Culture and Community: Appropriation, Exchange and Modern Paganism

Crystal Blanton —  November 14, 2014 — 213 Comments

Cultural appropriation is not a new issue and definitely not new within Paganism. The story of American capitalism has created a strong foundation for what has continued to be one of the most important, and yet challenging, discussions underlying the modern Pagan experience. Conversations of cultural appropriation reach outside of the boundaries of this spiritual world and intersect with various other aspects of our everyday society, leaving a complex web to untangle.

For example, the New Age sector’s use of various aspects of Native American* cultures, as well as the selling or misappropriating of that culture, has continued to drum up controversy. Indian Country Today Media Network recently published an article called Selling the Sacred, exploring the objectifying of Native religious and cultural “secrets” in New Age arenas. The article highlights several places that claim to certify people as Shamans or even award a Masters Degree in Native American Shamanism.

[Photo Credit: Media123 CC lic. via Wikimedia Commons]

[Photo Credit: Media123 CC lic. via Wikimedia Commons]

Native Americans are not the only marginalized culture to be openly appropriated in the United States by New Age practitioners and even Pagan communities. Hindu deities and traditions have become more popular among some people, along with aspects of African heritage as well. It is just as common to find djembe drums in a Pagan fire circle as it is to find candles in a ritual. The line between appropriation and cultural exchange can be a very fine one. It is not only about the intersection of capitalism, but also colonialism enters into the equation.

There are many things to consider. When does exchange become more about honoring another culture rather than just adopting it while leaving its roots behind?

The growing eclecticism of Pagan practitioners make these distinctions more challenging to unravel. How do we determine the boundaries of respectful cultural exchange within modern Paganism when individual understandings of this concept are so vast and varied?

The complexity of exploring the nuances of cultural appropriation versus exchange are not easily defined by one set of criteria. Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University – Northridge, answered questions about the layered intricacies of the often controversial concepts of appropriation and exchange.

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo Credit Tony Mierzwicki)

… while on paper one can try to distinguish appropriation from exchange, in practice, it’s much more complicated. Cultures come into contact with one another in many different ways, and some of those involve violence. Nonetheless, cultural exchanges do emerge from those contacts — all the time. Think of cultural exchange as a crossroads. In folklore, the crossroads is a liminal place of magic, but it’s also a dangerous place, a place where death and destruction can happen. Crossroads deities are tricky (Eshu, Loki, Odin) and fierce (Hekate). Yet from that destruction and trickery, new life arises. It’s kind of the same with cultural contact and exchange.

Usually, when defining cultural exchange, the premise is that the two cultures entering into the exchange are on equal terms: neither is more powerful than the other. Cultural material — narratives, verbal lore, music, material culture, foodways, magical techniques — are shared as part of the process of intercultural contact. Thus, for example, when the Irish settled in New York City after fleeing the potato famine in 1848, they found that all the storekeepers in the neighborhoods where they could afford to live were Jewish. They didn’t have any lamb or pork, but they did carry Kosher corned beef. Thus, corned beef substituted the kinds of meats they had eaten in their homeland. That’s the reason we think of corned beef and cabbage as “Irish” food today — it’s really Irish American food, born of that cultural exchange.

Appropriation happens when one culture conquers another, destroys or damages their culture and substitutes its own as the dominant culture, then borrows elements of the subjugated culture, re-contextualizing them for their symbolic value.

So, for example, the destruction of Native American cultures by European Americans, followed by the use of decontextualized elements from those cultures (feather headdresses, sweat lodges, jewelry, fringed clothing, architecture styles, concepts such as “spirit animal”) as icons of authenticity or spirituality is an example of appropriation.

All this is easy on paper, but more challenging on the ground, because in reality, cultures are seldom on equal footing in terms of power. Moreover, cultural borrowing and exchange happens constantly. We are moved to adopt elements we find attractive or advantageous through a process called “mimesis” (imitation).

Attempting to keep your own culture “pure” and free of any appropriated or borrowed elements is just as noxious as free-wheeling appropriation: it leads to a kind of cultural fascism, like what we see now developing among certain kinds of right-wing, nationalist Paganisms in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Basically, avoiding blatant cultural appropriation is about respecting the feelings and rights of other cultures with which you co-exist. It’s about recognizing when there’s a history of power-over, exploitation, and cultural destruction, and being mindful of that … It’s about power dynamics — and those are frequently subtle.

In light of the complicated, interwoven and challenging prospect of analyzing what might be culturally appropriative and what might be considered respectful exchange, several other people have shared their thoughts to this complex topic. The personal insights of these practitioners show a myriad different angles and ideals that mirror such diversity in thought and practice.

Lupa Greenwolf is an author and artist that has worked with shamanic aspects in her personal practice. She is the editor of the 2012 anthology Talking About the Elephant: An Anthology of Neopagan Perspectives on Cultural Appropriation published by Immanion/Megalithica Press. Lou Florez is a Rootdoctor and Orisha Priest in the San Francisco Bay Area. His spiritual work focuses on the liberation of the body, and he works as a southern-style Tarot and Dillogun reader at a metaphysical shop in Oakland, California. Kenn Day is the author of several books on post-tribal shamanism, including Post-Tribal Shamanism: A New Look at the Old Ways published in 2014 by Moon Books. Janet Callahan is an author of several published works and is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Tribe.



The problem in a more practical sense is that, in the U.S. at least, there is no established shamanic path in the dominant culture, and so people who come from that culture (like me) have to choose either to try to shoehorn ourselves into an indigenous culture that we may not be welcome in let alone be trained in, or research cultures of our genetic ancestors and find that we are no more *culturally* German, or Slavic, or Russian than we are Cherokee or Dine’. Or we take a third road, which is to try to piece together from scratch some tradition that carries the same basic function as a shamanic practice in another culture, but which is informed by our own experiences growing up in the culture we happened to be born into.

As to how to realistically avoid appropriation to the best of your ability, while also honoring your own need for spirituality and the spirits/community you serve? A lot of it is a matter of educating yourself on where you’re coming from versus the origins of the traditions you may be inspired by, and how your own cultural experiences inform your own practice of similar-but-not-the-same traditions. One of the problems I have with core shamanism is that it claims to be “culturally neutral”, or at least a lot of the practitioners thereof claim it is. And that’s basically impossible. Your culture ALWAYS affects how you approach everything, from spirituality to communication to food. So try to be a shaman of your own culture, not of someone else’s (unless specifically invited).

I think the biggest problem is when non-indigenous people wholesale take indigenous practices, and then claim to be indigenous themselves. That’s part of what makes it tougher for people who are genuinely trying to create a practice for themselves while remaining as culturally sensitive as possible, because we get lumped in with those who outright lie about who they are. So you need to be honest and clear about where your practices come from and what inspired them, what’s your own creation and what came from others.

I’ve had people tell me everything from “You shouldn’t use the word ‘shaman'” to “You shouldn’t use a drum with a real hide head” to “You shouldn’t work with hides and bones at all”, all because I’m a European mutt. For a while I kept backing up and backing up and acquiescing to whoever criticized me–and then I realized that if I gave in to every criticism, I’d have no practice left at all. So I very carefully reviewed what my practice entailed, did my best to claim that which I created myself while also being honest about how other cultures’ practices inspired me, and that’s where I drew my line, where I would back up no farther. I don’t consider myself a neoshaman any more, mostly because I don’t use specifically “shamanic” practices like journeying, and use the term “naturalist pagan” for what I currently practice, but I still work with hides and bones, I still have my totemic practice, all in ways that I have developed for myself over the years. – Lupa Greenwolf, Author

Lou Florez

Lou Florez [Courtesy Photo]

Experiences of appropriation have left me alienated and displaced in community. At its core appropriation is a form of violence and aggression against brown bodies and brown communities. It is a minstreling, a racist caricature that tells more about the frame of mind of the performer [appropriation is a performative act] then it does about the original practice or cultural significance. Not only does it cause harm through this mimicking of symbols and actions, but it further creates difficulties for seeing real images of brown people and our gods on community altars due to the fear of appropriation.I think that honesty is of utmost importance in these matters because there is a difference between a ritual inspired by a different culture versus one that claims a lineage in that specific tradition. My litmus test is this question, have you been given license to do ceremony and teach from these communities? Just as I would never read a book and pretend to be an authority in Gardenarian Wicca, you can’t read one book and think that you are a rootworker, conjure doctor, or a First Nation “shaman.” – Lou Florez, Rootdoctor and Orisha priest

Kenn Day

Kenn Day [Courtesy Photo]

Cultural appropriation is damaging both to the culture that is being taken from as well as the one who is taking pieces without context. The loss to the culture appropriated is obvious. The damage to the one doing the taking is more subtle.Back in the late 80’s I coined the term “post-tribal shamanism” to differentiate between the teachings I received and those of tribal cultures. However, many people make the assumption that, if you are practicing ceremony with ancestor spirits, then you have taken your practice from a native tradition. This is no more true than it is to assume that only tribal people have ancestors. The call to practice shamanism is found in every culture. Just like everything else, it appears differently in each culture, yet it is still recognizable.The most important difference I see between the shamanism practiced in tribal cultures and what I teach and practice is that the tribal practices are focused on supporting, healing and maintaining the most import unit of that culture: the tribe itself. Our situation is dramatically different, in that the most important unit of our culture is the individual. This is where our practices need to be directed. Too many traditional practices are simply not appropriate for use with individuals, just as what I do would not be appropriate for tribal people. – Kenn Day, Author and Professional Shaman

Janet Callahan

Janet Callahan

The history of cultural appropriation makes me more cautious when I encounter a new group or teacher or situation. I ask more questions about what is planned, look more at the history of who they’ve learned from, and so on. I want to make sure I’m not walking into a situation I can’t ethically support.

I think people really need to do their homework. They need to understand not just the physical aspects of a practice, but the bigger picture in terms of culture and language and what is really going on (and to do that, frequently you realize it’s not actually possible to take it out of context).

My immediate family is not “Traditional” (which is generally used to mean those who follow tribal ways rather than being Christian and otherwise following white ways), but portions of my extended family are. And what I understand now, that I think is lost outside of the culture, is that religion/spirituality and culture are woven together. They are not separate entities. And that means that taking something out of context loses much of the value of it. – Janet Callahan, Author

As the framework of culture continue to evolve and change, so does the black and white definition of what constitutes appropriation. The context of how something is regarded, shared, explored or used may vary within different cultures and different time frames. This means there is not a clear definition of what is and is not an acceptable with regards to the use of elements from another culture. Context is everything.

Instead we are left with a list of considerations that should be given to cultures, people and histories that are not our own, and a level of awareness that reminds us that everything is not open property just because we wish it to be so. Releasing the conditioning of post-colonialism in America reminds us that everything is not ours to take, everything is not ours to sell and everything is not free. What prices are paid when cultural treasures are taken from a people?

Kenn Day spoke to the complexity of learning to navigate our relationships with living cultures. He said, “These living cultures can be dealt with respectfully in much the same way as many modern seekers have approached native traditions of shamanism, by approaching them with humility and asking to learn from the lore keepers of that people. This means recognizing that their traditions are not yours to take. They can be gifted, but even then they remain within the territory of that people. It is demeaning to have elements of your culture taken out of context and displayed for the entertainment of those outside your community.”

How do we as modern Pagans respectfully exchange with other spiritual cultures? What are we giving in exchange for the knowledge that we gain and using for our own spiritual experiences? How can we respect the context, culture, history and people of the cultures we are exchanging with? All of these are questions that should be evaluated on an ongoing basis within any spiritual community that is growing and evolving.

 *   *   *

*Author’s note: I am very aware that many of the different names and labels, which are commonly used to refer to the indigenous of this land, come with traces of colonialism. Since there is no universally-respected term that can possibly fit all native indigenous/Native American/American Indians/First Peoples, I want to acknowledge this fact and communicate my sincere desire to be respectful.

Crystal Blanton


Crystal Blanton writes the monthly TWH column "Culture and Community." She is an activist, writer, priestess, mother, wife and social worker in the Bay Area. She has published two books "Bridging the Gap" and "Pain and Faith in a Wiccan World," and was the editor of the anthology "Shades of Faith; Minority Voices in Paganism." She is a writer for the magazine Sage Woman and Patheos' Daughters of Eve blog. She is passionate about the integration of community, spirituality, and healing from our ancestral past, and is an advocate for true diversity and multiculturalism within the Pagan community.
  • lilithdorsey

    I think Florez makes and amazing point here and asks a very valid question. Many of these people claim to have been given “divine license” but that is definitely not an option in the ATR religions that I practice, namely New Orleans Voodoo, Haitian Vodou, and La Regla Lucumi. Thank you for this Crystal, there are so many sentient points here and I hope people will begin to really listen.

  • Nice piece! And particularly timely for me–just yesterday I was part of an extended discussion of whether the practice of jumping the broom at a wedding constitutes “Columbusing” if you’re a white person. The woman who had started the thread had never heard of either the modern Wiccan practice or the association with Celtic countries; I had never heard of the African associations–though I was aware of the African American use, especially during slavery. We managed to defuse our mutual defensiveness, and it was a rich discussion… but much more complex than I’d have thought at the outset.

    I think that’s what I like about this article today: a recognition of nuance. I particularly liked the extended quote from Sabina Magliocco… both on the complexity of the issue (the trickiness of the crossroads!) and the fact that cultural purity is not a reasonable or particularly moral goal any more than ignoring colonialism and appropriation are. And as a practitioner, I found myself resonating to Lupa Greenwolf’s words:

    “For a while I kept backing up and backing up and acquiescing to whoever criticized me–and then I realized that if I gave in to every criticism, I’d have no practice left at all. So I very carefully reviewed what my practice entailed, did my best to claim that which I created myself while also being honest about how other cultures’ practices inspired me, and that’s where I drew my line, where I would back up no farther.”

    Invalidating my own spiritual practices, simply because someone relatively unfamiliar with them identifies them as culturally appropriative, is not how I care to roll. I do know that. For myself, I’ve tended to keep very quiet in public about certain culturally sensitive words or phrases for my practices. I won’t use certain names, for gods or for practices, unless you are someone I trust to look deeply into what I’m actually doing. But if my gods and spirits approve of my practices, neither do I put them up for a committee vote–even at the same time I do try to keep a weather eye out for appropriation in both spiritual practice and other areas of life.

    • dantes

      I had no idea about this practice… IMO such tiny cultural exchanges/appropriations should not be viewed as bad things if those haven’t been intended to be demeaning. Plus such traditions might end being used by the receiving group for so long that its original meaning has become lost and people partake in it in good faith (something you can’t say with f.e. sweat lodges or such)

      • Those taking on foreign cultural elements usually are never intending to be demeaning- they often feel they are honoring the culture from which they are taking, and feel their imitation is a form of admiration for the other culture and people, and wish for the other people to see it as such. But good intentions do not render the act any more appropriate, especially when off-kilter power dynamics are overtly present among the cultures of the people involved and these go unrecognized.

        • dantes

          True true, but what about when a “borrowing” isn’t even intended, as in people just mimicking things they observed from another group?

          • Why are they mimicking? What have they lost that they cannot practice their own customs instead? How is the mimicking benefiting the people being mimicked? Or is the mimicking perpetuating the invisibility of those being mimicked, and the invisibility of their lack of privilege and power? This is what happened when euro-americans mimicked african-american music in the 50s and 60s and got a majority of record deals, air play, and credit for creating rock-n-roll, by mimicking another culture’s music and monetarily benefiting from it. Black bands were not even allowed to play in several states even when they had records out, or if they did, it was in venues where they would not have been permitted to attend themselves due to racism and racist laws and policies. Thoughtless borrowing has real consequences. The idea is to go into this thoughtfully.

          • dantes

            Well as far as I know listening to Black Music wasn’t really an accepted mainstream behavior back then anyway… By appropriating the Black R´n´Roll music whites did ultimately bring Millions to discover and enjoy Black Music and culture and most of the artists that did channel this music were very, very much respectful of the black artists that preceded them (Rolling Stones <3 Muddy Waters, Beatles <3 Chuck Berry, etc…) In addition white musicians took the music way way beyond its original Black roots (most Rock music after 1977 cannot really said to be blues based anymore #SexPistols) and would end end creating wondrous art that can be appreciated by all…

            So yes, I'm sorry but you might want to use another example than RnR in that case because it's totally the type of "cultural appropriation" that I can back a 100 per cent :).

          • Then you should ask the African-American community if *they* back it 100%, as the idea here is to center *their* voices and needs, not ours.

          • dantes

            Well I still don’t get how the African-American culture suffered from that. I mean, if RnR had stayed at a stage where it was only a pale copy of superior Black RnB I could guess there would be cause for concern but as I said, whites took it to a completely different plane quite quickly.

            In addition, if I ask members of the African-American community if they think it’s okay for whites to play RnR I doubt there would be many who’d say “No”…

            I’m sorry but I still don’t get how euro-american RnR damaged Black culture in any ways while I see positive results just about everywhere.

          • Then *ask them.* Who made the money? Who had control over the music? How did having other people play their music improve their community, or monetarily benefit *them*? This isn’t about who gets to play the music, it is about who reaps the monetary benefits of that playing, who receives the cultural credit for the music, and how the co-opting of their music still left them socially disenfranchised as a people. It is about *power.*

          • MadGastronomer

            Wow. I am utterly stunned. How was Black community damaged by white appropriation of rock’n’roll? Let me count the ways.

            1. Black artists were erased. They were not permitted to play in most venues, the black roots of the music was actively denied, and white artists actively stole individual songs from Black musicians without crediting them or paying royalties. See half of Elvis’ discography. (Sorry, listening to the actual lyrics, did you really think that Hound Dog was written for a man to sing? How about written and sung by Big Mama Thornton.)

            2. Black artists who did play were payed absolute shit, their money stolen by white agents and white-owned record companies.

            3. Black children growing up not knowing that this music was part of their heritage.

            And, of course we still keep appropriating Black music. From jazz to rock to rap, and everything between and beyond. We fucking steal it. Not just borrow it, not just spread it to wider audiences, steal it. Steal money and credit and, as Erin said, power. Now there are more Black agents and managers as record execs, but white ones still have most of the money and power.

            You don’t see it? Then you don’t want to. Take your blinkers off, and listen to people.

          • dantes

            Point 1 :

            As far as I know, as I said before, Black RnB/RnR was very much underground before Elvis and co… guys like Chuck Berry or Little Richards got quite the career boost following the white appropriation of RnR, just look at the discography of Little Richards and compare the pre Sun-Studio RnR and the period after. When it comes to white artists stealing royalties from Black musicians, I can honestly say that I didn’t know. I of course know that artists like Elvis took most of their songs from Black artists but I had no ideas they did so without paying the rightful owners…if you have any sources/link for that please let me know as I would very much like to learn about this.

            Point 2: I can totally imagine that being true, still without the white appropriation of RnR there would probably have been much much fewer people buying those records and possibly even less revenue for those musicians. Agaain, if you have any sources/link regarding this please post them.

            Point 3:Well, RnR was not really intended for kids to start with…it was all about raunchily describing sexual tension and intercourse (through veiled references though). Even Blues was more a thing for dirty joints than kiddos. I However agree that I would tend to agree with you when you say that younger Blacks might not consider RnR as part of their heritage, hence potentially being responsible for Hip-Hop and the likes…

            In addition to what I said you can look at guys like Alan Freed who actively used RnR as a mean to fight segregation. One could also think about Motown that probably would not have existed (at least not in the way it did) without the RnR boom of the fifties, a label that most certainly did provide lots and lots of original Black music for kids and adults alike…

            So yes, when it comes to RnR I don’t think the picture is so Black and White (Double pun intended !!!)

          • MadGastronomer

            Why do you think that the wider audience thing makes up for THEFT? No, seriously, you keep using that as a defense. It’s not. It doesn’t fix it. Nor do protest songs. Nor does ANYTHING. Music can be brought to a wider audience without theft or appropriation. All you want is to wave away the problems here.

            And kids have been listening to music with raunchy lyrics since there’s been music. Literally. Music has always contained lots of references to sex, and kids have always listened to it anyway. Just as kids did with rock, both Black and white. If you don’t think it matters that Black kids grew up not knowing that rock was part of their heritage as Black kids, then you’re just plain pig ignorant. Representations MATTERS, at a deep level.

            Look , you wanted to know how the appropriation of rock’n’roll has harmed the Black community. People have been trying to tell you. All you come up with is excuses for why it can’t actually have hurt them. But it did. Go do some reading of your own, if you don’t believe us. Do your own homework.

            You won’t, of course. You want to pretend that the benefits of rock’n’roll reaching a wide audience — and what you’re missing here is that no one is saying that there weren’t any — negative the harm that was done by the appropriation that got it out there. You are defending racism and the erasure of a culture, because you don’t want to admit that something you like might have a down side. You’re drowning in privilege, and you can’t do anything but deny as loudly as possible that it’s there.

            Oh, and here’s Big Mama Thornton on Hound Dog: “That song sold over two million records. I got one check for $500 and never saw another.”

          • dantes

            Well I guess there’s no use arguing any further then…

            But please, calling people animal names (in that case “pig”) won’t make them listen to your arguments any further.

          • MadGastronomer

            You are so eager to defend racism that there clearly wasn’t any getting through to you anyway. And tone arguments hold no water anywhere ever, and in discussions of this kind are the refuge of the privileged.


          • dantes


            That exactly:

            there’s no use arguing any further then

          • MadGastronomer

            You are harming people. You’re racist. And whether or not you listen, I’m calling you on it, because it is important to oppose racism regardless of whether or not the racist in question reforms. Because it isn’t about you, it’s about the people you are harming.

            You asked questions, and you are flat-out refusing to listen to the answers. You’re taking any excuse you can find to ignore the answers, because you don’t like them. Appropriation harms people. That’s what makes it appropriation. Stealing rock’n’roll and other kinds of music and art from Black people and repackaging it as white music harmed, and continues to harm, Black people. You are participating in the theft and the harm. You are contributing to racism. That makes you racist. You are maintaining it even when being told that it’s racist. You don’t even have the excuse of ignorance. You are making a conscious choice to be racist.

            You are harming people. Stop it.

          • dantes

            Thanks for giving up on the all caps. That’s very much appreciated.

            Otherwise I will stay on position: there’s no use arguing any further then

          • MadGastronomer

            You are still harming people. PLEASE STOP.

          • Fantastic grasp of the issue MadGastronomer, and bringing in your excellent analysis on the theft of black music adds a huge amount to the cultural appropriation discussion overall. I really appreciate your attempts here to inform dantes, who doesn’t think the genocide of First Nations happened in the Americas either. Some people really need to get educated before making comments that just highlight their own racism.

          • dantes

            What should I do, concretely to stop harming people?

          • MadGastronomer

            Stop denying and defending racism, since by doing so you prop it up and therefore repeat it. Stop denying the genocide of Indigenous peoples. Stop denying the harm done by appropriation. Stop claiming that a wide audience means no harm was done. Listen when people try to explain to you, and go educate yourself instead of asking others to do it for you.

            You’re harming people. We keep telling you how you’re harming people. Stop doing those things.

          • Learn, grow, and figure out there is something that needs challenging… then challenge it.

            How to do that? Listen more to black voices and native voices and other voices of racial minorities. (The blogs The Root and Indian Country are a nice place to begin.) Be aware of the tendency white people have to believe our perspective is “neutral” or “unbiased,” and consider the possibility that when many people of color are telling the same story, whether it is of cultural appropriation or of police harassment, they may be telling you something you would otherwise not have known.

            Few white people are consciously and overtly racist; we know we do not intend harm to those whose skin color is different from our own, and we know that we “mean well.” We tend to believe we are unaffected by what cultural vestiges of overt racism we’re exposed to as kids–just as nobody thinks they’re actually influenced by advertising campaigns–and yet, there are all the world’s major companies, wasting their money on it. Or is it that we think only “other people” are influenced by such things? We often fail to recognize racist assumptions we make about members of other races, and then our feelings are hurt when we’re called on that, because we know we “meant well.”

            We also tend to think that people of color are exaggerating when they describe ways that racial bias has impacted them. We seek out other voices from the same racial groups that agree with us, to allow us to go on pretending that, when a black or N.A. person says they’ve experienced racism, they’re just “playing the race card,” or too suspicious or sensitive. It generally escapes our awareness that the folks who tell us of racism they notice and we don’t are aware of it because they have no choice but to be–a white person can shrug their shoulders, walk away, and say, “it’s probably not what it seems,” and stop thinking about it. A person of color, however, never gets a day of from being themselves, never gets to stop being a student of racism.

            In the United States, at any rate, every black man or woman has the equivalent of a PhD in racism awareness. At best, you or I probably have the equivalent of one undergraduate course… and yet we think our first impressions of a situation are the equal of their lifetime of learning?

            One example of that: according to the Washington Post, almost no white Americans have ever experienced harassment by police. Statistically speaking, it’s a truly rare occurrence. However, 45% of black Americans have experienced such harassment.

            Ask a white American if racial profiling exists, and they’ll probably say no. Ask a black American? They’ll say yes and look at you like you’re crazy for asking!

            My point is that all humans understand reality from our own lived perspectives. But as white people, we live in a world where our perspectives are echoed by every major institution and media outlet. We get to thinking our perspective, our experiences and understandings, are “only natural,”–the real world. On some level, we have been taught to think white is right–and it’s a habit of thought that makes a lot of institutionalized racism invisible to us. We don’t see it–honestly don’t see it.

            We need to. The institutions of racism were created centuries ago by Europeans and those of European descent to benefit white people at the expense of others, and we’ve been benefiting ever since. Institutionalized racism doesn’t actually need us to think or act in overtly racist ways–though there’s usually some nasty piece of work who is ready and willing to take on that job.

            But it needs us to go along. To trust that all is well, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain…

            It’s a lot like the institutionalized privileging of Christianity over Paganism. Most Christians don’t hate Pagans, or want to see us deprived of our rights. They just don’t recognize the ways that the deck has been stacked to favor their religion over everyone else’s. Yeah, there are outright haters out there… but mostly, what there is is a lot of people who just don’t see how Pagans and others are deprived of equality. They see it as only right and natural, that they should have the perks they do… to the point where simply asserting equal rights can be seen as a “war on Christianity.”

            We have learned, as Pagans, to see that form of institutionalized privilege. We need to look deeper, turn it around. Because it turns out that many of us are exerting the same kind of institutionalized oppressiveness and obliviousness toward people of color.

            Such, at least, is my perspective.

          • Want more? Something even more concrete?

            If you are on Facebook, send me an email (you’ll find me at quakerpagan AT fastmail DOT com) and I’ll see if I can get you an invite into a Facebook group I assist with, called Whites Against Racial Inequality.

            It’s not my project; I came along late in the game, actually, when the events in Ferguson, MO, made me just unable to bear my silence any longer. For whatever reason, that event was the cold water bath that woke me out of my complacent notion that “racism was almost gone.” (Hah! If only.)

            WARI is just one project out of many, but what I like about it is that it is an interracial group that focuses on educating white people to be able to see and confront racism–rather than always rely on people of color to be the ones doing that work. It’s a combination of listening to the perspectives of people of color and taking ownership of acting to change our culture. (“We broke it, we bought it,” is my philosophy on that. Whites have been the primary beneficiaries of institutionalized racism for centuries now, so it’s about time we took some responsibility for digging our way out…)

            Unlike other groups, WARI works hard to keep dialog constructive and supportive, and tightly focused on the mission. Sometimes that’s frustrating: to accomodate the widest possible range of allies, subjects very near to my heart are out of bounds for WARI discussions. (Feminism, religion, glbtq equality, and party politics are all topics we try to avoid. Sometimes that kills me!)

            But the result is 800+ people of all races, speaking together with directness and compassion about how racism works–and how to get it to stop working. I love the group, I admit it.

            But whether there or elsewhere, there not only are places to bring this discussion productively, it actually is surprisingly helpful to have the conversation. I am often amazed to learn that words of mine have helped to ease some of the pain of racism… after feeling helpless to change anything, it’s encouraging.

            Hope this helps.

          • dantes

            Well Cat-B I have to say you most certainly know hoe to argue. You make numerous valid points and I have to admit that the logic behind it is quite solid. Didn’t you said you were a teacher earlier? If so I can believe that you’re more than suited for the job.

            I am not on Facebook though, but I will check the blog you mentioned.

            I also appreciate the fact that you can keep a calm and intelligent attitude discussing such divisive topics. Being European, I realize that I am far distanced from topics such as African American discrimination and am therefore much less emotional about those than people of the other side of the Atlantic. (No one talks about Ferguson here for example) but it is great that there are people like you who generously volunteer to bridge this continental gap.

          • MadGastronomer

            “I also appreciate the fact that you can keep a calm and intelligent attitude discussing such divisive topics.”

            This, btw, is a problem. People ought to be mad about this. It’s something to be mad about. Valuing people who aren’t expressing anger in the end values the words of privileged people over the words of the people actually affected by the oppression, because, oddly, the people being oppressed are the most likely to be angry. Get over this. It will always hinder you in learning. Listen to the angry people, too. They have important things to say. If people are angry at you, they very likely have an excellent reason — like that you are doing harm. If you don’t listen to the angry people, you will never really understand the harm you are doing.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    For a while I kept backing up and backing up and acquiescing to whoever criticized me–and then I realized that if I gave in to every criticism, I’d have no practice left at all.This is the condition into which imho the loudest denouncers of appropriation would drive eclectic neoPagans if we let them.

    • What drives the eclecticism? Where is the need to borrow from several foreign cultures coming from? What has been lost that one needs to fill in from several places to find spiritual satisfaction, and what is that loss indicating?

      • Merlyn7

        Speaking only for the United States, if pagans here were only allowed to work with Deities from our own culture we would have to light candles to Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty at each ritual.

        I notice a lot of people say “borrow” and that word doesn’t always fit. I suggest in many cases “revere” is the better word. When I perform a ritual to Isis, I’m not “borrowing” her from ancient Egyptians. Borrowing suggests I’m supposed to “return” her at some point. I revere her. And her worship spread so widely with the help of Greeks and Romans who culturally appropriated her worship thousands of years ago (and for that I owe them much).

        • dantes

          Good points with the Græco-romans !

          • Claiming one’s appropriation is honorable because the appropriation was done by earlier peoples strikes me as a dubious defense, however.

        • There is no extant culture today which includes Isis and her rites, however, so that isn’t really relevant to a discussion about cultural theft.

          • dantes

            Léoth also raised the question of what to do with the appropriation of “dead” cultures and one must admit that it’s quite different than “actual” cultural appropriation indeed.

          • Merlyn7

            But they certainly were alive when the Greeks and Romans began to revere Her and it’s through that cultural appropriation that Her rites are made available to me, and that’s what I mean when I say I benefit from the cultural appropriation.

          • Do you find honor in such benefit?

          • Merlyn7

            Yes, absolutely. Isis was so beloved by the world that her worship spread far and wide. Ancient Greeks worshiped her as they worshiped their own Gods because they were so taken by the beauty of Her story and the power of Her mysteries. What they did would today be labeled as cultural theft by some (worshiping a Goddess outside of the ways an oppressed culture had been worshiping Her).

            When Greek reconstructionists worship Aphrodite aren’t they perpetuating the cultural theft of a Phoeneican Goddess? That’s how Aphrodite (whose origins are not Greek) came to be worshiped by the Greeks.

          • The dishonor to examine has to do with imperialism and privilege. If connecting today with foreign deities is done for self-centered reasons and does not take into account the origins of the deity, or the present plight of the people and culture of origin of the deity, it is a superficial connection which perpetuates dishonorable relations among peoples today by not recognizing the needs of the people, and allowing them to remain invisible in the dominant culture. Isis presently has no extant culture, as today’s Egyptians are Muslim and the descendants of those who worshiped her there live elsewhere now, but certainly Rome was an imperial force, as was Macedonian Greece of Alexander’s time, and certainly they normalized their own cultures over those they conquered, feeling they were bringing enlightenment to backwards barbarians, disenfranchised local peoples and benefited from their land resources to which they helped themselves. I am not claiming to have a clear-cut solution for this situation, but I do think that it is important to be fully aware of the dynamics involved and grapple with them in some way which recognizes what took place then, and did more recently here in the “new world” at the hands of modern empires. We are better off recognizing and admitting to this reality, rather than pretending it is all in the past and not relevant today, or to modern neopagan traditions.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        You ask three difficult questions; I’ll answer the first one. The drive is from within, to encounter something that moves one deeply and find a place for it in one’s spiritual practice.

        • Does this imply that the society and culture in which we live do not presently provide things which can move one deeply, or provide the framework for a spiritual practice? I would say this is the case, and point to the spiritual desert that is the dominant consumerist culture in which we live which cannot respond to these needs satisfactorily. This is why people search outside, to fill that inner emptiness. This is what happened to us when we lost touch with our ancestral connections and traditions which *did* nourish us in these ways. I won’t bar the odd deity who calls to one outside a heritage cultural reference, but building a practice based on a collection of other culture’s traditions is basically an indictment of our own and its spiritual void outside of the Judeo-Christian framework which undergirds Western Civilization, whose modern Protestant inflection developed in tandem with the Scientific Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the growth of market capitalism, and tacitly supports all three, which in turn have been forces which have sought to wipe out all other cultural and spiritual expressions which did not align with their own internal, inherent values and worldview.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            To be succinct, I did indeed find the spiritual resources of the dominant American culture quite arid, but ran into the contrary strain of Pagan and Goddess counterculture and found it nourishing. When something speaks to me, I check it out. I don’t present myself as something I’m not and I certainly don’t try to make money off it.

          • That’s honorable of you. It is important to be aware though where others *have* presented themselves as something they are not and tried to make money off it *within* and as representatives *of* the pagan and goddess counter-culture, which is what this article is addressing. It has been rampant over the decades, it is important to understand where and by whom it has taken place, for what underlying reasons, and it needs to stop.

    • TadhgMor

      Shades of the Christian persecution complex no?

      Let’s be clear. I find appropriation and misuse from Irish tradition, including your own, very objectionable. I don’t have any desire to “drive you” to anything. Don’t make the mistake of demonizing others. I’d be perfectly happy to leave you doing whatever makes you happy the minute you stop doing that with misappropriated Irish terminology you’ve redefined. It’s not your practice that is the issue. I couldn’t care less if you want to dance naked, use athames or the like, or what not.

      With some irony, it seems you’re doing the very thing you accuse others of. You’re starting from a bad faith position and assuming ill intent. No wonder you’re one of the most vociferous defenders of this ill practice.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I wondered when you would join the discussion. It didn’t seem complete without you.

        • TadhgMor

          No apologies then I suppose? Gotta stick to that hard line.

          Your problem is you’re a maximalist taking an extreme position, so you need to assume others are taking the equal but opposite position. Even if they aren’t. I’d say I’m probably one of the strongest critics who continues to choose to interact with the eclectic pagan sphere, and I can assure my goal is not to “drive you to no practice”.

          But I’m not here to rehash this. I know your position is some sort of quasi-libertarian “what feels good is good”. You know that I find that to be a thin excuse as well as deeply selfish. I’ll spare the wasted space.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I’m not here to rehash this either.

  • Another-Idea
  • linguliformean

    “These living cultures can be dealt
    with respectfully in much the same way as many modern seekers have approached
    native traditions of shamanism, by approaching them with humility and asking to
    learn from the lore keepers of that people. This means recognizing that their
    traditions are not yours to take. They can be gifted, but even then they remain
    within the territory of that people. It is demeaning to have elements of your
    culture taken out of context and displayed for the entertainment of those
    outside your community.”

    This is perhaps the pertinent part; as someone who for all
    intents are purposes is part of a culture that could be getting appropriated –
    though tends not to be seen as such – we simply can’t operate in a way where we
    build walls between cultures and forbid anyone from crossing those walls.

    Humans are humans, their hearts pull them where they will
    and we should recognise that. You can’t forbid someone from taking an interest
    in indigenous American culture or spirituality – especially given that they
    grew up in the landscape that spirituality is rooted in.

    Were I to move and live in the states I would want to form a
    connection with that landscape and the obvious and most clear way is through
    the lens of indigenous traditions – so that is how I would go about making such
    connections, though in a respectful manner. Can we encourage such a process do you think?

    • dantes

      This is exactly why I could never move outside of Europe. Good point here!

      IMO the question is all about numbers. While a tiny number of non-indigenous practitioners would certainly not affect the faith/practice much, a large number of them might radically change it.

      In this situation, I think best to let the receiving culture be the judge of what’s good for them and what’s not.

      In addition to that, the historical stigma associated with colonialism may and would taint even the most heartfelt approach of associating oneself with a new culture.

    • It does not work here in the US to encourage people who wish to forge relationship with the land here to do so through the lens of native tribal traditions, no. The native people here will tell you that these are the traditions of their ancestors and that we ought to go find and learn the traditions of our own ancestors. Appropriation isn’t about taking an interest, it is about taking traditions from a people who have been systematically disempowered and disenfranchised, without their permission or involvement, and without benefiting their native communities or people in any way, especially when done for profit or entertainment. For myself, I am learning that my own ancestral traditions nourish me, and that British-style Druidry provides a useful lens through which to enter into meaningful relationship with the land where I live, through its techniques and sensitivities. Recognizing appropriation is not about building walls, but building bridges- if we can contribute to forging relationships of equal power between our people and native peoples, between our cultures, then we will come close to being able to have genuine cultural exchanges in which we might learn from each other, and grow new traditions together. But not until the power dynamic is balanced out, and not until native peoples can feel trust that outsiders will not commodify their sacred ways.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        The native people here will tell you that these are the traditions of
        their ancestors and that we ought to go find and learn the traditions of
        our own ancestors.

        Do that in Heathenry and you get called racist…

        Not to mention that, for most people of “European origin”, they have hundreds of years (at least)of Christian ancestry, born from a time when Christianity subjugated the indigenous cultural beliefs of the European peoples.

        • dantes


          Also, I live in the North of Norway where we have quite a lot of Indigenous people (Sámi) and I understand completely the concept of respect-less cultural appropriation.

          Ultimately, we should just let each group/people/Þjóð decide for themselves what’s good for them.

          • MadGastronomer

            Really, I don’t think anyone who isn’t part of an oppressed culture can completely understand cultural appropriation, and indeed you keep demonstrating that you don’t.

            And while insist here that each group should decide for themselves what’s good for them, you can’t actually be bothered to go find out whether the people you’re arguing about actually think the things you think are good for them really are. You’re a hypocrite as well as a racist. Stop it.

        • Lupa

          And, as I mentioned in my quote above, just because my ancestors were German, Austrian, and otherwise European doesn’t mean that culturally I’m German or Austrian. I never found “Well, just look to the ways of your ancestors” as a legitimate response, because it’s just as foreign a set of ways to me as indigenous American ones. Once my family came over here, they quickly Americanized, other than a few bits of Czech worked into the family language. I can’t look at this land through Czech eyes any more than I can through Chinook eyes–I have to look through *my* eyes, and that’s the real challenge.

          • Being culturally consumerist American or British or European doesn’t really offer us the sort of spirituality we are looking for, however, now does it? It doesn’t for me, at any rate. I was also under the impression that Heathenry was all about cultural traditions, hence its name. If I choose to honor the gods of my ancestors and practice their cultural customs, how exactly is that a form of racism? Nobody is discounting the Christian history in European and insular areas, but one can also see behind its influence to perceive how the pre-christian cultures related to the land, and take that as a form of ancestral guidance today. It can be done, and I know, because I am doing it.

          • Lupa

            For the record, I wasn’t the one throwing around the term “racism”, so I’m not going to touch that part of your comment. IMO, the error is in thinking that my culture–American–is ONLY about consumerism. Yes, it’s a factor that needs to be addressed and not ignored, and I feel a lot of my fellows have a tendency to stick their head in the sand in that regard. However, it’s hardly the sum total of *my* experience as an American of European background.

            My spirituality is based on long summer nights watching fireflies as a child, and catching garter snakes and box turtles and carefully examining them before letting them go again. It’s afternoons fishing and winters tromping through a foot of snow. It’s recapturing those feelings as an adult, hiking and camping and backpacking. It’s gardening because I want to know where my food comes from, and it’s watching the crows and scrub jays and juncos on my little apartment porch. I don’t need to go back to my Czech ancestors to find meaning or symbolism in that. I am right here, right now, and I feel no need to be anything other than that in my own path.

            But that path is also about working to undo damage–removing invasive species, picking up litter, educating myself and others on the history of this land to include how the indigenous people were horribly treated, and how the other living beings here have been similarly marginalized. It’s about understanding that the reason I could catch garter snakes and go fishing where I did was because people long before me killed or drove away the people who were in those places before, and maintained that dominance over the land. Just because I grew up surrounded by the effects of these things doesn’t mean I ignore them.

            Again, though, I engage this as a person of my own culture, not the culture of people who were left back in Europe. I’m trying to create a healthier relationship with this land, both as an individual and as part of my culture and my community. My legacy doesn’t have to remain only one of dominance and destruction, and I’d rather work to change my culture than revert to the ancestral culture of a country I’ve never even been to.

          • dantes

            I’m right with you Lupa: I myself thought of North-American culture only in terms of Consumerism, Big bushiness and war but I’ve learn since then that there is a real depth in this culture from which spirituality might most certainly arise.

            On the other hand, like Erin, I think it’s totally valid to want to connect to an older kind of faith. To each his/her/they own.

          • Lupa

            Absolutely; I only speak for myself as far as this culture vs. hearkening to ancestral cultures goes. If that’s the solution that works for a person, that’s fine; I just don’t like it being touted as the only solution for someone of non-indigenous heritage.

          • dantes

            Especially in such a culturally and ethnically diverse place as the US.

          • mdyer

            I’ve often wondered how long people have to be in one area to become “indigenous”. There is no memory in my white New England family of ever coming from any place (other than Canada). If we’ve been here almost 400 years and have no memory of any other place do we then become indigenous to here?

          • dantes

            Hard to say considering that we are living in “Historical” times. Anglo-Saxons moved to England before writing their history, so did Icelanders for Iceland of the Franks to France.

            IMO it’s all about how the (originally) different groups see each other. You don’t see many English people identifying as Celts and pestering about the loss of their lands to the Saxons.

            When identity become either blended or blurred I think it’s about time when one people might start feeling “indigenous”. In regards to N-America it might take time though, considering that, unlike you, most still have very strong ties with their “original” homeland.

            Hope I answered your question somehow.

          • The passage of time is part of it- what happened 1500 years ago vs what happened 500 years ago. Cultural assimilation has largely taken place in England now, but not in North America among its indigenous peoples (and neither has it with respect to the British Welsh or Scottish Gaelic, either, really, where the ongoing effects of colonialism are still felt).

            Another part of it is cultural orientation. Gaelic tribes which emigrated to Canada’s Maritimes felt settled and at home in the new land by just the next generation, because they still retained their community, along with its identity and way of life of traditional farming and fishing for subsistence and selling the surplus, and their poets wrote praise poems to the land in which they’d been born as their first generation there. Modern culture is less grounded and rooted though, based on the individual, and on portable working and living which can be done anywhere for the most part, which effects a very different relationship to place. Without rootedness to place, there can be no sense of indigeneity to a place.

          • I don’t think this has to do with time, but with lifestyle. Our consumerist culture and economy does not support lifestyles which are rooted to place- few people live closely with a landscape, winning their living from it, or are a part of a close-knit community which does, and has for a long time. This is what creates rootedness and indigeneity to a place, along with developing a respectful and mutual relationship with the land and its spirits and beings in the course of that communal rooted lifestyle. When we live that way, we might develop an authentic sense of indigeneity.

          • Why is it important to you to be considered “indigenous”?

          • mdyer

            To me it’s not. Seems to be for a lot of other folks though.

          • I think it would serve as a really relevant and meaningful goal to strive for, actually, to work to become “indigenous.” To learn to live a rooted lifestyle and spirituality deeply connected to a place, for many generations, would teach a lot about damaging dependence on consumerist industry, extraction economy, exploitation and commodification of living beings, and dishonorable power dynamics between peoples and beings, which might drastically change how we live, associate with other peoples, and treat other beings. Maybe we oughta give it a try.

          • dantes

            Total support.

          • I don’t believe anyone suggested approaching this dilemma with any singular universal solution, Lupa. Per your racism note above, I wasn’t the one who brought up either, I was posing a question in response to the one who had brought it up in a previous comment- just to clarify.

          • Lupa, what you are describing is a someone personally and responsibly engaging with one’s land. That is great, but that is not what American *culture* is about- it is about the worldview of its economy. I do not suggest that individuals are ignoring what colonists did to the natives here, I suggest that the overculture itself, and its systems of governance, routinely do, and that this is a problem, which individuals can compound by thoughtlessly committing cultural theft. None of what you are describing is a problem, but neither is it addressing what I was getting at. If you have no need to reconnect with your ancestral cultures, then don’t. I am not suggesting we all ought to (though I would suggest that we could all benefit from it should we choose to). I am suggesting that it is a viable alternative to cultural appropriation and theft.

          • Lupa in the greater scheme of things we should not be so hasty to give our loyalty to Empire, the forces that spit us out in the diaspora and completely stripped our older or more recent European family lines of their ancestral traditions, cultural expressions and bonds to the land, in the process of building the modern nation-state in the Americas. As capitalism plays itself out and everyone begins to realize that the colonial paradigm is a magnificent failure and destructive to all life, identifying as an “American” or a “Canadian” is becoming problematic to say the least. Decolonizing means embracing our authentic self in every regard, and reclaiming our own ancestry is a big part of that process. If we do not hear our own ancestors calling, there is something seriously wrong.

          • dantes

            Still one cannot say that there isn’t such a thing as North-American culture isn’t it ? And even if I myself think it better to embrace more ancestral ways I don’t think it’s a good thing to force people doing so. One should not feel guilty for his/her/they heritage, even when it is (partially) built upon Colonization and other horrors.

          • Rhoanna

            Except for many people, “American” is their authentic self. I am not English or Scottish or Irish or Czech or Polish, even though I have ancestors who were. How would I meaningfully reclaim all of those, considering I don’t live in any of those cultures, as they exist now, or as they existed for my ancestors? No, I am American, and am not deep down something else. Yes, there are problematic and bad parts of American culture (as there are in any) and those need to be acknowledged and addressed when relevant and possible. But to abandon it to some mish-mash of ancestry (at some arbitrary point in the past), or for one particular ancestry above all others, is not in any way more authentic.

          • Yes, the multicultural mix is certainly an issue, but when you use that as an excuse NOT to embrace a pre-colonial tradition, you are still stuck with self-identifying as a member of the toxic monumental capitalist nation-state, which has not done any favors for you lately. What I recommend to people, is to PICK ONE (or TWO) of the cultures in your ancestry, the ones that speak to you the strongest perhaps, and then proceed to explore the ancient traditions of that beautiful culture. Some authenticity is better than none! Blessings-

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It becomes racist when “you” (the impersonal, generic and completely non-specific “you”) tell others that they are not allowed into your religion because they have the wrong appearance.

          • Nobody here was suggesting or doing that, however, so it is not relevant to this discussion.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Actually, it really is.

            To reiterate the quote I used:

            The native people here will tell you that these are the traditions of their ancestors and that we ought to go find and learn the traditions of our own ancestors.

            How is this not racist?

            I have a firm belief that, if people want to connect with the land and the local Ƿihta/spirits, the best place to start is with those local peoples who have a long history of doing just that.

            This will usually mean looking to whoever lived with (rather than just on) the land prior to universalist world religions came a-knocking.

          • Those local indigenous people are not interested in giving away their traditions after they had to give up their land and rights. That isn’t about racism on their part, it is about the racism and colonization that was perpetrated upon them by outsiders, who continue to occupy their lands, use their resources, and disenfranchise them. Why should they also be expected to share their sacred traditions just because we want them to? What motivation would they possibly have? Racism is about power, and the natives are the ones who don’t have it in the dominant culture, so they aren’t the ones who are committing racism; they aren’t the racists. We euro-americans have no right to tell their tribal stories, perform their ceremonies or enact their traditions. We might observe or study them, and be inspired by them, but we do not have the right to help ourselves to them, or call them our own, even if our intentions are honorably to connect with the land.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Modern Americans have no right to European stories, either, because they are not European (as if “European” was a monolithic thing, anyway).

            I believe the term is “cultural assimilation” – when you move to a place, you integrate to the culture of that place, rather than seeking to impose your own upon it.

          • If you are “integrating” cultural practices from natives who are not open to sharing them with outsiders, especially if you claim your practices are native practices, or attempt to make money from them, you are appropriating- that is why we are discussing this term. This is especially the case when referring to a so-called minority culture which doesn’t receive the same privilege we do in the dominant culture. You are not assimilating or integrating *unless you have their express permission* to do so with their ancestral traditions.

            I have a right to learn the stories of my Irish and Scottish ancestors, and share them with my children, which is what I do. I don’t know that anybody here suggested operating as broadly as “European.” We all have a right to our cultural heritage, even if we were cut off from it before we could have a say in that. Reconnecting that heritage is a powerful exercise a well, one that can heal a person, a generation, and future descendants, to restore that broken connection. Don’t do it if you don’t want to, but there is immense value found by those who do, and yes, they have a right to it.

          • Roi de Guerre

            I apologize if this seems a trite reply for such a serious topic. Your term “culturally consumerist” inspired visions of “Sacred Shopping Space”, “Divination of the Discount”, and the “Ritual of Rollback”. Suddenly I fear for the future.

          • Suddenly?

          • Roi de Guerre


          • 😉

        • Note the difference between how people relate to cultures that have been historically oppressed (and it doesn’t get much more oppressive than genocide and the theft of a Continent!) and how we relate to cultures that are not still suffering the consequences of that kind of marginalization. There really are moral and ethical questions that have to do with who have been the beneficiaries of acts of conquest, and who have been the victims.

          As somebody said, the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. A goodly portion of the wealth of the West was essentially stolen from non-European people. We don’t get to pretend that doesn’t matter. No need for guilt–but definitely, there’s a need to look history in the eye.

          • dantes

            I might be off-topic but as far as I know, there has not been any Genocide as such in America, it would be better to talk about Ethnocide.

            Genocide: Systematic destruction (or attempted destruction) of a people and a culture through means of physical extermination. Examples: Jews + Gypsies in WWII; Armenians in WWI, Tutsi in Rwanda, etc…

            Ethnocide: Not necessarily systematic destruction (or attempted destruction) of a culture through various means not including large scale physical extermination: Examples: Numerous Native people through Colonization; Soviet Russia under Stalin etc…

            Genocide: “Die!”
            Ethnocide: “If you give up your land, your language, your religion and your way of life you may keep your life.”

          • Turtle Island First Nations (including all my native friends) would be shocked and appalled by the suggestion that genocide did not occur in the Americas, as this is exactly what they experienced. Arriving with the first explorers and Colonizers the directives were already in place with the “Papal Bulls” and the “Doctrine of Discovery” to eliminate the “primitives” so that the superior civilization could be established. Overt genocide by Introduced disease (i.e smallpox blankets), “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” policies, the herding onto “reservations” and starving over consecutive winters, the annihilation under the guise of warfare with superior weapons(i.e. Wounded Knee from hundreds of examples), the equation of the clearing the plains of buffalo with the clearing the plains of Indians, the support of the church to eliminate tribes if the conversion was not successful, the criminalization of native resistance, the theft of children into residential schools where they were systemically starved, sexually abused and experimented on, the forced sterilization of indigenous women, the forced marches (i.e. Cherokee) that were planned to eliminate populations, the continued
            introduction of alcohol, the theft of land and relocation – all this and more, driven by genocidal racism.

            And the same agenda of overt and implicit genocide continues today – with deadly racism, resource extraction, the land claims process, pollution on native lands, inadequate housing, education and justice reform, poverty, the rape and murder of native women, the disgraceful legacy of the Indian Act, and unstated paternity leading to the loss of Indian status and benefits are just a few of
            the horrendous issues facing native people today. If all of this does not constitute genocide, then I would like to know what is.

            Dantes my friend, genocide is America’s (and Canada’s) dirty little secret.

          • dantes, genocide absolutely was deliberately perpetrated in wars and underhanded tactics upon the native peoples in the US by European colonists. However, I would agree with you that what we continue to see happening today is more accurately called ethnocide, and it is an important term in the kind of destruction it describes.

          • From the positionality of Turtle Island First Nations, cultural appropriation is just another attack from the ongoing agenda of racist genocide.

          • dantes

            Sorry guys but I still don’t agree.

            I agree that unspeakable horrors were done to Native people in the name of a bigot Colonization and that numerous massacres and waves of abuse have been committed towards them.

            Still, while in practice the Native Americans suffered woes comparable to those people who have been genocided, they were not, as opposed to the aforementioned genocided people, were the target of a systematic policy of physical extermination.

            I don’t want to deny the fact that such policies were once in place though, but certainly not on a national level and systematically enforced.

            The difference lays in the intention behind the process:
            Genocide: We are going to kill them.
            Ethnocide: We are going to steal their land, acculturate them and enslave them.

            I don’t say either of those is worse than the other but I still think that the distinction is important. It might be infuriating for some but that’s where I stand. I’ll admit I’m not a scholar in any means (I’ve only a B.A. in History and only 20 credits worth of American history + 10 of History of Fascism + 10 of Jewish History). Please let me know if you find sources that might make me change my mind.

          • ” they were not, as opposed to the aforementioned genocided people, were
            the target of a systematic policy of physical extermination.”

            They actually *were,* is the point we are making. The aforementioned Papal Bull, and other correspondence between army generals speaking to the dispersal of tainted blankets notes this clearly and unequivocally. There are documents which literally state that the agenda was to exterminate as many natives as possible.

            I think the distinction in definitions noted is important too, and that the current ethnocide is no better than the past’s genocide, but it is relevant and important to be aware that both words fit what indigenous peoples here have endured and still endure.

          • dantes

            Following on my previous post I do indeed agree that some Colons did massacre innocent natives in high numbers.

            I don’t think though, that the acts of individuals or of fractions of military forces constitute a “systematic policy of physical extermination”.

            Every time an army enters enemy land, massacre ensue, that’s a fact but that does only constitute Genocide if those massacre are designed to utterly annihilate a genos/people/race/ethnic group. I would be more easily convinced if I were to be presented with some factual evidence like minutes from the parliament, or correspondence between high-ranking generals i.e. the only people who would have the means to establish a systematic policy of physical extermination”.

          • *eye roll*

            I’m sure it’s a great comfort to the dead, these hairs you are splitting.

          • dantes

            I understand that my argumentation may seem unrespectful towards the memory of those who suffered those atrocities but if you read my previous posts you would probably understand that it wasn’t my intention.

            I simply have a hard time, thinking about the Holocaust on one hand and the Colonization of Americas (and subsequent massacres, etc) on the other to see the same kind or procedure/agenda.

            But considering I am actually spoiling the atmosphere by my remarks I will quite simply stop arguing.

            Cat-B: the book you mentioned seems very interesting. I will keep it in mind for next time I have the opportunity to read a book besides studies.

            Otherwise, I would still not say no to receive similar recommendations.

          • “Genocide if those massacre are designed to utterly annihilate a genos/people/race/ethnic group.”

            They *were* designed to do this, yes. That is our point. If I can locate relevant links to this effect, I will share them with you. You might also find such evidence yourself with a google search.

          • Dantes, you are simply mistaken. White settlement killed perhaps 90% of those who were indigenous to American shores, and it was frequently quite deliberate and distinct from the appropriation of land. Disease was the greatest culprit, statistically speaking, and there were of course limits to how much of that was spread deliberately initially–but there is no question whatsoever that it was spread deliberately in an attempt to eradicate Native American tribes once the danger of diseases like smallpox to native populations were understood.

            I refer you to scholars for details, but you might start at Guns, Germs, and Steel.

            Continued denial of these realities on your part will fall in line with my previous impression, that you have a stake in denying awareness of the racial advantages of whiteness. While that’s not the same thing as racism, it is an attitude that permits racism and stereotypes to flourish unchecked, and I will waste no more words debating how many European angels danced on the heads of which genocided Native American tribes. Wake up and smell the somewhat bloodied coffee, friend.

          • TadhgMor

            Respectfully, you’re misusing the term genocide. Look up the definition used in international law, as that is the most relevant one.

            It is broader than you suggest.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Genocide does not require intent. It merely means the eradication of a people.

            Good example of “accidental” genocide would be the British Imperial colonisation of Tasmania.

            That was very much an *actual* genocide, but there is nothing to show that there was any intent for such an occurrence.

          • Finnchuill

            The very foundation of America is genocide. The genocide
            began with Columbus who did everything he could to destroy the Taino on
            Hispaniola (after he was ‘given’ it by the king of Spain) and continues to the
            present day in remoter parts of the Amazon undergoing oil exploitation. The list
            of genocides is nearly endless and the perpetrators were often more than clear
            about their intentions. Juniperro Serra founder of the California mission
            system where native people were worked dawn to dusk to their death on 1400
            calories a day stated the Indians “should be put
            to the knife”. The Pequots in Massachusetts were almost completely genocided by
            the Puritans. On the genocidal Trail of Tears (part of President’s Jacksons
            Indian Removal Act, 1830) 55 per cent of the Cherokee died. In 1763 Lenni
            Lenapes and Ottawas were given smallpox blankets by Lord Amherst who exclaimed,
            “Extirpate this execrable race”. A policy followed by the US after
            independence. The US military distribution of smallpox blankets as at Ft. Clark
            in what is now North Dakota triggered an epidemic that went all the way to the
            Pacific coast. Just a tiny sampling of atrocities, really. Genocide is
            practically defined by what happened to the Native American peoples of these
            two continents.

          • MadGastronomer

            There are entire tribes and nations that are effectively gone entirely. We actively attempted to wipe out many more, whether or not we succeeded, and “attempted” is including even in your own biased definition.

            As for dictionary definitions, I seriously suggest you go read this by a linguist on the bias of dictionaries.

      • Also to the point: if white Americans say we are connecting with the land via the traditions of Native Americans, but we are ignorant of the differences between Native American tribes, do not bother to learn the languages, pay no attention to the political and economic challenges native peoples face, and have no network of friendships with individual Native American people, then we are lying to ourselves, and treating another people’s traditions as yet another object to consider ours by right of conquest!

        I think it sounds ugly because it is. There’s a long history of respecting a romanticized and unrealistic notion of what indigenous people’s lives are (or “ought to be”) without troubling ourselves with the actual realities of their lives.

        If we aren’t able to name at least three close friends from a particular tribal group, and have never directly contributed to meeting the needs of that group, we probably are appropriating if we decide to reenact their rituals!

        And two alternatives actually exist: really connecting with native peoples at a meaningful level, or simply connecting directly and immediately with the land ourselves. Nothing’s wrong with going out into the world and seeing if its spirits will answer you, and nothing’s wrong with listening to what they say.

        But there’s a great deal with identifying either our personal gnosis or our gift-shop purchases (New Age or otherwise) as proof that we’re entitled to consider ourselves entitled to the spiritual lives of others, as if they were spoils that are ours just because we think they’re “shiny.”

        • dantes

          That is so intelligently said… Connect in a meaningful way or don’t !

          (you could even extend that to all form of Paganism)

        • Lupa

          “or simply connecting directly and immediately with the land ourselves”

          Yes. Exactly. This is my home, for better or worse; better that I learn to love and appreciate it and its history than to simply take my presence here for granted.

          • Exactly. We don’t need to steal what the earth gives us freely. (Though recognizing what my ancestors took that was not given freely–that may well be an obligation the land itself may place on me, if I pay attention.)

          • We’re not here though, because the earth gave freely- we are here due to Manifest Destiny, ultimately, which means we need to have an open dialogue with natives in which we openly recognize and somehow deal with this.

      • “It does not work here in the US to encourage people who wish to forge
        relationship with the land here to do so through the lens of native
        tribal traditions, no. The native people here will tell you that these
        are the traditions of their ancestors and that we ought to go find and
        learn the traditions of our own ancestors.”

        This is very, untrue. What is demanded in return is relationship, which many people do not wish to give. Those that I and friends have met are happy to teach, but not as a seller to a consumer.

        • dantes

          But let’s be honest, it would probably be the reaction of at least a sizable portion of Natives if you came to them with such an attitude.

          Considering how many Heathens have a Folkish view of their religion, I would be surprised if a similar phenomenon did not exist among Native Americans.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          A very reasonable demand. You want to be involved in a culture, you get into that culture.

          Too many people want to maintain a Christian worldview of religion being some kind of add-on to life or a club.

          • Getting into the culture is also about invitation, not about asserting oneself. And receiving traditions when in the culture does not mean owning them and getting to determine what happens with them, or sharing them per ones own agenda, or commoditizing them. Many people are very entrenched in both this noted christian worldview and in our dominant consumerist worldview, and since the latter supports the former, it can be hard for them to appreciate that other traditions are not predicated upon this worldview and its inherent values.

          • “Getting into the culture is also about invitation, not about asserting oneself.” Well said!

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I wouldn’t say it was about invitation, but I would agree it is about acceptance.

            As for ownership, I would say that a person belongs to a culture, not the other way round.

          • TadhgMor

            That’s Reconstructionism in a nutshell to me.

            I think there is this notion that it’s a bunch of eggheads who love research and studying, rather than an attempt to shift your own culture as much as possible rather than just “put on airs” of X culture/tradition.

            I’ve met people who claim to be “Celtic pagans” who can’t even name the Celtic languages and who are unaware that Irish is still a spoken language! It’s one thing if you have a cúpla focail and don’t have the time to keep learning or struggle with it. It’s another to be completely ignorant of the thing.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I am not completely reconstructionist, myself, but I do think it has the best approach to the basis of religion (as a way of life, rather than just form of belief), with the importance of shifting worldview.

          • dantes

            There are definitely people who are doing it wrong that’s for sure. As we’ve discussed higher up, one should involve oneself seriously in Religion/Culture/Way of Life/Worldview and as far as I can say, this is what reconstructionism is (mostly) about, and I think it’s a great think to strive for, regardless of the bad apples.

        • And what I described is not untrue, it is what indigenous peoples *have* said to euro-americans. Some of them might say different things, but that does not mean that I am spreading an untruth.

          • It is both true and untrue. Probably points to the difficulty any of us, even staunch allies, will always have when attempting to generalize others responses.

          • It is true that many Native Americans have said what I’d noted they’d said. I am sure they, and others, have said a lot of other things, too.

        • Jason White

          As someone who reveres the land spirits of the places I live, I find this very important. No, I cannot just “connect directly and immediately with the land” myself — the land spirits, as actual, real beings, have a history and personality all their own. And it would be a *great* disservice to them for me to ignore how they were traditionally revered in favor of how Irish Polytheists would revere them.”

          The river I live near had a name before European colonists moved here. It behooves me to know it, if I am to respectfully and sincerely give it reverence and sacrifice. The spirits of the land I live on had preferences as to what should and should not be given to them. It behooves me to know what those were.

          Many native tribes – including the one native to my area – consider pouring alcoholic libations on the earth poisonous to the local spirits. But that is a frequent component of contemporary polytheism. If I stick to “the traditions of my own ancestors,” I would be doing actual offense to these spirits, because these are not the spirits that my ancestors dealt with. It would be like moving to Brazil and refusing to speak Portuguese.

          • I’ve run into this many times in working with land spirits here, too.
            I find it’s always best to ask them (just like with any other beings, human or non) what they’d like, rather than doing what I think they’re gonna want.
            They’re good teachers when we listen, and awfully harsh when we don’t.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            But how do you initially approach them?

          • My specific process? I find them (or, more often than not, just let myself be ‘known’ as open to working with them) and sit for as long as it takes for them to tell me. Sometimes, this is immediately clear (like, “hey–someone just dumped chemicals in my stream” or “hey, mark this place for others.”). Sometimes it’s dreams over several days, intense visions, and sometimes nothing at all.

            I think anyone watching what I do would laugh. Mostly I just talk aloud to them and introduce myself and tell them I’m willing to help and then see what they say. Some are immediately open, a very few make it awfully clear they want nothing to do with us. Those? You give them what they ask for and leave them the fuck alone. 🙂

      • linguliformean

        “For myself, I am learning that my own ancestral traditions nourish me, and that British-style Druidry provides a useful lens through which to enter into meaningful relationship with the land where I live, through its techniques and sensitivities”

        Let’s play devil’s advocate here… what you are doing is taking one culture from a people with a history of oppression and persecution and using it to mesh into another one.

        Anyway, I think the problem here isn’t about outsiders getting them self involved in another culture and trying to become part of it but of the commercialisation of that culture. Perhaps it is commercialisation which is the evil that should be under attack here

        • When it comes to matters of race and cultural appropriation, permit me to suggest that the devil needs no advocate. He has the market and those who wish to close their eyes to racism all on his side already.

          How about we don’t play this game.

  • dantes

    Attempting to keep your own culture “pure” and free of any appropriated or borrowed elements is just as noxious as free-wheeling appropriation: it leads to a kind of cultural fascism, like what we see now developing among certain kinds of right-wing, nationalist Paganisms in Eastern Europe and Russia.

    Recons will love this one I’m sure…

    Otherwise, I agree that shielding one’s culture completely against outside influences is both impossible and silly. ethnicities are created and evolve, at least partly through inter-cultural exchanges.

    However I don’t think trying to oppose specific cultural traits to enter yours are always bad, especially when those new traits are being imposed through or influenced by powerful outside forces.

    To get back to the recon idea: I don’t think it’s a bad thing Heathens may want to refuse the concept of Lokean god-spouses as it’s rather not a Norse concepts but is instead pushed through the culture by ways of popular novelties (Marvel movies) and rather overwhelming eclecticism.

    Another example, not religious this time could be Americanization/Globalization. I don’t think that having corporate American fast-food chains establishing thousands of “restaurants” in Europe is a positive thing and I think it is both legitimate and good to oppose it.

    As long as they don’t serve <iactual hash-browns, then I’ll be the first oen to surrender.

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    I find a lot of people defend appropriation as “respectful borrowing”, when it suits their purpose.

    Personally, this doesn’t float with me.

    I have a simple definition for appropriation – it is the taking of a cultural belief or practice out of its proper context.

    Of course, “proper context” is a tricky issue that is not only largely dependent on worldview, but also becomes hard to pin down on resurrected practices, such as those from pre-Christian European cultures.

    When it comes to “extinct” cultures, who “owns” the practices, in order for them to be appropriated?

    • dantes

      When it comes to “extinct” cultures, who “owns” the practices, in order for them to be appropriated?

      That’s a really interesting question indeed!

      IMO I still think that populations that can clearly and unequivocally trace their line down to a certain culture could claim, if not ownership, maybe “moral guardianship”.

      After all, honoring the ancestor’s not only about putting old photos in a kitchen table, it’s also respecting their memory and heritage.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I’m Landisc – I believe that culture is at least as much about location as about ancestry. Very probably more.

        • dantes


          I maybe myself be a little bit less about land as such considering that I have a quite mixed heritage and am myself an immigrant but I cannot conceive culture without a strong relation with the land one dwells in.

          • dantes

            But on the other hand I try to treat the land I live in with respect: When I lived in by The Mediterranean I was really into Hellenism, now that I live in the North, I study Old Norse Religion etc…

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            My genetic “heritage” is pretty mixed, going back only a scant couple of generations, and I don’t have a clue beyond that, but I can say with a strong likelihood that all of my ancestry that I am aware of is Christian.

            As such, I look to the lore of the land – to the cultures existing with the land, prior to the arrival of Christianity – to see how interaction with the land, and its attendant Ƿihta, is best done.

          • dantes

            I look to the lore of the land – to the cultures existing with the land, prior to the arrival of Christianity – to see how interaction with the land, and its attendant Ƿihta, is best done.

            I second you a hundred percent!

            I can trace some strains of my family to the 1600’s, and to a certain degree, to the 1300´s but in any cases, all those guys were certainly christians (bar the couple who, according to grandma, were Cathars). But again, it’s just something that goes back a couple dozen generations: everyone has many more Pagan ancestors than christian ones.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Yes, but do they actually know anything meaningful about those ancient ancestors?

            How many people only know, perhaps, three or four generations of their ancestors, as actual individuals?

            Ancestors are/were people too.

    • I don’t think it needs to be about ownership, but just about honor and respect, and in some cases, about thoughtfully *reconnecting* with one’s ancestral traditions, which need not equate with reviving or reconstructing or owning.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        If you are reconnecting with your “ancestral” traditions, how do you do that without reconstructing them?

    • Kenn

      I would agree with your definition. However, keep in mind that many practices appear in various cultures. For instance, sweat lodge is not just from the natives of the American plains. We see them in the south west of the US, in the Middle East, the Far East, the British Isles, Ireland, Finland. . . the list goes on. So, unless you are specifcally copying the sweat lodge ceremony of a particular nation, it can be rather generic.

      • dantes

        sweat lodge is not just from the natives of the American plains. We see them in the south west of the US, in the Middle East, the Far East, the British Isles, Ireland, Finland.

        I can’t believe what I just read…did you really called the holy Sauna a sweat-lodge? You know there’s a Finn lurking in the comments sections and I would not want to be there when he notices that 😛

        • Just remember English speakers: every time you horribly mispronounce the word sauna, somewhere a Finn is laughing at you.

          • linguliformean

            how is it pronounced? genuine question 🙂

          • The first syllable should sound more like ‘cow’, but with the ‘a’ more open, like in ‘father’.

        • Kenn

          Dantes, Just as for many native American nations, the sweat lodge traditions of many other places, including Finland, were repressed and distorted by Christian and other social forces. The spiritual and ceremonial aspects were often completely destroyed, leaving only the social. You might want to do a little research before making such comments.

          • dantes

            I think you might have misunderstood me: I did not say that Native american sweat-lodges are not comparable to Finish Sauna for there certainly have many things in common.

            I was just jokingly saying that many a Finn would be tipped off if one would call their Sauna a Sweat-Lodge. I know that for a fact considering that I am living with one (a Finn that is, not -unfortunately- a sauna).

          • In the case of Finland, this is not true. The spiritual importance of the sauna remained important even into the 20th century, particularly in rural Finland and Karelia, where sauna was still used for women giving birth, the dead were placed in it to be washed, they were places of healing. The Finnish word used only for sauna steam,
            löyly, originally meant something like spirit, as can be seen from it’s cognates in other Finno-Ugric languages. The sauna had its own tutelary spirit that needed to be respected. It’s a place one acts respectfully and seriously, not a place for levity. This can be seen in the popular Finnish saying ‘saunassa pitää olla kuin kirkossa’ (in the sauna, you should behave as if you were in church). Even currently in Finland there is approximately one sauna for every household.

          • dantes

            I really appreciate when people with genuine knowledge step in to give people such well-written and concise information. Thumbs up !

      • Kenn

        And to be clear, just as the sweat lodge ceremony was suppressed in many native traditions here in the states by government agencies and by the christian missionaries, so similar ceremonies were trampled on in other countries with non-christian populations. What tends to happen is that, what was once a ceremony with spiritual significance, becomes little more than a social gathering. This is what some believe happened in many european ethnic traditions.

        • dantes

          Point: Numerous originally Religious Rituals survived into modern times as non-religious gatherings etc… But IMO it’s exactly those once religious rituals that can be easiest turned back into religious ones.

          • Kenn


      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I’d agree with that.
        As soon as you craft your own ritual practices that can show themselves to not be sourced from one particular source, I’d say you are innovating, not appropriating.

  • Wendi Wilkerson

    The “license to practice” is only the first part of a useful litmus test, I think. As white people profess authority over traditionally nonwhite religious activity, we need to be asking how our participation benefits those communities. What do THEY get from this “cultural exchange?” How do we serve THEM, after they have given us so much? When we “go forth and practice” as legitimate tradition-bearers, do we then dominate the discussion and obscure the voices of African, Caribbean, and Latin American practitioners to the point of erasure? This is exactly what is happening with recent books by white authors about Ancestor work and other forms of spiritual engagement. When compared to previous books by authors of color who belong to those indigenous and traditional communities that practice Ancestor veneration, it is wicked clear that these white authors are appropriating and repackaging that knowledge, and not crediting the individuals and communities whose knowledge they are “repurposing.” And as a result, the works written by tradition-bearers in those communities are being ignored, and the white authors of these recent books are being regarded as the Authority on these practices. White authors who present themselves as experts on tradtions found in indigenous and nonwhite communities owe it to their teachers, initiators, and spiritual parents in these traditions to give them credit, and point readers in the direction of the sources and roots of their knowledge. On its own, the litmus test of “legitimate initiation” is only a first step.

    • Deborah Bender

      !!!! This.

    • Preach it!

    • Excellent points, so glad you brought them up.

  • Crystal identifies capitalism as one of the factors, and rightly so, and we need to really delve into how capitalist consumerism has inculcated every one of us on Turtle Island. All of us – neo-pagan, wicca, heathen, avalon, goddess, druid or CR – expect to have unlimited choice in all aspects of life, including our spirituality. Until we see the “freedom and entitlement” to acquire goods, services, people, experiences and spiritualities clearly (consumerism now touted as a human “right” – scary thought) as how disconnected we have become from our own authenticity, we will never be able to put the brakes on the eclectism or syncretism that propels our cruise through the spiritual marketplace. “Spiritual Capitalism” is big business, but that does not make it right. Especially when you consider that capitalism is NOT a vehicle that moves us to equity or justice, and that the ideology that fuels capitalism is destructive to all life. Among many issues, one aspect of cultural appropriation is that we cannot imagine why we would not have complete entitlement to use the spiritual and cultural property from any culture we choose, including the marginalized Turtle Island First Nations that our ancestors so recently tried to destroy with genocide and ethnic cleansing. Cultural appropriation is the final blow in a long timeline of criminal colonial practices. In terms of our own spiritual consumption, how do we close the lid on this Pandora’s box? The cultural and spiritual property of First Nations is not our own, and we really need to be examining why we need to be using these sacred objects. Identity confusion is another condition endemic to the Pagan Community, and capitalism loves it when we are compelled to continually re-create ourselves anew.

    • This also has to do with a worldview centered on the individual and freedom of consumption, whether consumed through market means or not. It is important for us all to get over the cult of the individual which translates as the idea of doing and having whatever one wants because one has the right to it. We might instead use our individualism to forge individual, respectful, meaningful relationships, and then be guided to act from that place. We might also learn about the culture of tribalism, and how tribal peoples value and understand their tribal traditions as a tribal group,not as random disconnected individuals only concerned with their own individual wants. It is a very different orientation to the world and oneself.

  • Obsidia

    This quote from the article struck me: “Attempting to keep your own culture ‘pure’ and free of any appropriated or borrowed elements is just as noxious as free-wheeling appropriation: it leads to a kind of cultural fascism, like what we see now developing among certain kinds of right-wing, nationalist Paganisms in Eastern Europe and Russia.” That claim of “purity” always makes me a bit nervous.

    I want to respect others, and yet, also, respect my own (tested) inner knowledge. As a past life researcher, I know I don’t always get the details exactly right. Sometimes, I misinterpret what I “see” in my recently accessed “past life memories.” However, my “visions” often DO act as a way to open the door for me to learning.

    I think the most important thing is to listen to other people and really HEAR what they are saying without being defensive. If one wants to be kind and respectful, one can practice one’s inner truth without stepping on others’ inner truths. Somewhere, inside, it does intersect, at a Crossroads of Love.

  • Kenn

    This is far from a simple topic, and it’s good to see it being given more attention in the pagan press. As a shaman, I sometimes run into folks who are so focused on seeing cultural appropriation behind every tree that they can’t recognize a friendly and respectful teacher when they encounter one.

    My question would be, considering that we post-tribal people have some of the same needs and callings that our indigenous brothers and sisters have, how can we address these needs in ways that are both respectful of tribal culture while still meeting the needs of our own culture? This question has been a guiding inspiration for my work over the past few decades. I am aways eager to see how others view it.

    • Altering the ‘post-tribal’ culture so that it doesn’t destroy other people’s cultures is a great place to start, particularly by attacking the Capitalist social relations which destroy tribal relations everywhere.

      I’d start there.

  • Molly Edelen

    I personally find it very frustrating that people are so protective of their cultures. I believe that imitation is the highest form of compliment and it is good to learn and adopt and adapt from as many cultures as possible. I think it is important to acknowledge the origin of a tradition, symbol, ritual, practice, etc etc… and adaptation has allowed for survival of many species and cultures…so Irish-American corned beef and cabbage is fine with me…as is using a dream catcher in my children’s rooms to dispel nightmares, and….and…..and…is all ok and if someone wants to make the Welsh plum pudding that my grandmother made or the play the bagpipes like my scottish ancestors, I encourage you to go ahead and enjoy them. I also know that many of the cultures I have borrowed from in this lifetime are ones I lived in in other lifetimes…so for me it’s part of who and what I am to be eclectic in all aspects of my life.

    • dantes

      True when it comes to practical aspects of life: I´m not American yet I would kill for hash-browns etc…but it’s a little bit different when it comes to Religion. One could say that between imitation and defilement there’s only one step… I might not go that far but I think it’s completely legitimate a people might want their beliefs and practices protected because even when no harm is intended, it might nevertheless happen (see Wendi’s post down here for more food for thoughts).

      • Yeah, picking up a religious practice ought to involve a deeper understanding and appreciation of a culture and the people who carry it than buying sushi in a moment of adventurousness. The spiritual heart of a people is generally not for sale, and where we have no meaningful bonds of relationship, helping ourselves to what’s not on offer–or what has been stolen by previous adventurous snackers–is fairly odious.

        I doubt the gods are happy.

        • Merlyn7

          Some of them could be elated though – who can say?

          • MadGastronomer

            Try asking the people who traditionally worship them. No, really, try it. A good crossection of worshipers and priests, a bunch of them. People who practice the old rituals and are very much in touch with them. Ask them what their gods say. Go on.

        • dantes

          The spiritual heart of a people is generally not for sale.


        • TadhgMor

          “and where we have no meaningful bonds of relationship, helping ourselves to what’s not on offer–or what has been stolen by previous adventurous snackers–is fairly odious.”

          I’d agree, and I think the use of Gaelic terms in modern Wicca is a good example. Holidays that have no connection to the traditional counterparts in theology, and little in practice.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            And the Ænglisc terms, too.

            In some respects, I approve of what Gardner tried to do – he blended the various cultures present in the British Isles to create something new and quintessentially British. I am just not sure he did a very good job of it.

          • linguliformean

            Please Gods can everyone stop using the name Mabon for the autumn equinox! It’s like fingers down a blackboard

          • linguliformean

            though that was Aidan Kelly rather than Gerald, who didn’t even use the Gaelic names, rather the Feb eve, may eve etc

    • MadGastronomer

      It’s interesting that you use Welsh and Irish examples specifically. Both have been historically badly oppressed, but both are generally pretty privileged now in Western culture. Your perspective on this is… strongly limited. You are no longer actively punished for being of Welsh and Irish and Scottish descent. Try asking them people who are still having their culture actively stolen, who are watching dominant cultures make money off of them, who are still having seeing their traditions destroyed. Try it. Don’t just assumed based on what you do or don’t mind. Go ask a bunch of Indigenous people what they think, or a bunch of Black people. Not just a few. Many. Especially activists. There are always some people who are fine with it, but there are many more who are not.

      Try looking at the world from another perspective. Like the perspective of people who are actively oppressed by a group you are part of.

      • TadhgMor

        I’d point out you’re being a little overly-simplistic as well. Ask someone who speaks Irish or Welsh. The ethnicities are no longer discriminated against, but that’s because much of Ireland and Wales became Anglicized to the point of being “normative”. It was “ditch half your culture and you can be white”. A devil’s bargain, no doubt.

        I think it’s more accurate to say those groups came out on the other side, with considerable damage done. But generally the things being “claimed” by modern eclectic pagans belong to the damaged older culture, not modern Anglicized Irish or Welsh cultures.

        But I don’t disagree with your point. There’s no comparison between the two groups currently; the scale and scope are entirely different. The discussion is most important for Native Americans/Amerindians who are suffering the worst of it.

        But I still think it’s a problem when a group of Wiccans get angry enough to shout at me because I told them “the maypole is a 16th century English invention and has nothing to do with Beltaine”.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          We are still seeing problems between the Cymraeg and English, for example.

          They are still struggling to get their native language accepted as mainstream, which is why Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru has put laws into place protecting its use. (As was recently highlighted by a news article concerning the retail chain, Lidl, and it’s “English language only” policy.)

          • dantes

            Please, do you have a link for this? I find the bilingualism of Wales a very interesting issue !

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren
          • Helen Wilson

            When you say British or English you really mean Norman as its the foundation of the system of oppression against the peoples of these lands that has lasted close a thousand years and destroyed most of or pre norman invasion heritage of the tribes of England and to a lesser extent parts of Scottish and Welsh heritage also. British colonialism is just repackaged norman colonialism with the power still in the hands of the descendants of the normans not the indigenous tribes. English tribes have suffered a collective Stockholm syndrome that maybe started to a lesser extent with the Romans that has seen us identifying with the oppressor and doing their work in the oppression of others.

          • TadhgMor

            I’m sorry, but that is historically bunk. The Normans weren’t
            “colonialists”. They assimilated in every territory they invaded.

            Nor was the worst of the colonizing done under the Normans, but under the English after Norman has ceased to be a distinct identity in England. The plantations were not Norman. In fact it was Normans in Ireland who fought them along with the Gaelic Irish.

          • Helen Wilson

            The Norman striped those we call the English of land ownership making little more than serfs serving their Norman lords. Although the process of nationhood was started under the Anglo Saxons the Normans effectively created England as a nation instead of a country of tribal regions. Every structure of power in England from parliament to the CofE is the concentration of Norman power that still owns the majority of wealth, power and land in England… This system created the conditions of empire and domination over other nations of these isles is norman in origin. That system started with the subjugation of the tribes of England.

            Ps. Its the Plantagenets who inherited the English Norman throne through their ancestry after the death of Henry I fourth son of William the Conqueror.

          • TadhgMor

            No, they didn’t. Anglo-Saxons kept both political power and land ownership. Only opponents of William and his sons were stripped of their lands and titles. Most of the aristocracy was Norman, along with some Flemish and Bretons. The “Normans” weren’t all actually Norman, for the record.

            England wasn’t a nation of “tribal regions” under Alfred the Great or Edward the Confessor. The Normans took over the pre-existing system, and standardized it. Not the other way around. The days of the Heptarchy were long past.

            The parliament was created when Normans were on the decline. England has been ruled by French, Welsh (Tudors), and German noble houses for quite some time. Norman as an identity was dead by the time of the War of the Roses outside of Normandy.

            The Plantagenets weren’t even Norman. They were from Anjou. Which is why historians generally call the early years the Angevin empire. The heartland of Henry the II, Richard, and John, the three biggest “colonizing” Normans, was Anjou and Aquitaine. Not Normandy.

            I know this area fairly well, and I know you are wrong. Trying to turn this into “evil Norman colonialists” is utterly anachronistic, and this “fighting for the poor Anglo-Saxon common man” narrative was discredited a century ago.

            Just to show you how wrong historically you are, I’m descended from a Cambro-Norman family that invaded Ireland. My ancestors are mentioned both in the Annals of the Four Masters as well as the Song of Dermot and the Earl. That didn’t stop the Gaelicized Normans from being persecuted and kicked out of Ireland just like any other Catholics.

          • dantes

            I didn’t know that the Platagenet family was from Anjou, nor that the Tudor were Welsh. Thanks for the history lesson!

          • dantes

            There most certainly was a distinct Norman, French-speaking culture in England until maybe the 1300 at most…I agree that tribes that ended up under their domination did assimilate to certain degree but the Norman, as TadhgMor said, assimilated if not more at least as much.

            The Normans certainly did participate into the shaping of modern English identity but they certainly were not the only one, but not being an expert I will not try to go into details here.

            P.S: Why not mentioning the colonialist Anglo-Saxons in your post?

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            As a Wessaxon Ænglisc Heathen who favours a reconstructionist approach, I’m not going to blame the Normans (as much as I would love to).

            They merely took advantage of a situation created by successive generations of power-hungry warlords who used Christianity as a tool of control.

      • dantes

        Celtic people are indeed far less oppressed than contemporary Native or Blacks that is very true.

        However, you could still be killed by armed police for opposing the colonialist British Colonialist government in Ireland not a hundred years ago. and national feelings and aspirations are still being crushed by over-bearing big-central governments that have spent hundreds of years actively trying to destroy their culture.

        This should also be acknowledged.

        • MadGastronomer

          And I’m not denying it. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with how you feel about your family’s recipes or how POC react to white people appropriating their shit. There’s a contextual difference that you’re ignoring.

        • MadGastronomer

          Y’know, I’m not sure that last response was plain enough. The context is different because Black people are being killed by armed police in the streets today, for not walking on the sidewalk when told to. For carrying a sandwich. For being Black. That’s the difference. That’s why your opinion on your momma’s cooking has exactly nothing to do with the current, ongoing oppression of and appropriation from Black people today. Your life (and my life, and my wife’s life) is not in danger right now because of Welsh, Irish or Scottish descent.

          Can you grasp that? Can you remove your head from wherever you’ve got it lodged long enough to see that lynchings were still popular entertainment when white people started stealing rock’n’roll? That it’s still legal for a white cop to shoot a Black person who’s done nothing at all wrong?

          • dantes

            ? I don’t think I ever talked about my mom’s cooking ? (I should though, her Tuna-Fish-Cake was awesome!)

            I just said that Irish were, not so long ago very much in a similar situation as Blacks in the US are today. I think it can give us some perspective that’s all.

            And I don’t support killing people on the grounds of their ethnic background or appearance and I believe one who does so so should be duly prosecuted.

          • MadGastronomer

            The perspective needed there is that while yes, there have been parallels, they exist between different times. Neither now nor in the 1950s were those things true for Irish people. They were true in the 1950s AND ARE TRUE NOW for Black people, therefor the context you are in fact living in today is vastly different to the one Black people are living in today.

            The reference to your mother’s cooking was a sarcastic one because you had mentioned your grandmother’s cooking.

            You are still harming people. Stop.

          • dantes

            If you could actually tell me when I mentioned my mother’s cooking I would be glad to be informed as I do not recall making such a comment.

            Also, I am extremely happy to see that we can agree on something: Black people suffer from oppression while Irish (and other Celtic people) do not anymore (or at least not in the same extent).

            However Irish people weren’t really oppressed as much as that in the 1950’s (except maybe those who emigrated to Liverpool or some in Ulster). I was more thinking about the time between the potato famine and the war of independence.

            Also I don’t really understand how I am here “hurting people” when I actually agree with you.

          • dantes

            Hop, I misread your comment about the 1950´s, my bad. I agree with you on that one too btw.

          • MadGastronomer

            *checks* Apparently that was someone else, and after I responded to them explaining that no, their family recipes are not the same as Black music and arts or Native religions, you came in shouting about how the Irish have been oppressed too! We must pay attention to that right now! That’s really important in this conversation! (It isn’t. Since nobody actually denies that it happens, but it isn’t actually relevant to what we’re talking about, but instead derails from it.) So yes, I had you confused with someone else. I apologize for that.

            Now, how about you answer some of the points I’ve made. How is the theft of music and art from Black people while they were being lynched as public entertainment or while they’re being gunned down in the street by cops justified by bringing rock’n’roll to a wider audience? How does “more (white) people got to hear some cool music” erase the harm done? How is that not part of the wider oppression they face?

            And how is the wholesale slaughter of Indigenous peoples and eradication of their traditional and religion not genocide? Did you bother to read the piece I linked to about the bias of definitions, or the far superior definition of genocide that the UN uses?

            You keep pushing the conversation as far as possible away from what you’re doing to harm people. Stop it.

          • dantes

            If you refer to the “Robot Hugs” comic, I did read it. It makes a valid point and I agree with it. I don’t recall you linking anything related to the UN though but I might have missed that somehow. In any cases I decided, out of respect, not to discuss the Genocide/Ethnocide thing any further. Also because it appears to be a rather emotional issue and that I don’t want to offend people any further.

            To come back to RnR, I still don’t really consider the appropriation of RnR and Lynching to be part of the same process. You seem to disagree and I’m all right with this. In addition I did bring forth several arguments about the benefits Black people received following or through the appropriation of RnR.

          • MadGastronomer

            Someone else mentioned that the UN’s definition of genocide was far more accurate.

            Of course it’s emotional. It’s genocide. If you’re not upset by it, then there’s something wrong with you.

            If you can’t see how the appropriation of art and music, lynching, and indeed slavery are all part of the same thing, then it’s because you don’t want to. All of them come back to the simple idea that Black people are not people. They’re not people so they can be enslaved, they’re not people so they can be killed with impunity, they’re not people so their art doesn’t really belong to them and we can take it for our own. It all comes back to dehumanization. Always. Bigotry of any kind relies upon dehumanization. When there’s power behind that bigotry, then it becomes oppression.

            Tell me, if you can admit that Black people are and were oppressed, how is cultural theft not a part of the same thing? Historically, cultural appropriation is nearly always a part of oppression. Foodways, music, art, dance, religion, anything you care to name as a significant part of a culture, oppressors will try to steal it if they see value in it or destroy it if they don’t. Seriously, this is part of how oppression and colonization work. If you don’t agree, it is because you lack understanding of how oppression works. Period. This is a classic part of the pattern. You are ignorant, and now you are determinedly ignorant because you are outright refusing to learn when people are telling you these things.

            And saying that the wider spread of rock’n’roll had some benefits to Black people too DOES NOT NEGATE THE HARM IT DID. It’s like saying well, India might have been horribly oppressed by the English, but at least they got railroads out of it. No. There were better ways to get railroads in India. There were ways to get rock out to a wider audience that were not oppressive, even if it took longer.

            So no, you didn’t address my points, you tried to change the subject away from them.

            I am not alright with you disagreeing, because your position perpetuates racism, and indeed is racist. It does harm to real people.

            You are racist. You are harming people. Stop it.

  • Merlyn7

    Oh man it’s a tricky one. I just want to say that I appreciate how it seems as though nearly everyone quoted in the article and in the comments is trying their level best to engage with this part of their spiritual practice in a thoughtful way. Sometimes it can seem as though people want to figure out the formula (i.e. Doing X is acceptable whereas doing Y is unacceptable) but that seems extreme.

    I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Wales on a spiritual retreat and one of the things that most surprised our groups was that one of the most popular spiritual practices people were engaging with in Wales was… wait for it… Native American spirituality. Like talking about their totem animals in a teepee and using Native-themed oracle cards. One member of my group was especially horrified that this was happening but my response was “Well… are we any better, a bunch of not-Welsh people traipsing around Wales trying to get our Mabinogion on?”

    It’s tricky; let’s do our best 🙂

    • linguliformean

      Really odd to see that about Wales, never got that impression beyond the odd hippy set up.

      It’s also a useful point; Americans are in a shit situation really, as a Welshman I could get funny about them ‘appropriating’ a culture their ancestors may well not have been involved in for well over a century or so and yet in the land they now live in and may want to connect with they are also told they cant because of appropriation. As an aside, I am all for them immersing in my culture (Welsh) and taking from it if its done respectfully and in a ‘proper’ (not sure of the right word here but this will do).

      • dantes

        Hippies are everywhere…

      • Merlyn7

        And of course it could just be the region we were in (we stayed in Porthmadog, visited Dinas Emrys, and Caer Mabon) and the individuals we interacted with. I was just surprised when I was in a metaphysical bookstore that had more Native American oracle decks than Tarot decks.

        • dantes

          We have one little New Age store in the Norwegian town I live in. There are hardly anything local/native for sale but there are tons of dream-catchers and other Native-american memorabilia instead!

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          Cae Mabon seems rather “hippy” and “New Age” to me, even if it does have some nice buildings.

          Not visited it, personally (never been to Snowdonia/ North Cymru), but I have an interest in sustainable architecture.

    • Was that a paid spiritual retreat?

  • Diomedes

    This is something I’ve thought long and hard on. As someone who takes most of their practices and beliefs from the Greco-Roman world, there really isn’t a question here. If it’s a god and you want to worship, then worship it. However, I will say that simply picking a random god and just worshipping them as you worship the Gods you already worship is likely going to look weird and/or offensive to both other people and the God in question (ex. don’t perform a blot to Amaterasu). Do your homework, learn about the God and Its cult, if possible talk to people who worship that God in modern times about the proper way to worship them, always be respectful both to other worshippers and the God in question.

    As a hard polytheist, there’s part of me that wonders how much of this conversation is ignoring the autonomy and agency of the Gods Themselves, there’s a lot of talk here about human emotions and perspectives and precious little about how the Gods themselves might feel about it. I tend to be of the opinion that people don’t own Gods, but that it tends to be the other way around (if ownership is even a fair word to use for Divine patronage of a culture). Don’t really have a point about it, just something that I noticed didn’t seem to have been brought up.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      I’d concur with your points.

      Boils down to the dreaded “UPG” discussion, though, and that is probably best left alone.

      • dantes

        Let us not open this Pandora box today sir…

      • Merlyn7

        But is there such a thing as a “verifiable impersonal gnosis?” Otherwise there is no need to call it an “unverifiable personal gnosis,” it’s just “gnosis.”

        • dantes


        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          Not “unverifiable”, rather “unverified”. Slight spelling difference, HUGE difference of definition.

          Have you heard of “confirmed (personal) gnosis”, or C(P)G?

          This is when, rather than taking a personal spiritual experience “on faith”, it is looked into and compared to existing lore and accounts.

          If UPG stands up to the test of research, it becomes CG. If not, then it is just MUS.

    • Merlyn7

      “However, I will say that simply picking a random god and just worshipping them as you worship the Gods you already worship is likely going to look weird and/or offensive to both other people and the God in question (ex. don’t perform a blot to Amaterasu).”

      And yet this is how the ancient Greeks came to worship a number of deities including Aphrodite and Isis (as I mentioned in a post above). They stole with wild abandon and I do believe that we benefit from this (how many of the other Phoenecian deities do we worship besides Aphrodite).

      I do completely agree with you that no tradition can claim to own a God, I do see however how they can feel that they own their own rituals and titles. I.E. including the Lwa Erzulie in a ritual doesn’t make me a Vodoun Initiate.

  • Helen Wilson

    think you have to acknowledge the cultural dominance of native American
    (both north and south) Shamanism in shamanic practice that leads to its
    appropriation. Its very hard to unravel the threads of many European
    shamanic traditions such as the Celtic tradition and must be much harder
    doing so from another continent your ancestors may of lived on for
    four, five or six generations.

    Perhaps appropriation was always going to be the cost of being a complete
    surviving tradition that shines so brightly against the backdrop of so
    much that has been lost especially in European shamanic practice. I can
    see why native American Shamanism is so attractive to people living in
    America today, it is of the land they live on so will have resonance
    even to non native peoples. However, those seeking it must realise they
    are a new tribe and must figure out their own tradition based on whats
    around them while respectfully learning from native American tradition and what remains of the European.

    • dantes

      People who are interested in European Shamanism should read Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic by Clive Tolley: a Huge 800 pages/2 volumes masterwork on the influences shamanistic societies have had on Old Norse Religion.

      Daunting reading but incredible work.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        Does Tolley’s work highlight the difference between “shamanic” and “shamanistic”?

    • Finnchuill

      A lot of Native Americans hate the term ‘shaman’, and say it has nothing to do with their traditions.

      • Kenn Day

        Probably because they are still in touch with their own names for the practice. We use the term “shaman” because we no longer have our own cultural names for deep soul healers who travel with the spirits.

        • dantes

          Well it’s questionable that shaman-like magic experts even existed in most Indigenous European Cults. The Sámi still have a term for it though: Noiadi.

          • Kenn Day

            While it may be questionable, there is good evidence that most – if not all – indigenous culture included some sort of shamansim.

          • dantes

            The question here is “some sorts”. But my research (and the contemporary academic consensus) lead me to see very thin traces in the Northern tradition. I can’t speak about other though.

    • TadhgMor

      I’d be curious what your sources are for “Celtic shamanism” since I’ve never seen anything like that, and I’ve spent some time studying pre-Christian Ireland and the surviving corpus of texts.

  • Kenn Day

    One of the most important issues I see raised in the comments is: If we are not to appropriate the spiritual practices of other cultures, then where are we to find ways to connect with our world and spirit in meaningful depth?

    For me, the answer is that we too have ancestors. We too have our feet on the earth and can open ourselves to spirit. We too have souls and bodies and all the other elements of human beings. Our spiritual practice can be informed by our ancestors, as well as other cultures, and still be grounded in who we are today. This is the essence of post-tribal shamanism.

    • dantes

      We too have ancestors


  • Chase Suðrland

    Insufferable liberal crap.

    Notable strawman arguments include:

    1. Only Europeans are racist culturally appropriating assholes.
    2. Everything right wing = bad, everything left wing socialist globalist multicult = good.
    3. Multiculturalism is awesome except when white skinned people try to partake.
    4. Cultures that are homogenous are inherently racist because I don’t fit into them.
    5. Everyone who disagree’s with me is a racist.

    • dantes

      You might be oversimplifying some issue a tiny bit. While the concept of cultural appropriation/borrowings goes both ways and each groups, regardless of their ethnic and/or cultural background should be made accountable for it I am somewhat afraid that I do not entirely grasp in which way your comment applies in practice to Crystal’s article. Would you mind expanding a bit?