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Talking to Wiccans about Cultural Appropriation

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On one of the boards I'm on, a woman asked what the group thought of calling on Native American Deities as the Goddess and God during a Wiccan ritual.

Now, personally I have a few issues with this:

a) The Goddess and God of Wicca are actual deities, and if you swap them out for other deities, it isn't Wicca anymore. Wicca is a religion, not a prayer structure. It's fine to also work with other deities sometimes, but if you're working with them INSTEAD of the Goddess and God, it isn't Wicca, it is something else.


b) Native American deities probably have their own rituals that they would rather be honored in.


c) As is often described on this board, it is presumptuous for Europeans to use parts of Native American traditions willy-nilly.

I focused on C, and here is a translation of my response:


Be careful, American Indians tend to find people who are interested in practicing their traditions as racist.

For them, the practice can't exist outside the context of their tribe. It's their family tradition, and to take the actions out of context is a sacrilege.


I got an admonition from the moderator, saying I should use sentences such as "I think", that there are no hard "facts" in spirituality, there's no "absolute truths".

Do you think I worded my response too harshly, or that it is factually incorrect? How would you have responded instead?

I think the next time someone asks this question my response will be, "Why are you asking us? We aren't American Indians! I believe it would be better if you asked some actual American Indians about their deities and the contexts in which it is acceptable to worship them. Here's a link where you can discuss which ways are appropriate to honor American Indian deities" ... and send them here.

Would that be a good thing to do, to get them speaking to the folks here who are in a better position to explain these things to them? Or would it just be annoying for you regulars to get a bunch of would be American Indian deity worshipping wannabe Wiccans on the board?


PS I realize I'm not a regular and every time I post it is variations on the same theme, but these really are difficult waters to navigate.

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Defend the Sacred:
Given what I'm about to say, I acknowledge the irony that I'm the first to answer here, but we're a team and sometimes people get busy or tired :)

It's *always* best to tell people to simply listen to NDNs, then refer them to some of the many things that NDNs who are respected members of their communities have written about cultural appropriation. As allies, I think it's our duty to signal boost and offer support when it's wanted, but as much as we may want to insulate our NDN friends from racists, we can't forget that NDNs can and will speak for themselves in these matters, and do so every day. Just living their lives as NDNs means they have already faced far worse than yet another clueless appropriator twinkie chat forum.

You don't have to give the clueless non-Native a Native friend's phone number, personal email or otherwise inflict them on NDNs in a personal way.  You can simply point them to all the many things NDNs have written on the topic, and if they really care they can spend some time reading. It's all been said many times over. This is a public board, and it is for education. Just reading and listening here would be a good start for the clueless. Part of our job with this forum is to help deal with that problem.

Personally, I've mostly given up on trying to talk to Wiccans. I spent too many years banging my head against the wall. Most of them just don't care.

Check out what's going on in the Morning Glory & Otter/Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and the Grey School thread for some examples of the problems. As a mix and match, recently created religion ("All gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddesses") at it's core, Wicca encourages appropriation and taking cultural elements and spirits out of context and inserting them in the Wiccan structure (and it's not just eclectic Neo-Wiccans who do this, I've seen it from Alexandrians and Gardnerians as well). Most Wiccans believe they have every right to do this; it's a foundation of their theology.  I say this from the years of experience I had with the Pagan communities in the eighties and nineties. By the technical definition I am still a type of Pagan, as my faith is other-than-Christian, polytheist, and earth-honoring. But I'm a member of one of the ethnic reconstructionist communities, and in our work to preserve the living traditions of our ancestors and revive the ones that have fallen into disuse, my community has very different values than do the Wiccans and other eclectic Neopagans.

Hang in there. I think it's good you're trying to educate the appropriators. Here and there someone will hear your words and get it. Just know that many of them will never change. You may be able to change some, but if you expect that calling them on their privilege and racism will make all or even many of them stop what they're doing, you may be in for some disappointment.

I'd also recommend the Do's and Don'ts of Being a Good Ally post.

Defend the Sacred:
A few more links:

Resolution of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Elders Circle - Inter-tribal council of Navajo, Hopi, Muskogee, Chippewa-Cree, Northern Cheyenne, Haudenosaunee and Lakota Elders speak out against the appropriators. "It has been brought to the attention of the Elders and their representatives in Council that various individuals are moving about this Great Turtle Island and across the great waters to foreign soil, purporting to be spiritual leaders. ...be warned that these individuals are moving about playing upon the spiritual needs and ignorance of our non-Indian brothers and sisters. The value of these instructions and ceremonies are questionable, maybe meaningless, and hurtful to the individual carrying false messages."

Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality - Unanimously passed by an international gathering of US and Canadian Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations, about 500 representatives from 40 different tribes and bands. - Specifically mentions Neopagans who are appropriating: "Whereas individuals and groups involved in the "New Age Movement," in the "men's movement," in "neo-paganism" cults and in "shamanism" workshops all have exploited the spiritual traditions of our Lakota people by imitating our ceremonial ways and by mixing such imitation rituals with non-Indian occult practices in an offensive and harmful pseudo-religious hodge-podge; ..."

Letter from Chief Arvol Looking Horse on Protection of Ceremonies - "I now see since these reports, there is a much bigger problem then I ever knew in concern of the violations. Even more reports of deaths, charging, molestation and mixing of other beliefs, this must stop! These violations are affecting our children's health, many of our children ending their life with suicide. They do not feel that ceremonial energy that was meant for them. The People in these hoc'okas need to become stronger and connected with our children's needs to survive."

What are Native American Deities? We believe in one God so what are people talking about,
We dont have goddress nor do we have many gods what is wrong with people!
People want to take our belief change them and make them something they are not,
and wonder why we would be upset.


What is wrong with people? They live in fantasies. I was talking to a friend who is "eclectic" to put it mildly. I was explaining why it was so wrong that someone she knows was using White Buffalo Calf Woman as one of her deities in her "pantheon. I did find something from Vine DeLoria jr. useful. He said ( and I am paraphrasing) that while his people revered WBCW, they did not worship her. The person just said "so what's the difference? And I just said "The difference is that he is saying his people do not consider her a goddess and if you use her as such, you are offending them. THAT she got. The offending part.


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