General => Member Introductions => Topic started by: davidjohndrew on January 18, 2008, 09:55:43 pm

Title: Intro
Post by: davidjohndrew on January 18, 2008, 09:55:43 pm

I am from Northumberland in NE Britain and currently live in Aurora CO USA. I have an active interest in pre-christian Celtic culture/spirituality/tradition and over the past few years I have come across many dubious individuals, many of whom have managed to take me in with their jargon and deceptions. Some of these are mentioned in your site like 'Nicholas Noble Wolf', 'Turtle Heart School of Shamanism', Michael Harner', Frank MacEowen', Sandra Ingermann', Ed 'Eagle-Man McGaa'... many who, on comparison with genuine sources seem to spout some sort of jibberish.

So I have to first admit that I was at some point influenced by these people and followed some of them and their ideas for a while. I feel a great sense of stupidity and humility, and I forgot where I came from in my search for the spirituality of the peoples of my true homeland. Maybe I was not honest enough with mysellf or my family that I had to go looking for the advice of people who have never even been to my homelands.

I discovered your site after a discussion with a group about Carlos Casteneda and all his deceptions, people are still chasing the Don Juan myth and imitating his mystical moves. But anyway I began to reflect on myself and my culture, what I really wanted or needed and realized that all I needed was to get back and refer to my own source of information and traditions rather than rely on poor imitators looking to make a living out of selling their version of creation.

There are some other 'Celtic-Spirituality' authors who make me uncomfortable, and they include D J Conway (author of 'By oak, Ash and Thorn - Celtic Shamanism'), R J Stewart (lots of books and 'neo-Celtic workshops... making a very good living out of King Arthur), Edain McCoy (Myth and Magic), Ellen Evert Hopman (author of 'A Druids Herbal... contains herbs and festivals that most Celts would never have heard of), Caitlin Matthews (author of 'Celtic Devotional'.... page after page of mindless abstract drivel).

It seems there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there waiting to guide anybody who appears to be lost and searching for their identity, and take their money for advice. I am happy to have found NAFPS as a resource and a place to anchor myself.


Title: Re: Intro
Post by: Defend the Sacred on January 19, 2008, 02:22:22 am
F? ilte (Welcome) David,

You are right, there are a number of people out there who are trying to use "Celtic" as a way of excusing cultural appropriation. The irony is, they are usually so ignorant about the living cultures of the Six Celtic Nations that they don't even realize (or care) that none of the cultures they try to use as their cover-stories are dead and for the taking, and that the appropriator is doing violence to additional cultures besides the First Nations ones they know they are stealing from.

In many cases, like the Matthews (with their fake Inipis called by a mis-applied Gaelic name) and Frank MacEowen (with his "Celtic Spirit Wheel", which is just a rip-off of his idea of the "Medicine Wheel") they are very obviously tacking knotwork and tartan on First Nations ways. It's frustrating and upsetting, because many ignorant, if sincere, white people buy it. I like to hope it's because the people buying their crap don't know any better, but in other cases I know they know better, but they just don't care about anything but their desire for some sort of escapist spiritual experience. They might as well just do drugs, as that's the sort of thing they're really looking for. OK, not all of them want escapism, but I'd say a very high number of them do, and they don't care about who they're misrepresenting or ripping off in the process.

The "Celtic Shaman" creep you posted about in the other thread is a real obvious appropriator. In other cases it's been a bit more subtle, and hence more difficult to educate people;  such as when someone who's done some good work in the past gets off track (including some, I hate to admit, who I've even worked with and co-authored things with in the past (if never again)) . Even the Matthews initially wrote some good things about Ceremonial Magic and Celtic Christianity, but then they jumped on the Harnerite, Shameon bandwagon. And in the case of someone I used to write with, she decided she has every right to rip off Chanupa and Inipi ceremonies "because the spirits told her to." Thing is, none of these people would be doing these things if they hadn't read Harner and his ilk, so I have to be quite dubious about what the alleged spirits are allegedly telling them. I think it's all in their heads, and most of them wouldn't know a real spirit if it bit them on the ass.

So, we've had people do things like claim a practice is "universal", yet when they write about it or perform it for others, it's just a First Nations ceremony with some misunderstood, mis-applied, and mis-pronounced Gaelic or Welsh grafted onto it.  Most of the time, as they actually have had no contact with legitimate, traditional First Nations or Celtic cultures, the ceremony is just a fantasy mishmash of Newage ideas of North American and Celtic cultural/spiritual practices, with no legitimate connection to any of the cultures being stolen from.

Anyway, its a sore subject for me, too, as I'm in the position of recently realizing that one of my colleagues was not what she pretended to be, and it has caused a split in one of my communities.  The obvious appropriators, with all their typos and crass claims, are easy to deal with. The articulate ones who do have some genuine learning, and who have done some non-offensive things in the past, are often harder to get people to see the truth about.

Again, F? ilte, agus Sl? inte Mhath (Welcome, and Good Health/Strength/Wholeness),

Title: Re: Intro
Post by: davidjohndrew on January 19, 2008, 04:51:20 am
I think that the internet has made it possible for lots of people to assume false credentials and then use their imaginary status to exploit others for profit. This is at a basic level just sad and at the worst extreme probably illegal. If I am honest then in the past (as I have said before) I have been drawn into some of these quick-spiritual scams to feed my imagination although now I regret this and I can only blame myself for not being more attentive.

I was last involved with the 'Turtle Heart Shamanic School' and came to the reasonable conclusion that the director 'Tom' was a complete crazy. He wanted me to go the whole way with his individual world-view otherwise I was wasting time. Not good and I dont recommend spending even $95 on this trash program of pseudo-Andean/Hawaiian nonsense... keep away.

Actually what makes me angry is the fact that some Celtic groups and individuals are telling me their version of things, when I am from a community that has existed for over 2000 years (my home town is Wallsend on the river Tyne, the place called 'Segedunum' by the original Celtic people who lived there... and there remains the foundations of a Roman Fort, part of Hadrians wall!).  It's not as simple as drinking green beer on St. Patricks day, or wearing a KKK white dressing gown and carrying a nobbly stick to be a Druid. I had the shit kicked out of me at school because the teacher gave a lesson on Druids and pointed to me saying that I, because of my name (Drew) was descended from them (Drew is the Latinized form of the Irish Draoi).

Anyway, I am rambling on...

Cheers (and I like your work on CR FAQ!)

Title: Re: Intro
Post by: Defend the Sacred on January 19, 2008, 05:31:47 am
Andean/Hawaiian. Wow. I'm glad you got out when you did.

I don't think you can be blamed for checking stuff out before you knew better. It's what you do once you have learned better, imho.

In a similar vein, I went to one of Sun Bear's Medicine Wheel Gatherings in '84, back when I was an ignorant twenty year old (my friends at the time were going, some of whom had partial/distant Indian ancestry, and were being similarly misled, but that's another story). When I got home I picked up a copy of Akwesasne Notes and read what they had to say about Sun Bear and his crowd, so I never went again. I was also fortunate enough to meet some Seneca folks there who were appropriately cynical about the whole thing, and gave me a lot to think about.

Thanks for your kind words about the FAQ (though I no longer vouch for everyone else who participated in the project; as you say, not everyone is who they seem to be on the Internet). The East Coast people and I who started CR actually met in a group that was fighting cultural appropriation in the Pagan community,  mostly white people in the group, but one of the organizers was Longhouse Mohawk (iirc) and a member of AIM. We didn't do spiritual work together, just political organizing. Later those of us with interests in matters spiritual and Celtic (Gaelic, mostly) got together to work on that, too. So, yeah, I'm pretty appalled and furious when I see anyone think they can do CR and also rip off First Nations traditions, as we started it to try to give some of the white people an alternative to that.

I'm sorry you've also had to deal with your family and community's traditions and history being misrepresented. Between the Wiccans and the Psuedo-Druids and the Newagers, it's pretty bad. So much so that, when I was "searching" as a teen and twentysomething, I neglected some of the Gaelic folkloric customs and practices that I had learned in my family, because none of it resembled Wicca, and the Neoplaygans had me convinced that their misinformation was the real deal. A lot of those people don't even know that what they're doing isn't Celtic. But then when you try to educate them, and they respond with arrogance and hostility... Argh.
Title: Re: Intro
Post by: Karen on September 24, 2008, 11:46:18 pm
I feel compelled to respond to this, and other posts which have included Sandra Ingerman as an "exploiter".  I know Sandra very well, and have never seen or heard her exploit anyone's traditions.  In fact, when some students have wandered into the area of using other traditions, she has been quick and firm about respecting the traditions and spirituality of others.  To link her with those out there who are really in it for the money and fame is to do an injustice to an amazingly spiritual and gifted woman.

I think it would be helpful to actually meet the people who get accused (many times rightly).  In this case, folks have labeled Sandra something she simply is not.

Title: Re: Intro
Post by: Barnaby_McEwan on October 09, 2008, 04:07:35 pm
As Jack Forbes has written (,

"Shamanism" is a new European game. Shouldn't they play it by themselves, without stealing the symbols of indigenous cultures?

Ingerman and her ilk are peddling a fantasy, projecting their desires onto people who used to be thought of as savages. They used to be either satanic, or doomed primitives, or both.

Now there's money and prestige - if you're not too fussy about who looks up to you - in selling the idea that 'savages' are kind of cool. Not the dying young part, or the watching your relatives kill themselves with drugs, booze and glue part, or the having to fight to preserve your language part. Just the cool parts, like having a power animal, or imagining you're not really white.

Despite apparently having a degree in biology she seems to believe she has found a way to 'shamanically' remove harmful chemicals from bodies of polluted water. That would be a laughable idea if it wasn't so creepily wrong. It sums up everything that's wrong with "earth-based spirituality": don't go on a demonstration, you might get arrested. Instead pay to enter some country club for hippies, do some stupid made-up ritual and kid yourself that you're making a difference. Then go back to work on Monday morning.

I doubt whether Ingerman or you, one of her students, has much idea about protecting traditions; she's a key member of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, a veritable twaddle factory where 'Native American spirituality' is concerned. If she's concerned about pollution, she can start by no longer polluting white people's ideas about native people. Until then she and her kind are part of the problem.
Title: Re: Intro
Post by: MatoSiWin on October 09, 2008, 09:11:03 pm
Wow Barnaby... can I print this out and send it to my friend (he is currently unable to access the internet), but I know he would very much appreciate what you wrote and how you wrote it.  I agree.. if someone wants to play at being part of an oppressed culture, they should go all the way with it, not just single out the "cool stuff".
Title: Re: Intro
Post by: Barnaby_McEwan on October 09, 2008, 10:09:37 pm
Yes, of course. But I couldn't have written that post if I hadn't benefitted from the insight of Jack Forbes and lots of other fine anti-racist people, not all scholars like him and not all Indian. Maybe your friend would also like to see the page of his that I linked to?
Title: Re: Intro
Post by: MatoSiWin on November 04, 2008, 05:33:37 pm
Pila!  I am printing both your comment and the linked page out.