonderful eclectic nature of Paganism, and that it is perfectly acceptable for us to draw our practices and beliefs from whatever sources we want to, as long as it calls to us. However something very important that is often overlooked, is the fact that not all cultures or religions are actually open to be taken from.
The concept of a closed-culture or religion, is something that many people are simply unfamiliar with. There is a sense of entitlement that seems pervasive in many Pagan communities, and we often feel that simply because a practice or belief resonates with us, or seems interesting to us, that it’s ok for us to take it and make it our own. We mix and match cultures and religions, irregardless of traditions that might be involved, or cultures that might be clashing, or the fact that such practices or beliefs may not just be available for the taking, by those who are not actual practicing members of said culture/religion.
Two major examples of closed cultures/religions – which both unfortunately tend to be those which are most often taken from, are Native American cultures and Traditional Wicca. When it comes to the culture and spiritual practices of the various Native American tribes, in most cases if you are not a member of the tribe, or have been adopted into one, then any misappropriation of their practices and beliefs is considered highly offensive, and – as noted below, could be considered an actual act of war against the tribe. Wicca on the other hand, is an initiatory “mystery” religion at it’s very core, yet has somehow it has been grossly misrepresented over the years as an eclectic “whatever you want it to be” religion. Those that continue to represent it as such have changed the very heart of the religion, and truly what they do is no longer Wicca (and should not be called by that name).
There is also some debate as to if some parts of “Celtic” culture and their spiritual practices are closed as well. In particular, that certain Gods are said to be oathed only to the Gael, which means that if one is not a member of that culture, then at best one would be wasting one’s time attempting to worship them. There are others, particularly indigenous cultures and practices, and some that consider Shintoism to be rather more closed to outsiders, than most people think it is as well.
It’s painful sometimes, when there is something that we want, that we can’t have access to immediately. Yet if something is that important to us, then we should be willing to do the work necessary to attain it properly, rather than just taking what we want, without regard for the traditions that are probably what drew us to that culture/practice in the first place. If we are truly called to a particular path, then if we work hard and make sacrifices, then it will happen, otherwise we need to respect that in this life it’s just not meant to be – to do otherwise diminishes that which we claim to love.
For more information you can check the following…
War Against Eploiters of Lakota Spirituality
[…] touched on it directly in a previous post, however in most cases it’s a concept that seems foreign to many Neo-Pagans. The majority of the […]
[…] To avoid cultural appropriation, it is probably best to steer away from drawing directly from closed religions, and sensitivity is a must if you wish to use ideas from a living religion or culture that is not […]