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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in cultural appropriation

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Cattle Raids and Cultural Appropriation

As a storyteller, I tend to do much of my thinking through stories. In the ongoing discussion of cultural appropriation it seemed to me that abstract theorizing may well benefit from the wisdom of narrative. So I began casting about for a story that addressed the subject.

Theorist Cei Serith says, “When confronted with a new situation, first consult ancestral precedent.” The Received Tradition (or at least those portions of it with which I am personally conversant), has little to say on the topic of cultural appropriation directly, but in fact the practice has a surprising number of parallels with the grand old Keltic pastime (one could almost call it a sport) of the táin, the cattle-raid. The Kelts came by cattle-rustling honestly (so to speak): it would seem, in fact, to have been an ancient tradition of many Indo-European peoples (and, indeed, of pastoral cultures in general: compare the current problems with the self-same practice in South Sudan).

We have, to the best of our knowledge, no surviving mythology from the Dobunni, the Keltic tribe that inhabited the Severn basin and Cotswolds in what is now the south-west Midlands of England. (The “creation myth” that Stephen Yeates “recreates” in A Dreaming for the Witches cannot truly be called a story.) There seems to be good genetic and archaeological evidence to indicate that Dobunni population and culture survived into Anglo-Saxon times as the tribe known as the Hwicce. Maverick archaeologist Stephen Yeates would contend that the tribal religion of the Hwicce, with its strong continuities with the preceding Dobunni religion, is in fact what would become historic Witchcraft (and later, Wicca). Historical or not, it's a powerful story, for which I will admit a certain personal fondness, perhaps because some of my own ancestors hail from this same region.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    One wonders to what degree (if at all) memory of the tain remained current in 19th century Irish popular culture (before the liter
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Interestingly, I've suspected that the cattle-rustling in the American West, carried out in large part by Irish cowboys, was a cul
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks and hail, daughter of Dobunnia. Kindly give my regards to the Severn.
  • Danu Forest
    Danu Forest says #
    great stuff thanks for posting! the dobunni are thought to be the tribe where i actually live! hail the storyteller! ;-)

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Cattle-Raid: A Legend of the Dobunni

In the beginning of days, the Great Mother called all the peoples to her, her children, and to each people she gave its own proper food.

To the Cornovii she gave the deer to be their food, and indeed they are great hunters to this day. To the Brigantes, she gave oats to be their food, to the Iceni barley, to the Silures sheep, and so it was. To each people, its own proper food.

But to our people, to the Dobunni, to us she gave cattle to be our food, and their milk and their meat are indeed the best of foods.

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Interstice: Appropriation Looks Like This

This is just a quick, interstitial post about a thing I found online today. The attached meme tells us that the word 'tenalach' is Irish and 'describes a relationship one has with the land, air and water, a deep connection that allows one to literally hear the Earth sing'.

According to my Irish dictionary and the researches of several Irish-speaking commenters on the original post, this word does not exist in the language. In fact, it violates a basic principle of Irish spelling.

Folks, this is what cultural appropriation looks like. It matters less that the spiritual concept is gorgeous and fulfilling than it does that Irish language and culture were inappropriately overlaid upon it to lend it legitimacy. Irish deserves better than that and so do the people who speak it.

 

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    This reminds me of the 1990s when a long poem about saving the environment attributed wrongly to Chief Sealth (the guy that Seattl
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree it's best to object to these sorts of things whenever we see them, both for the sak
Cultural Appropriation or Creative Expession?

I opened up my Facebook account today and was greeted by a long discussion focusing on cultural appropriation, vis-a-vis belly dancing. It appeared to be based on a Salon article titled "Why I can't stand white belly dancers."

The first thing that struck me was the confrontational nature of the headline: It wasn't belly dancing performed by white people that the author couldn't stand, it was the belly dancers themselves. If this doesn't put people on the defensive, I don't know what will. Then again, it's part of the inflammatory nature of online "journalism" these days, which uses hot-button language to increase the number of hits. (Full disclosure: I'm white, but I'm no belly dancer, and belly dancing isn't something I go out of my way to watch.)

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  • valkyr dragonborn
    valkyr dragonborn says #
    as an amateur American "bellydancer" this article both astounds and disgusts me- noted professional Middle Eastern artists, musici
  • Literata
    Literata says #
    I appreciate your points about the impossibility of achieving purity. Like Carol Christ, though, I can also see the author's persp
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I was intentionally careful with my wording on the parody point: I wrote that it was "one" key question rather than "the" key ques
  • Ruth Pace
    Ruth Pace says #
    lol - yeah, I too was wondering about that article and commented on it. I reminded the author that the dance (and the Arabic word
  • aought
    aought says #
    Randa Jarrar is also forgetting that "white" people were originally from Africa and migrated to the north, losing their skin pigme

Email for inquiries and submissions: Crystal Blanton

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press (Stafford, U.K./Portland, OR, U.S.A) is seeking submissions for the Bring Race to the Table: An Exploration of Racism in the Pagan Community.

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  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says #
    I will probably try to submit something for this! (I have to get a hold of a few resources in order to do so, thus it won't be fo
Cultural exchange vs cultural appropriation

Recently I attended a workshop run by R. J. Stewart and he related a story of a discussion he had with a Lakota Shaman. Something she said to him was that she didn't want white people trying to take the practices of her people and make them their own, but rather that she wanted them to find their own practices and then meet with people from other practices and share what each of them was doing. When I heard that story, it made me think that something which is really important for all of us is cultural exchange, where we appreciate what a given person (and his/her culture) brings to the table without feeling the need to steal from it. Instead that appreciation allows us to learn from the other person and reflect on our own practices in context to what we've learned. We engage in a cultural exchange, so that everyone can benefit from what is learned.

Cultural appropriation is the wholesale stealing of a given culture's practices. The reason people do it may be a result of feeling disconnected from the culture they are in or identifying spirituality as only residing in the cultural practices of the culture they are appropriating from. Regardless of what the reason is, such appropriation ultimately creates a mockery of the original practices, because while the person might steal away the practices, s/he can never truly know the culture. S/he is always interpreting the other culture through the lens of his/her own culture.

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  • Jennifer Tindell
    Jennifer Tindell says #
    Thanks, this is very good.
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    The story I tell about cultural appropriation is that I once approached a Native American practitioner and inquired about learning
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hi Carl, Thank you for commenting. I wrote an essay for that anthology. It's a good anthology, and some of the other ones that we
  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal says #
    Very interesting! I recorded a panel discussion last weekend (at the Oregon Coast Pan Pagan Gathering) that addressed this same i

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Tithing: not just for Christians

Risking charges of cultural appropriation, I'm going to come right out and say that I thinking tithing is a wonderful idea that Pagans should borrow and embrace . . . with some modifications to fit our diverse paths and beliefs, of course.

Tithing is the Biblical tradition of skimming ten percent off the top of one's income and giving it to one's church.  This was an effective way to provide for priests and ensure that charity stays local, but there are a number of reasons why its literal application won't work for most modern Pagans.  A few that come to mind are:

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Ward, I wish we could do this. We do give to various charities, though. Thanks again for another great post.
  • Debbie Vozniak
    Debbie Vozniak says #
    This is a great idea. I personally tend to give my donations to animal or nature rescue causes and to victims of disasters worldwi
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Great points, Emily! Produce was the originally tithe expected of Hebrews, with money moving in as a convenient way to measure th
  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills says #
    Wow. Another timely blog that coincides with things on my mind. What is about this site? The Fistula Foundation is a charity I l

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