Author Topic: Hello and a request for advice  (Read 9925 times)

Offline Sialcog

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Hello and a request for advice
« on: August 10, 2014, 02:33:29 pm »
Hello everyone!

My name is Jonathan, I'm 26 years old, I'm white British, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I'm currently completing a PhD in Social Anthropology, with a specialism in the anthropology of the environment. My main academic interest is primarily in Europe, and how changes in land use affect people's attitude to their surroundings. I have completed fieldwork studying British Druidry, and I'm now focusing on the role of traditional land management in changing how people feel about the landscape of the Norfolk Broads (a wetland area in the East of England).

I have long been aware of the damaging impact of cultural appropriation, and as such I have avoided nuage, faux-Native American practices like the plague. The main reason I have got involved in Druidry is out of a desire to connect with my own heritage (I am of predominantly Welsh and Irish ancestry), with traditions that are rooted in the landscape I love. And yet, there are certain practices that have leaked into Druidry from the new age - including, I am grieved to say, appropriations from indigenous peoples.

However, it was only upon visiting this site (I was directed here by a good friend in whom I have confided my concerns regarding cultural appropriation by certain other Druids) that I realised how significant the problem was. I had, for example, no idea that Caitlin Matthews' "Celtic Shamanism" was based on thefts from Native American cultures. Despite being an anthropologist, I'm not an expert on Native American practices and so didn't know the signs. I had my doubts about whether or not "celtic sweats" were based on Native American inipis, and as such have never done one. I already had my suspicions about the Dance of Life (which is very common amongst Britain's pagans and I even tried a couple of times before I found out about its dubious origins) and your tireless research has confirmed them.

***

My main desire here is to apologise. Cultural appropriation is utterly unacceptable, and although I have no special status within my community - I am not an elder, or a respected teacher - I still wish to express my heartfelt regret for the actions of my fellows. I am also sorry for the mistakes I have made by allowing myself to be smudged, and trying the "Dance of Life". Most of all, I am sorry for not looking into the roots of these practices earlier, and for not being more courageous and speaking out about my suspicions with greater conviction at an earlier stage.

I'm currently wrestling with how best to proceed. Any advice on how to broach this within my community, and perhaps encourage people to take a different path, will be warmly appreciated!

Cheers,

Jonathan

Offline Lime Tree

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2014, 10:07:03 am »
Hello Jonathan,

Here are my two cents:
I would recommend you to read "The Silbury Treasure" by Michael Dames. A reviewer on amazon.co.uk ended with the following sentence:
Quote
Mr. Dames' argues that the various researchers who dug up the hill with their background culture and limited viewpoint entirely missed something of real and striking importance - the Goddess symbolism that is everywhere present in the whole Avebury area, and, perhaps most obviously, in Silbury Hill itself. 
I heartily support that.


Cheesy Little Life

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2014, 02:56:16 pm »

Hello Jonathan


May I respectfully put in my two-pence worth.

Many years ago I had very light dealings with OBOD and, like yourself, came to have deep reservations about it all.

I could not swallow (yet again) being told what to do, in someone else’s way, in someone else’s words. Nuage groups of all kinds – even those who often say they are not new age – are, in my experience, always someone else’s trip.

I felt suffocated with it all. Incidentally and amusingly, the ‘poetry’ offered was often execrable – they had obviously been reading John Matthews’s translations of Taliesin* (‘I have been a ... [fill in the blanks with whatever you like] ... a blue salmon / an axe / a rock on the fellside / a hinge / a yellow goat’ ... etc).

The central point comes to this: IMHO, modern Druidry can never be anything more than something reconstructed.

So I decided that the only way through was to put all the distractions and elaborate entertainments aside, and go directly back to the core of what has always been there in the land.

You ask the best way to proceed; I can therefore respectfully suggest that you might leave behind all such groups, and go your own way.

-----------
*  John Matthews. Taliesin: shamanism and the bardic mysteries in Britain and Ireland. The Aquarian Press, 1991



Offline Sialcog

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2014, 05:32:09 pm »
Hi both - thanks for your responses!

I was more hoping for advice on how to raise this issue within OBOD? I'd like to try to change things for the better, rather than just leave.

Cheesy Little Life

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2014, 07:49:34 pm »
Now you're just being pathetic.

Stand up and say the truth as you understand it. For real.

Refer them to this site; they will find everything here they need to know about the issues, if they can be bothered to look.

And if they kick you out as a heretic or something, then fine. Then you will be free - not only free to pursue your own personal studies, but also free from the sole responsibility of having to make everything OK with everyone. Like myself, you are not that important.

« Last Edit: August 26, 2014, 09:40:55 am by Cheesy Little Life »

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2014, 08:38:54 pm »
OBOD members and their offshoots are running dangerous, potentially deadly, fake sweatlodges in badly-constructed, airtight structures covered with plastic tarps and sealed with duct tape. If you really want to make a difference, do what Elders here in American have done: Get together some friends and go tear those abominations down.

Not only that, but "druidry" is really a misnomer, and I think that if you've really studied Celtic history, you know that. The draoithe were the educated classes of the ancient Celtic cultures. Some were ceremonial leaders, but others were other learned professionals. OBOD and similar groups have a very limited, and rather colonial, view of Celtic history. They don't really have much, if anything, to do with the living cultures in the Celtic Nations that I've seen. Do they require that people learn the language? Last I heard, all their rituals were conducted in English.

If they are English people doing their idea of ancient ceremonies, in English, they're not Druids, nor are they Celtic.

I would suggest doing what others who have fled the neopagan and nuage communities have done: Study the real history from primary sources. Study the language. Get out in Nature and make traditional offerings to the spirits. For fellowship, work with family and friends who share your interests. Get involved in cultural preservation groups. Learn the music.  Don't join any spiritual groups unless they are committed to cultural preservation, language preservation, and take a firm stand against cultural appropriation.

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2014, 09:00:23 pm »
P.S. Welcome to the forum, Jonathan. I am glad you are questioning this stuff and here to learn. Sorry if I came off a bit cross; the psuedo-drood stuff is unfortunately not a new area for us here. :)

Offline Sialcog

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2014, 09:29:49 am »

Now you're just being pathetic.

Stand up and say the truth as you understand it. For real.

Refer them to this site; they will find everything here they need to know about the issues, if they can be arsed to look.

And if they kick you out as a heretic or something, then fine. Then you will be free - not only free to pursue your own personal studies, but also free from the sole responsibility of having to make everything OK with everyone. You are not that important.

I'm sorry - perhaps I was unclear :) Standing up and speaking out is exactly what I plan on doing. I feel that my apology here would be a little hollow if I didn't try to share my findings and change things.

I've already raised this with several friends of mine within OBOD, and they were all just as shocked and concerned as I am. I've even spoken about cultural appropriation more generally with some senior figures within the order, and they are of the same mind. As a result, I have been invited to speak at the next White Horse Camp (White Horse Camps are camps held in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire and organised by OBOD members) on the topic.

However, there are less effective and more effective ways of winning people over. My primary aim here is that I get as many people as I can to shift their practice away from any fraudulent, or dangerous techniques they might have (perhaps unwittingly) absorbed. Clearly that's an aim of this organisation, so I would like to know is if there are any techniques you have used successfully in the past - other than mentioning this site, which I will naturally do - that you'd be happy for me to deploy? :-) For example - are there any Cherokee organisations or individuals who might be prepared to send me a formal letter, outlining their view of the Dance of Life and its practice? Their words will carry more weight than mine alone :)

I hope you don't think this is vanity; it's just I believe in collective responsibility. That requires that I try, at least, to invite others to learn what I have learned.

OBOD members and their offshoots are running dangerous, potentially deadly, fake sweatlodges in badly-constructed, airtight structures covered with plastic tarps and sealed with duct tape. If you really want to make a difference, do what Elders here in American have done: Get together some friends and go tear those abominations down.

Yes, the "sweat lodges" have always worried me, even before coming here. I remember asking one of the builders if the structures were airtight (the James Arthur Ray case had happened earlier that year, and I mentioned it), and he said no - that the tarps being used were canvas and so could breathe. They also didn't use any duct tape that I recall. This is by-the-by however (even if it does make them a little safer) - the bender structure of these things clearly resembles the faux-inipis used by nuagers, and that is reason enough to not use them.

The builders did stress that they were attempting to revive a vapour-bath practice that was native to the British Isles and suggested by the archaeological record (Wilkins 2011), using modern materials - do you have anything more on that?

Not only that, but "druidry" is really a misnomer, and I think that if you've really studied Celtic history, you know that. The draoithe were the educated classes of the ancient Celtic cultures. Some were ceremonial leaders, but others were other learned professionals. OBOD and similar groups have a very limited, and rather colonial, view of Celtic history. They don't really have much, if anything, to do with the living cultures in the Celtic Nations that I've seen. Do they require that people learn the language? Last I heard, all their rituals were conducted in English.

If they are English people doing their idea of ancient ceremonies, in English, they're not Druids, nor are they Celtic.

I think this is a separate issue from my original post - namely, the authenticity of modern NeoDruidry vs. Celtic Reconstructionism and whether or not English language and culture has a place within it. I think there's a broader discussion to be had about this - but perhaps it would be better staged on a different thread? My views and yours are probably rather similar in most respects, but there are some points you've made above that I differ with you on, based on my own research. If you'd like to have a discussion about this, then do let me know!

It's probably relevant to say here is that OBOD - like the Welsh, Irish, and Scottish governments - currently encourages people to learn Celtic languages, but does not force them to do so. During this year's 50th anniversary, a number of blessings were read out in Welsh, Irish, Italian and English during the ceremony, and teaching within the order is available in seven languages - two of which are Cymraeg and Gaelige.

There are many Irish, Scottish, Cornish, and Welsh members of the Order, and many more who have ancestral links to those areas. Most of the people I see regularly are English, but as I live in England, that is perhaps to be expected.

---

I would suggest doing what others who have fled the neopagan and nuage communities have done: Study the real history from primary sources. Study the language. Get out in Nature and make traditional offerings to the spirits. For fellowship, work with family and friends who share your interests. Get involved in cultural preservation groups. Learn the music.  Don't join any spiritual groups unless they are committed to cultural preservation, language preservation, and take a firm stand against cultural appropriation.

I agree with all of these suggestions - many of which I am following already. To this, I will add "Read real historical and cultural analysis by experts". There is far too much pseudo-intellectualism masquerading as genuine scholarship about - reading primary sources without sufficient training can lead to significant errors. Ronald Hutton and I were once discussing the goddess Sulis (my patron) and I mentioned how I'd discovered in the Roman Inscriptions of Britain that she existed in a plural aspect - the Suliviae. Ronald gently pointed out that linguists had concluded a more likely etymology for the latter was "Goddesses of the Parade Ground".

Like you, I'm very keen to preserve regional languages. My aunt (a retired headmistress of a Welsh-language school who lives in Port Talbot) has given me an open invitation to go with stay with her to learn Welsh via immersion. As soon as I've finished my PhD, that's my next stop!

I will not, however, be fleeing OBOD just yet. As I've said, there's a lot of support for a move away from cultural appropriation in the Order, nor do I think slinking off to my library would a very honourable thing to do. I have a great many friends in OBOD, who have been tricked by this stuff as I have. Dialogue, I feel, will be invaluable.

P.S. Welcome to the forum, Jonathan. I am glad you are questioning this stuff and here to learn. Sorry if I came off a bit cross; the psuedo-drood stuff is unfortunately not a new area for us here. :)

Not at all! Thank you for the information and advice; I can see I'm going to like it here :)

Wilkins, B. (2011) "Past Orders" in Current Archaeology, 256, pp. 28-35.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2014, 09:37:56 am by Sialcog »

Offline Lime Tree

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2014, 10:53:32 am »
I've already raised this with several friends of mine within OBOD, and they were all just as shocked and concerned as I am. I've even spoken about cultural appropriation more generally with some senior figures within the order, and they are of the same mind.

I am surprised by this. I thought that they were well aware that they are working with made-up rituals. Maybe it has to do with how one makes rituals. You mention, that  the authenticity of modern NeoDruidry vs. Celtic Reconstructionism is a separate issue. I suppose that that has to do with it.
When I stepped out of the Dutch 'pipe carrier group' that I was part of, the others felt that as: dropping the whole thing. They were not willing to do that - 'the whole thing' meant too much for them.
If I understand well, you would want to clean their practice from faux-Native American practices. That is indeed different from dropping the whole thing.
Hmmm. I am not sure how I can be of any help there. I will hang in - we will see.
Good luck!

Offline Sturmboe

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2014, 11:49:12 am »

It is difficult to get a clear view by your posts, what you really want and what more will come later.


A question I ask you: Do you just want to move people turn away from dangerous practices? Then this would be not different than what Frauds also try: to get people to perform the practices, frauds will surely not consider them as dangerous or harmful or wrong.
In both cases the client remains immature back with a smattering of knowledge, that he can not understand in the context,

People who contact Frauds and maybe got mental problems are sometimes not accessible to the reality, they are not even sometimes accessible for themself. These people are vulnerable, they are often manipulated. Maybe they turn away, maybe they are looking with all their power to participate in these practices, no matter what the results will be, they will not let take away their last hope. Nothing else they want to see.

There are no recipes, how these people can be helped. Is this important? A recipe which tell them what to do? Tug of war between two factions, on faction will win, the other one will lose - at least for now...

People need to be able to help themselves, they need to be able to decide - whatever they decide to do.
They must be able to get any information to inform about the practices, ceremonies, they must be able to get a comprehensive overview, with all its advantages and disadvantages.
Anyone who performs practices must be able to (to be ) prove(ed) if he is authorized to do this. And must be able to be controlled and face the discussions.

At least people decide for themselves what they do. This autonomy of agency is important (just this is often taken away), and also that they are clear about the consequences and responsibility they got to bear.
 
Maybe they want to do fraudulant practices, and noone can change it, even not the the fact that they destroy themselves ... everyone has the right, however painful that is, to destroy themselves. This fact is hard, sad, ... it leaves a feel of helplessness. Sometimes you see how they destroy themselves and there is not more a way to help

Offline debbieredbear

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2014, 04:17:15 pm »
http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=2846.msg37339#msg37339

Here is one thread on the "dance of Life". It was started by a fraudster posing as Cherokee.

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2014, 04:24:27 pm »
Statement from a representative of the Cherokee Nation: http://www.thepeoplespaths.net/Articles2001/RLAllen-CherokeeStatement-Shamans.htm

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2014, 04:30:55 pm »
Often the people who claim to be Cherokee at non-Native gatherings, are from a fake tribe. Or they claim to be taught by someone from a tribe that is actually fake.

From the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma: What is a real Indian Nation? What is a fake tribe?
http://youtu.be/DKLOnbc1aEQ

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2014, 04:39:13 pm »
Cherokee Nation taskforce on stopping fraudulent tribes and other imposters: http://taskforce.cherokee.org/

Offline Sialcog

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Re: Hello and a request for advice
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2014, 01:32:00 pm »

I am surprised by this. I thought that they were well aware that they are working with made-up rituals. Maybe it has to do with how one makes rituals. You mention, that  the authenticity of modern NeoDruidry vs. Celtic Reconstructionism is a separate issue. I suppose that that has to do with it.
When I stepped out of the Dutch 'pipe carrier group' that I was part of, the others felt that as: dropping the whole thing. They were not willing to do that - 'the whole thing' meant too much for them.
If I understand well, you would want to clean their practice from faux-Native American practices. That is indeed different from dropping the whole thing.
Hmmm. I am not sure how I can be of any help there. I will hang in - we will see.
Good luck!

Thanks! I'm sorry you had such a difficult time with a Dutch group - fingers crossed I have more joy with OBOD. Although I know some people are very attached to the Dance of Life and the rest, I hope that they will be able to see reason, and be willing to make some changes.

The faux-Native American rites practiced by OBOD members don't form part of the core of what we do. As you say, getting people to turn away from these practices therefore won't be as hard as in your situation (I hope!).


It is difficult to get a clear view by your posts, what you really want and what more will come later.


A question I ask you: Do you just want to move people turn away from dangerous practices? Then this would be not different than what Frauds also try: to get people to perform the practices, frauds will surely not consider them as dangerous or harmful or wrong.
In both cases the client remains immature back with a smattering of knowledge, that he can not understand in the context,

People who contact Frauds and maybe got mental problems are sometimes not accessible to the reality, they are not even sometimes accessible for themself. These people are vulnerable, they are often manipulated. Maybe they turn away, maybe they are looking with all their power to participate in these practices, no matter what the results will be, they will not let take away their last hope. Nothing else they want to see.

There are no recipes, how these people can be helped. Is this important? A recipe which tell them what to do? Tug of war between two factions, on faction will win, the other one will lose - at least for now...

People need to be able to help themselves, they need to be able to decide - whatever they decide to do.
They must be able to get any information to inform about the practices, ceremonies, they must be able to get a comprehensive overview, with all its advantages and disadvantages.
Anyone who performs practices must be able to (to be ) prove(ed) if he is authorized to do this. And must be able to be controlled and face the discussions.

At least people decide for themselves what they do. This autonomy of agency is important (just this is often taken away), and also that they are clear about the consequences and responsibility they got to bear.
 
Maybe they want to do fraudulant practices, and noone can change it, even not the the fact that they destroy themselves ... everyone has the right, however painful that is, to destroy themselves. This fact is hard, sad, ... it leaves a feel of helplessness. Sometimes you see how they destroy themselves and there is not more a way to help

Hi Sturmboe,

I'm sorry that I haven't made my aims clear. I'm trying my best to be as polite and considered in my posts as possible, as I'm worried about speaking out of turn and causing offense.

To be clear: I want to encourage the members of my community to stop appropriating Native American culture and spirituality. Full stop. There's no need for it, it's clearly distressing for Native Americans, and it's potentially dangerous for us. I do not, however, want to leave OBOD. I have many friends in the order, and I care about it a lot. It is my community. I also believe that I'm honour bound to share what I have discovered, and confront the problem. Other people are free to do as they wish, but I can at least share the facts with them, and encourage them to learn from their mistakes, as I have. If they do kick me out (which I seriously doubt, given the level of support I've had when voicing my concerns about this already), then it will be their choice, not mine.

There is a separate issue about whether or not Druidry represents an authentic tradition in its own right. I think this is a worthwhile discussion and I would be happy to engage in it - I'm sure I'd learn a lot; I just wonder if this is the right forum for that.

I've read what other British Neopagans have written on this site, and frankly I'm horrified. You don't turn up in a new place and immediately start lecturing everybody about your point of view, eventually causing an almighty row! I literally do the opposite - my first instinct is to listen; as such, I've come here with questions.

Incidentally, my questions are ones that Kathryn and debbieredbear have now kindly answered. Thank you both, excellent information sources!

I'll be contacting the Cherokee taskforce as soon as possible, to see if they have anything to add for this specific case.

Cheers,

Jonathan

« Last Edit: August 13, 2014, 09:42:12 pm by Sialcog »