wicca

PSA: Yes, “Spirit Animals” Are Cultural Appropriation- That Means You

Posted on

Another important topic has been bought up on my dash, and that is the use of “spirit animals”. Having an animal guide or an animal familiar or an animal you really like is not the same as a spirit animal: and for those of you who are confused, here are several Tumblr posts to help you understand:

 

poorlifechoicesblog:

[NB: if you (like me) are non-Native and you reblogged agentotter’s commentary PLEASE read sofriel’s refutation below. “Spirit Animal” as a non-Native phrase is SUPER FUCKED UP.]

sofriel:

fralusans-ana-marein:

thekal:

agentotter:

exploitationiscontagious:

Petition to start using “patronus” instead of “spirit animal” because not being appropriative is pretty rad.

Okay let’s go through this one more time. Deep breath.

If you think the concept of “spirit animals” comes from Native American religious practices, you are wrong. Also, you’re probably basing your ideas about Native American spiritualism on movies that are incredibly, extremely, offensively wrong. (Spoiler alert: You cannot actually paint with all the colors of the wind.) You’re also failing to understand that Native American and First Nations people are not a homogeneous group, that they do not now and have never existed as a single people with a single set of beliefs. In short, what I’m saying is that just this once, calling this appropriation is actually the thing that is offensive.

If you think the concept of “spirit animals” is specific to any one cultural or religious practice, you are wrong. This idea of animal guides and related ones — like shape-shifting, people possessed by the spirits of animals, particular interpretations of animal dreams, a certain attitude toward the hunting of animals, etc etc — have roots in all sorts of ancient religions, including eastern Shamanic religions, Celtic religions, really religions of of every description… I could go on. Essentially it’s animism, which is common to the whole of human experience, because there isn’t a culture on this planet that doesn’t have a complex, deep-rooted relationship of some kind with animals. But “spirit animals” as most of us understand the concept? Is a made-up thing. Just like Harry Potter’s patronus. Just like His Dark Materials’ daemons. Just like basically any other “inoffensive” alternative on offer.

Essentially, “spirit animal” is a trope. I happen to fucking love that trope. I think it’s fun and interesting. It’s not a real concept, except possibly for Wiccans and New Agers, both of whom appropriated the concept from — guess what! — their completely wrong ideas about Native spiritual practices. I’m willing to bet that everything you’ve ever learned about Native religions came from a white person. I’m willing to bet that it’s wrong.

For all these people who want to be sensitive to Native culture, you can do a lot better than defending their honor from a concept that isn’t theirs in the first place. (You can start by acknowledging that it’s New Age, not Native. AT ALL.) There are so many ways you can learn about Native culture and the problems that tribes face directly from the people themselves. You could start small. Read some Sherman Alexie. Watch Reel Injun orIncident at Oglala on Netflix. Read up on why exactly casting Johnny Depp as Tonto is fucking horrible. Try actually learning something about what they’re going through (basically a never-ending shitstorm of oppression and erasure) and you can help just by being more informed. Become a social justice crusader foractual social justice issues. Still not sure about the spirit animal thing? These Natives would be happy to tell you all about it. And these ones. And this one. (tl;dr: They’re sick of your bullshit.)

This information about “spirit animals” not being a thing makes sense, but I’m not really clear on how referencing a stereotypical, New-Age misinterpretation of Native American religion is that much less offensive/appropriative than improperly referencing an actual Native American religious concept? Doesn’t appropriation usually involve portraying the original culture(s)/religion(s) inaccurately?

that makes sense to me, and I’ve definitely also read things by Native folks here writing against using the term “spirit animal”, although I can’t find any of them just now. perhaps sofriel or moniquill (or others, I’m not sure who else follows me) might have more input.

No. Nooooooooooooooo. No. God, I would like to make a rule where non-Natives are not allowed to make any sort of statements on the appropriativeness or non-appropriativeness of “spirit animals” ever again. 

Fact 1: I am Native. So-called “spirit animals” are part of my spiritual tradition, which is Metis-Anishinaabe. They’re usually called by the Anishinaabe word, which I am not putting on the internet, or “spirit/dream helpers” in English. Natives in fact are not, gasp, homogeneous, and omg some of us have different spiritual traditions than others! (look, I can do the obnoxious patronizing voice too!) And so just because you point to three Native people from cultures that don’t have such a tradition doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist! This tradition is a VERY sacred one, and thanks to colonization it is being forgotten in huge amounts, to the extent that most young Natives don’t even really know much about it—a situation exacerbated by the popular appropriation of “spirit animals.”

Fact 2: Yes, people around the world have and had similar traditions of spirit helpers, who are frequently animals. HOWEVER, the concept of spirit animals in popular culture came from anthropologists’ descriptions of Native American religions (see Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life). It doesn’t matter if the ancient Celts had similar practices, because spirit animals are associated in the popular imagination with Natives, not Celts. I and other Natives regularly get asked, “Can you tell me what my spirit animal is??” Irish people, for instance, do not. And “it’s not Native, it’s New Age” my ass.Where the hell do you think the New Agers got it from? They got it from anthropology textbooks and from the hippies who went to the reservations in the 60s seeking Noble Savage enlightenment.

Fact 3: The fact that spirit animals in popular culture are a bastardized form of Native traditions does not mean they are not appropriative or harmful. Why? Because the popular idea of it comes to supersede the original meaning, infantilizing our traditions.Non-Natives start to think that they understand our traditions, and that they are primitive, rather than actually consulting and trying to understand. This gets bad when those non-Natives are the ones with control over our legal ability to practice our religion. Non-Native appropriation of the sweatlodge incorrectly done and causing death, for example, has resulted in greater restrictions on Native sweatlodges, because the non-Native interpretation was assumed to be representative. 

Fact 4: Appropriation is a part of Native oppression, not a decoy issue, good lord. This attitude of popular ownership of Native traditions causes people to deny Natives the right to practice our religion, which is tied to the colonization and denial of access to our landbase since our practices are often linked to specific places, which is tied to the situation on reservations. It’s tied to the psychological state of our people, because you try growing up with having everyone making an utter mockery of your religion and see how your self-esteem comes out.

And yeah, I will also say, if calling out appropriation is the only thing you’re doing to help Native people, if you are just shouting “Don’t wear headdresses!” and don’t actually get why it’s a problem, then yes, you’re kinda failing as an ally. But appropriation is part of the violence being done to indigenous people. 

You did get one thing right though, we are sick of your bullshit. Very, very sick of it.

Important!!

I see a lot of ppl on my dash reblogging the post where someone else says that “spirit animal” is not a racist or culturally appropriative term because it’s “New Age” and not Native—but that doesn’t erase the v v smart and true response that sofriel explains above: where did the New Agers get that stereotype and how are you acting in concert with their racism???

 

Please stop with your weak attempts to justify your appropriation. PSA over

Understanding Problematic Beliefs: What About the Gaps?

Posted on

This blog post was inspired by something that came up on my dashboard on Tumblr. It reads like this:

“The Universe sends us exactly what we are ready for at the exact time we need it in our lives.”

Why is that problematic, you say? Well, the problem with beliefs like this is that people take them for absolute facts instead of personal beliefs. Many people who believe in various forms of Karma, the Threefold Law, the Law of Return, ect,  have them backed up by personal experiences, thus re-affriming said belief.

The problem is that there are many gaps in thinking this way, because there remains a lot of  unanswered questions. Here are some questions I propose to counter the Three Fold Law:

  • Does harm against anything result in the Threefold law? Does eating a chicken which has been killed- either through more human methods or through factory farming- mean that a person will recieve punishment?
  • Is the Threefold Law in referrence to just magical practices, or in everyday life?
  • How long does it take for justice to be distributed to the person after an act-either good or bad- has been committed?
  • Does the Law apply to those who don’t believe in it?
  • Isn’t saying that the Law exists and applies to even those who don’t believe in it the same as Christians who assure us that hell is real, even though we don’t believe in that?

Some of you may have even answered those questions as you go along. As you may have learned- through pagan books, blogs, and other sources- different people have different answers, different interpretations of the same laws.

For something to be considered a Universal law, it must apply to everyone and everything. Laws usually have set rules and meanings, and aren’t fluid and up for interpritation. Gravity, for example, is a rule, although the way that it applies outside of Earth is different. Gravity, as it applies on Earth, is not up for personal interpretation.

The thing that pissed me off so much in regards to this Tumblr post is the fact that some people treat every bad thing in life as if it was a lesson to be learned. This is not to say that there are no lessons, it’s just that you cannot say that everything negative thing that has happened is some sort of learning experience that we should take note of . Honestly, if you think about it, you can understand why this is problematic. You mean to tell me that slavery was a lesson to be learned? That the Universe waited until juuuussst the right time to free all those slaves?  That their lives were just a lesson to us all to treat  other better?

Riiigghht.

The point of this post is not to attack people who believe in particular beliefs, but to reinforce the fact that they are beliefs, and are not set in stone. We have to understand-as a community- that anyone who does not believe in the Threefold Law is some sort of negative Pagan bandit whose giving the community a bad rep. We have to understand that to foist our beliefs onto others is just as bad as a Christian foisting their beliefs on us. We have to understand the gaps in thinking and theology, and admit to ourselves that sometimes we just don’t have all the answers.

 

 

Cultural Appropriation and the Pagan Community: AKA White Privilege

Posted on Updated on

shadow-m
AKA, how to take a shit on Native American traditions

In my attempts to hunt down and find information about how members of the Pagan community view the topic of cultural appropriation, I stumbled across this thread.

Here we go.

This is very important, because it shows how those who do the cultural appropriating are attempting to define what is and is not classified as appropriation, without even understanding the definition appropriating.

This goes hand in hand with white privilege-because, yes, it does exist- and the fact that even mentioning so will receive outrage and denial from people who refuse to understand and learn from the experiences from PoC.   This plays into the ideology that you somehow have the right to take from other cultures what you wish, without giving any care or concern for those whom you are appropriating from.

Also important to understand is the fact that those members of the cultures who you are appropriating from are telling you no, that you cannot take their practices from them, and yet you are doing it anyway. 

Here and here and here and here are all examples of people telling you that it is not okay to take their shit, and yet you still believe that you have the right to anyway?

And for those of you who do not understand, appropriation is not learning about someone else’s culture, or taking genuine interest in someone else’s religion or spirituality. It is not wanting to worship other deities or incorporating other’s beliefs into your own.

Cultural appropriation is when a person decides to take from another culture without understanding or throwing aside any cultural significance or meaning, instead choosing to re-define it, until it is nothing like it was in the traditional context.

This and this and this and this are all examples of cultural appropriation in the pagan community, as if, somehow, taking something with “good intentions”, even spiritual ones, excuses you from the fact that you are stealing from other cultures. 

Choosing to personalize your practice does not account for laziness and refusal to do your research. Many non-European religions have long-standing traditions and are still practiced, their traditions being upheld by members of spiritual clergy, unlike many European ones, to which are no longer practices by a large community and as such are open to modern interpretation.

I am tired of seeing the same old excuses and stuttering when it comes to topics such as these, and the sad fact is that many people will refuse to admit that they are doing something which oppresses another culture and group of people. It shows the unwillingness of people to give up their privilege-privilege which benefits them very well.

You want to appropriate another person’s culture? Fine. Just don’t get mad when we call you out on bullshit.

Free Pagan E-Book Bundle!

Posted on Updated on

Image

Hello, lovely readers!

This wonderful month of October, I will be giving away FREE digital copies of Pagan e-books!

Here’s how it works:

In the comments below, tell me:

a) When you discovered paganism

b) What your magical specialty is, or which practice most intrigues you (crystals, divination, spellwork, mythology, ect.)

OR

c) What type of e-books you would like to receive.

Each bundle will have three (3) e-books in a .ZIP file, to which I will contact winners and send them the books through email.

A Note: Books may come in e-pub or pdf format. For those without an e-reader of some sort, please visit http://calibre-ebook.com/ to download Calibre, which is a free e-book/pdf/document library that can read e-books.

Winners will be chosen each week for the rest of the month, along with a Samhain themed bundle going out on October the 31st.

Ready?

Go!

Developing Your Spiritual Practice in Autumn

Posted on

Your eye lids flutter softly, an you roll over. Your alarm is going off- a soft, natural melody- the least obnoxious you could find on your phone. Hitting the off button, you flop back, close your eyes, and begin to wake up.

The first rays of  honey-colored light dapple your curtains and you pull them aside. In the Northern Hemisphire,  it is now autumn. Richly colored leaves spiral in a chilly wind, which plasters them to your window, damp from last night’s rain.

You crack the window, and a gust of frigid air works it’s way through your room, leaving in it’s wake the smell of wood smoke and burning leaves, and a sense of gentle cleansing.

Autumn is here! Personally, it is my second favorite season. It feels to me almost as if the bright leaves are nature’s last blaze and surge of energy before going dormant for another year. Now s the time to reap what you have sown- that could mean harvesting the last of your garden and preparing for next years, or even looking back on your year and make plans for the next.

For many pagans, it is a time of celebration, and a time for feasting as well! Apples, root veggies such as potatoes and turnips, squash, and onions are all key players in the feasting. Hearty meat pies and vegetable stews are all wonderful ways to bring warmth into your home, as is burning heady, wood incenses and those based on resins, such as sandalwood, dragon’s blood, and frankincense.

Now is a nice time to pay homage to the your deities, spirits, guides, or whomever else has helped you this year. Depending on personal preference of said spirits and or deities, offerings of brightly colored leaves, spiced cakes, and the last fruit of the garden (be it an actual fruit or the last of an herb) are wonderful ways to connect to the cycle of death and rebirth.

Practicing your divination skills might be one on your list right now, as the thinning of this world and the next may heighten your ability to receive wisdom. Divination involving fire might be looked into, especially if you burn leaves from your yard. 

Now’s the time to get creative with cooking as well! Here are some wonderful, foraged-based recipes from Backyard Foraging by Ellen Zachos:

“Mushroom Ravioli
Packaged won ton wrappers simplify this recipe, but if homemade pasta is something you love to make, feel free to do so. I think the thin won ton wrappers provide the perfect ratio of noodle to filling.

1.Slice 2 cups of assorted mushrooms and sauté them in a half stick of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil along with 3 cloves of garlic, also sliced. Cook until softened, then add salt and pepper to taste and 1⁄4 cup mushroom broth. Cook over medium heat until the mixture cooks down and the liquid is mostly evaporated. Remove from the heat and let cool.

2.In a blender, combine 11⁄2 cups ricotta cheese with 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, then add the cooled mushroom mixture and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more broth, then fold in an additional 1⁄2 cup of chopped mushrooms. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

3. Place 1 teaspoon of mushroom filling in the center of a won ton wrapper, then brush the edges of the wrapper with water and fold the wrapper in half diagonally, pressing the edges together to form a triangle. Make as many raviolis as you have filling for (any extra can be frozen for later use) and allow the stuffed pasta to air-dry for an hour.

4. Boil briefly, until pasta is cooked through; this may only take 2 or 3 minutes. This is a delicate ravioli and will break apart if overstuffed or overcooked. After draining the pasta, serve and top with a butter-and-sage sauce, or whatever else your little heart desires. Crazy good.”

“Rose Hip Soup (a.k.a. nyponsoppa)
There is no denying the elegance of a cold, smooth fruit soup. In Sweden, nyponsoppa is traditionally served for dessert; similar soups are popular throughout Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. This recipe highlights the sweet/tart flavor of rose hips and calls for no additional spices or flavors. It’s a great way to get acquainted with the pure taste of rose hips, which is difficult to describe: mostly fruity with a touch of the vegetal.

1.Combine 2 cups of rose hip purée, 2 cups of water, and 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 cup sugar over low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. (I recommend starting with less sugar and adjusting it according to your taste as you cook.)

2. Separately, mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water to create a paste. Whisk the paste into the rose hip base and stir over medium heat until the soup begins to thicken. The soup may be allowed to simmer slightly, but be sure to keep stirring to avoid scorching it.

3. When the soup has reached the desired thickness, remove it from the heat and refrigerate to cool. To serve, swirl in whipped cream or pour it over vanilla ice cream. A few crunchy cookies, like gingersnaps or almond biscotti, are the perfect garnish for this richly colored and flavored soup.”

What are some things you do to welcome the energy of Autumn into your home?

I No Longer Believe in the Gods

Posted on

For four years of my life, I practiced magic, celebrated the changes of the seasons, and worshipped the Goddess, Mother of All Life.

 

And now I am at a point where I am doubting Her existence.

I’ve seen a lot in my life, experienced a lot in my life. I know how it feels to go hungry, and so even today I understand the importance, the scarcity, the sacredness of food. I know how it feels to eat every meal as if it were your last. I know how it feels to be grateful for a heaping bowl or oatmeal in the morning and a bowl of rice for lunch. 

I know how it feels to look at the news in the morning and to feel like your living in the Matrix. To feel that you no longer wish to live in such a world filled brimming with evil, where the good are slaughtered in their sleep , the Earth itself bleeding red.

I know how it feel to try to end your life, because there was no other way.

I know how it feels to tiptoe around your own house, silent as mice nesting in the walls, for fear of committing some unknown breach in protocol because your father would abuse you.

An yet, despite all these experiences, I continued to have faith in the Goddess. Until one day, I asked myself, “Why?”

Many people say they understand hunger. It’s often not true. True hunger is being hungry and knowing that there is no way for you to get food. It’s knowing that the fridge is empty and you used all the rest to get gas to go to work.  

If there is a benevolent Goddess, where was she when my father screamed at me for leaving a soda can on the counter? When he hit my mother over and over again? Protectress of Women, where was She then?

Where was she when i ran out of rice and had to eat oatmeal three times a day? 

Where was she when I overdosed on my depression medication and was in the hospital?

Where was she when I cut my skin over and over, leaving thick scars and gashes that decorate my arms and legs like tiger stripes?

Was she there when I offered her cakes and herbs? When I dedicated by garden to serving nature, planting beneficial herbs and flowers for the bees and birds?

Was she there whenever I freed and insect from my home, understanding the value of it’s tiny life?

Where the fuck was she? Because I’m not sure a benevolent, kind Goddess would sit back and let me hurt so much, while so many other people lived fat and happy?

So I turned by back on her.

I erased the rituals from my mind. 

No more will  pray in the morning and light pungent incense for her: myrrh, frankincense, dragon’s blood. No more will I make sweet cakes and leave them as offering on the alter.

No more will I trim fresh flowers, as beautiful as jewels, on the alter in honor of her.

No more.

And, Goddess, if you exist.

Then where the fuck were you?

I Am Not Wiccan: Please Stop Forcing Your Three-Fold Law on Me

Posted on Updated on

Time and time again, I have read a book, an article, a website, that ushers me to heed the Three Fold Law. As a non-Wiccan pagan, I am honestly sick of yet ANOTHER religion forcing it’s beliefs on me.

“Force, you say? No member of the Pagan community would ever force their opinions or beliefs on you! And yet it happens every time I read a book, regardless of if the subject at hand is Wiccan or not. The Hoodoo Voodoo Spellbook for example, which by all means should be a book on Hoodoo and have relativly little to do with Wicca, ensures me that I should remember the Three Fold Law- everything that is sent into the universe comes back to you Three-Fold.

I.Am.Not.Wiccan. I do not believe in the Three-Fold law. I have gone through a lot of various experiences in my life, and I simply cannot believe that such a thing exists. You may say that those suffering now may be so because of a past life and they are now reincarnating in order to learn lessons . That is what you believe, and does not necessarily translate into fact. For a wonderful example, lets look at the Christianity and Hell- how many Christians believe in hell, and assure various peoples of all races and and religions that they are destined for that burning hole beneath the Earth? As a Pagan, you would say “That’s your belief, stop forcing it on others”

“That’s your belief, stop forcing it on others”

Yes, I practice hexes and curses within my own wisdom. It is not for someone else to try to dictate to me my own spiritual path and how to live it. Your beliefs do not trump mine, and neither do your opinions override my own wisdom. Please practice what you preach, and stop forcing your beliefs on me. Have a nice day.