To Cultural Heritage or Not To Cultural Heritage.

You see, I’ve noticed that there’s been a lot of chatter in pagan networks recently about the “proper pagan” path for people. The discussion seems to have some relation to the “cultural appropriation” movement that some people stand firmly against and others are kind of so-so on the subject. So, it seems that some people believe that a pagan lifestyle is the choice of the pagan in question; a follow your heart or instincts kind of thing. Others think that a truly fulfilling pagan lifestyle depends on the cultural heritage of the pagan in question: Irish descendants to Celtic and Nordic descendants to Viking, that sort of thing.

I’ve never subscribed to this theory and after reading some people who do, I’ve often wondered why they felt this way. (So, if anyone who believes that reads this, please offer some viewpoints!) I think the reason I’ve never felt this way is because Kemetism fell into my lap. I love everything about it, but it wasn’t, like, I made a conscious decision to follow this path. It literally just sprung upon me after so long of Sekhmet knocking at my door and my blank look of, what the fuck is this? Really, the only reason it came about was because of a life-long obsession with all things ancient Egyptian. I’ve been collecting books, reading articles, and rabidly studying the whole thing for years. It seemed like a “well, duh” kind of thing when I started down this spiritual turnpike all those years ago. And then, this Vodou stuff happened, which again, has absolutely nothing to do with a cultural heritage standpoint but more along the lines of Sekhmet saying, “do it,” and again, a vast interest that goes back to high school.

I guess I always just thought of a pagan practice incorporating things that you love and find interesting was the way to go… versus a heritage that stems back to family trees, genealogical records, and all that jazz.

I’ve given consideration to the cultural heritage problem (obviously, since I’m writing about it) in my own practices. I honestly find the people who can do this and follow this and see it through to be, well, amazing. They have had the fortitude to do the searching just to find out who they were, a question I’m constantly wondering. And I think that may be part of the problem.

I know a very limited amount of information about my ancestral heritage. My family line from my mom’s side of the family is very limited: we’re French Canadian (so, really damn French) and English, with a possibility of Irish. And as my mom was so fond of saying when she was doing her genealogical research, “if you’re French Canadian, the chances are pretty high that you’re Native American.” I’ve never felt close or particularly interested in my French or English (with a possible hint of Irish) heritage. I’ve always been curious about the Native American thing but, it would appear that this could quite possibly be a family legend as opposed to a reality since we haven’t found much to verify anything to do with an Indigenous family melding with either my English or French relations. (I’m not counting it out… yet.)

The other thing is that I have an entire avenue that’s been utterly unexplored in the arena of my bio-father. I haven’t done much in the way of searching for him and the ancestral lines he has added to my genetic structure because I keep waffling. Do I want to know? Do I care to know? Is it really important? As times goes by and I wonder more, I’m beginning to think that it is important. And I’m beginning to, also, believe that if there’s any Native American heritage in my family tree it stems from his line as opposed to my mother’s. But again, I’m only guessing and wondering, and again, I’m only hemming and hawing. (Since I’ve always wanted to be Native American or have some of that rich culture in my blood, wouldn’t it be a laugh-fucking-riot to find out that I haven’t gotten a bit in there at all?)

You know, the only reason that this has come up is because of an article I read today. I go through phases where I do a little bit of research on the various native tribes in the areas that I know my family lines have lived. I, also, will end up reading articles or looking into spirit animals, which invariably leads me down this road. I guess what I’m saying is that if I were to ever incorporate the whole “cultural heritage” aspect into my practice than I wouldn’t want to base it off of any Celts that were in my family line or Vikings or Romans, but base it off of any form of native blood I may have.

This leaves me all very uncertain and wondering what the hell is going on over here (is my practice going to change again? I don’t even know what the fuck I’m doing now!) and where this is going. I can safely say that I haven’t a fucking clue, but when I find out, I might just blog about it.

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8 thoughts on “To Cultural Heritage or Not To Cultural Heritage.

  1. I honestly don’t understand cultural appropriation. I’ve read a lot about it on forums, in blogs, and discussed it with online contacts. I have yet to really get it. Truth is, I don’t get it. I feel it’s a crock of crap. If some day someone is able to explain it in a way that makes sense to me (and isn’t some knee jerk reaction to colonialism) I am willing to change my viewpoints. But so far, it hasn’t.

    The concept of ‘you should only worship the gods of your ancestors’ also seems a joke. Especially considering that my gods came to me. I didn’t outright choose Egyptian. Unlike most people, I didn’t have some life long affair with the place- it just sorta showed up one day. Shinto, sure, I’ve liked Japan for forever. But I was never drawn to the religious practice until Set smacked me upside the head with it. So yeah. Plus, I’ve got half of Europe flowing through my DNA, and who knows what else as well. If some European god came knocking on my door, I’d probably answer. But until that point, I’m sticking to what is working, and it’s really no one else’s place to tell me if I’m doing it ‘wrong’.

    Yeah. This topic makes me feisty.

  2. I think cultural appropriation, at least for me, has far more to do with attitude than anything else. I do get annoyed with people who take on the trappings of, say, Asian culture or Native culture, and treat the actual people like crap. Or worse yet, act as though they know more than those people who have those cultures in their blood. On the other hand, I know a Deaf artist (white) who did a series of beautiful Sumi-e paintings, and during her opening talked in depth about Japanese culture. You could tell she had studied it and respected it.

    So basically, if you are going to take on the religion of a culture, it is good to learn something about the culture out of respect.

  3. It would take me hours to explain what I understand of appropriation, but I don’t think what you’re doing (what I’m doing) is appropriation. It’s a concept better understood through comparison…

    Hipsters have taken to wearing imitation feathered headdresses. THAT’S appropriation. It’s rude. I’m sure they think that Native Americans are cool…or that the headdresses are cool…but the Native American culture by-and-large has been outraged by this.

    On the other hand, participants in the Mardi-Gras parade wearing brightly colored, sequined Native American-style feathered costumes (who are obviously *not* Native American but more often African American) is *NOT* appropriation.

    Does it make sense? Maybe, maybe not. But as far as I can tell, it’s a matter of respect. Sure, Mardi-Gras doesn’t seem respectful, but if you know the history & why Black culture adopted the Native American character, it becomes slightly more apparent.

    Likewise, Native Americans will be enraged by most of the “Shaman” types peddling crystals out of Sedona, talking about Totem animals and holding Sweatlodges. Most of them don’t have the slightest hint of Native blood in their veins, and don’t really now anything about traditional Native American ways (from any ONE tribe because they tend to lump them all together anyway…!). Yet there they are, making bank.

    So that’s cultural. Culture is different from genetics, however…ok. I’ll do a post, eventually! ;-) In the meantime, I don’t think we’re appropriating, and I don’t think it has to be genetic OR cultural. Someone else may disagree though…

    • I’ve never seen a hipster in a feathered headdress before. I guess we don’t have any in my area. Or, if we do, I’m purposely blinded to it. I can safely attest that if I see some id-jit with a feathered headdress on their head, I’m going to ask them what tribe they come from. And if they give me an unacceptable answer, then I’m probably going to jail for something.

      I’ll look forward to your post!

      • I’ll try to have bail money ready, then, because that would be a worthy cause. I’ve never seen it myself; but I’ve seen complaints about it (I think its a west-coast phenom if I remember right?) and I’ve even seen a website abotu appropriation where a girl apologized for doing it…

        And someone sent out a link in a tweet today. Guess in the 90s the Lakota Nation declared war on Appropriators. Very interesting read.

        http://puffin.creighton.edu/lakota/war.html

        Hopefully will get that rant off my chest this week or next? Not sure. Gonna be fun tho!

  4. The reason why I decided and felt the need to Practice Celtic Recon is because I want to help preserve my Culture so that others in the future can enjoy its beauty its sounds and the feeling of joy it gives a person
    I want to preserve the land I live in
    I want to preserve our language and dance so people will use it and not feel like its “old” and not modern and has no purpose in a modern world
    I want to revive the worship of the Gods and spirits of this land
    So you can see and will see from my blog in time my great attempts and very bad attempts at trying to do just that Preserving a culture which is shown very little respect and the only reason it has survived so long is because of the monetary value to Tourists other wise it would have probably died out by now
    which makes me very sad

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